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Is a common Japanese phrase for 'goodbye' the reason for Japan’s crazy overtime hours?

14 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Japan has a complicated relationship with the concept of overtime work. On the one hand, pride in your profession and going above and beyond the bare minimum for the sake of the group are cornerstones of Japanese culture, and both have deep and direct connections to the peace and economic prosperity that Japan has enjoyed for so much of the post-war era. But at the same time, a societal expectation that employees should be willing to regularly put in several hours at the office after their shifts are supposed to end can pose a serious danger to people’s mental and physical health.

In recent years, there’s been an increased effort by companies and workers’ advocacy groups to reduce the amount of overtime Japanese employees feel obligated to do. However, Japanese Twitter user @AdmiralYamabiko feels that all the progressive managers and government guidelines Japan throws at the problem won’t do any good until one part of Japanese linguistics gets reformed too.

Spend even a day in a Japanese office, and you’ll hear the phrase osaki ni shitsurei shimasu, which is something people say to any coworkers still in the office as they walk out the door on their way home. However, even though that makes it functionally a substitute for“goodbye,” the literal meaning of the phrase is: “I am being rude by leaving before you.”

Granted, the frequency with which osaki ni shitsurei shimasu gets used gives it a bit more of a familiar feel to native Japanese speakers, but the sentiment is still “Excuse me for going home before you,” with an explicitly stated acknowledgment that by leaving the office first, you’re putting yourself first by not helping your coworkers out with the remaining workload of the staff as a whole.

“Every time I hear someone say ‘Let’s try to limit our overtime to as little as possible,’” tweets @AdmiralYamabiko, “I think it’s going to be impossible as long as people still say osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.”

So what would @AdmiralYamabiko like to see replace the phrase? His suggestion is that at the designated time employees’ shift is supposed to end, the company should strike a war gong, and whoever’s ready to lead should stalwartly make their way to the exit while boldly announcing ichiban nori, a phrase used by warlords of the feudal era that roughly translates to “I’m leading the charge!” Doing so would change the image of whoever’s leaving the office first from lazy clock-watcher to valiant vanguard leader, and thus encourage anyone still working to wrap up as soon as possible so they don’t fall behind the gallant head of the formation.

@AdmiralYamabiko’s idea produced online reactions such as:

“I like it. It makes going home seem like a positive thing. You could even have the company president get in on it by ordering everyone to ‘Withdraw from the field of battle!’”

“But what if someone else says ‘Wait! It could be a trap! Hold your positions!’”

“It might only make a small difference, but I think it’s worth a shot to start trying to limit how often we say osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.”

“We need to start thinking of people who can finish their work without doing overtime as heroes.”

Unfortunately, that last point is something that’s not so simple in Japanese culture. Yes, being a capable, productive worker is definitely considered worthy of respect in Japan, but unless everyone else is ready to go home too, there’s likely to be a segment of the population that feels it’s selfish to be the first to clock out for the day. Because of that, managers and human resource departments continue to bear a huge responsibility to make sure staff sizes and individual workloads are kept at reasonable levels.

It’s also worth pointing out that just like English-speakers sometimes use the phrase “Excuse me” without actually feeling any deep or genuine guilt, it’d be an exaggeration to say that Japanese people are actually wracked with shame every time they say osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. Still, a shift in semantics so that workers don’t have to apologize for going home when their shifts end could be an important step in Japan achieving a more moderate work/life balance.

Source: Twitter/@AdmiralYamabiko via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Say sayonara to “sayonara” – 70% of Japanese people don’t use this word for goodbye anymore

-- Japanese companies want to monitor employees working overtime using in-office flying drones

-- Tokyo company plays Rocky theme for workers every day to cut overtime, boost productivity

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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I hope that this practice will stop so they can live normal lives in the work place and not have heart attacks because of loyalty.

I agree. There is nothing wrong with loyalty in itself. However, your health and well-being is more important. I was once taught "The job will always be there. Your health is more important."

10 ( +10 / -0 )

What about the "meiwaku wo kakeruto omoukedo" when a new father announces the birth of his child to his fellow staff members? This should be a time of happiness and not having to apologize by saying that your new child is a burden on everyone you work with!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

My friend worked at a punitive office so to avoid any confrontation leaving early he stopped using a briefcase and never wore a coat even in winter. When he got up they could never tell if he was leaving or just getting up. Welcome to Japanese corporate games.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Maybe they should stop apologizing to coworkers for taking vacation and/or sick days, too.

That also sends a terrible message.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I just get up and leave. The women in my office also usually leave early.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"I just get up and leave."

Hahaha, me too. They got used it...after about 2 and a half years!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I just say "bye bye", followed by an unspoken "suckers".

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just one of the many 'kimari monku" that have lost their original meaning and impact.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@garypen thumbs up. Yup, stop the guilt trip on the co-worker who takes time off for whatever reason and no expectation of omiyage or some offering to appease those who feel put upon.

Don't drag your feet when clocking out, get up and leave! "Mata ashita!" =)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I hope that this practice will stop so they can live normal lives in the work place and not have heart attacks because of loyalty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dont like the job?

Learn something new,gain new knowledge and start your own business and then quit!

I did.I now have 3 main sources of income independent of each other and peace of mind

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Learn something new,gain new knowledge and start your own business and then quit!

This is absolutely horrible advice for those people who aren't adept at the skills, and/or don't have the qualities required to run ones own business.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Strangerland

”horrible advice”

You think so?

Many people that are employed by others are perfectly able to be their own boss.Genius level is not a prerequisite.

In fact, capitalist societies are full of such examples!

Anyone slaving away, doing 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week can certainly learn to be independent-I did......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many people that are employed by others are perfectly able to be their own boss.

Ok, then they wouldn't be the people I clearly identified:

people who aren't adept at the skills, and/or don't have the qualities required to run ones own business.

Genius level is not a prerequisite.

Where did I say anything about one needing to be a genius? That's just silly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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