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Japan's sozzled salarymen: the lost tribe in a modern pickle

75 Comments
By Alastair Himmer

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I saw a bloke still slaving away at his desk in an office my apartment overlooks at 11.30pm recently. I pity these guys but part of me can't respect them for the way, as a group they've allowed themselves to be taken advantage of like this.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

They don't really have a group. If someone takes a stand there are plenty of people waiting in line to take his job. No job, no wife, no house, no college for the kids.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

No immigrants, not enough women in the workforce, no one's having babies ... yet, the people who are slaving away in this country are constantly getting less for their labor. One might think, if there is in fact a shortage of workers, that those available would see their benefits and salaries improve. Supply and demand.

Meanwhile, Japan Inc. sits on all their massive piles of cash, the entire manufacturing sector is being offshored, and the politicians are completely uninterested in the quality of their constituents' lives, profiting from the same corporate interests plaguing society--well, none of this interests our press nearly as much as drunken salarymen.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

At some point the discussion needs to turn away from the old "society is changing and yet we still work too hard" to the fact that Japan is more or less a society run by functioning alcoholics. When you wake up more or less hungover every day, your motivation to do something new and better yourself is non-existent. You get dressed, deal with the hordes of people and noise, and slip into your cubicle comfortable with the fact that you can zone out for most of the day.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Chiba’s party of five fit the stereotype of the “salaryman” to a tee, guzzling beers and smoking at a furious pace as the clock ticked towards the last train on a rainy Thursday night.

Japan’s identikit corporate samurai

Even putting today's salarymen and samurai in the same sentence is an insult to the historical greatness of the samurai.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

@StewartGale, I saw the same thing every night in Tokyo. It seemed the lights in the windows of the office building across the way were never off, and the people never seemed to shut it down until between 11PM and midnight.

And @jcapan brings up another conundrum - "No immigrants, not enough women in the workforce, no one's having babies..."

I think it's time Japanese women took over both politics and business, and didn't let either rule their lives and destroy their desire for a family life. Japan faces a struggle like no other. I only hope she's up to the challenge.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We talk of slavery and social stigmas in poor parts of the world but overlook one happening in developed nations. Just because the subjects involved wear a suit and a tie, and act sophiesticated does not mean this slavery is any better. Companies don`t want this culture to die. They want their employee to feel insecure and undermine their true potential. This is how they maintain the famous "japanese loyalty".

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Meanwhile, Japan Inc. sits on all their massive piles of cash, the entire manufacturing sector is being offshored, and the politicians are completely uninterested in the quality of their constituents' lives, profiting from the same corporate interests plaguing society--well, none of this interests our press nearly as much as drunken salarymen.

Apple, Google and Microsoft sit on bigger piles of cash, and is all of their stuff done domestically? No.

Politicians and managers are basically the same around the world. Even the ones who do think about the common folk, are hampered and have to play games to get anything done. And while some workers get it good, most do not. The rich/poor divide increases accordingly.

I do feel sorry for these drones. But if you are stuck in a situation you don't like, it's up to you to make things better. Even if you fail, at least you tried.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

We talk of slavery and social stigmas in poor parts of the world but overlook one happening in developed nations.

My engineering senior project advisor in university told me that some graduating engineers made minimum wage. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but later, after 90- to 100-hour weeks, on salary with no overtime paid, I figured it out.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Let me tell you about my former Japanese tutor. He graduated from a big name university with an engineering degree, and got into a big name company. By Japanese standards, he was a success. And he was miserable. He hated the office politics and the compulsory drinking. His health was suffering.

One day after waking up and vomiting blood he realised he couldn't do it anymore. He quit his job, bummed around the world for a bit, and though about what he really wanted to do. Went back to school, trained to be a language teacher. His friends thought he was mad, his horrified parents disowned him.

And now? Well, he doesn't make much money, and he'll probably never be a homeowner. But guess what? He's happy! Married with kids, and he spends as much time with his family as he darned well likes. (It helps that his wife isn't a lazy bon-bon muncher, who's willing to pull her weight financially. He married wisely.)

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Pretty sad lifestyle. Nothing in that article says 'happiness,' even during the boom years.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

At least they get to sing karaoke

5 ( +6 / -1 )

My engineering senior project advisor in university told me that some graduating engineers made minimum wage. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but later, after 90- to 100-hour weeks, on salary with no overtime paid

Engineers make good money in Japan, and service zangyo is pretty rare for them. One of my friends made enough overtime pay in 3 years working for a major Japanese telco to buy a house - cash.

You see a lot of people in my office working late, and it's not only because they are respected for doing so (they are) but because they get paid for all that overtime.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Basher, I was pointing out two separate but related causes for the continuing exploitation of the domestic workforce. On one hand, corporate Japan fails to pay their employees adequately, or courtesy of Koizumi’s reforms they hire contract or P-T employees who are even easier to mistreat. On the other hand, they’re actively striving to offshore an entire segment of their economy. As Walmart and the supposedly benevolent service economy has shown in the US, such jobs are irreplaceable. As is the American/Japanese dream.

And I’d that while things are better in Silicon Valley (god knows no workplace culture is as oppressive and depressing as Japan’s) it’s hardly paradise:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/03/google-apple-tech-titans-wage-suppression-conspiracy-estimated-cover-one-million-workers.html

4 ( +4 / -0 )

When I lived in Tokyo, my apartment was next to a big office building that housed a number of communications companies.

The lights were always on past midnight, and in the mornings I would walk by haggard looking men slumped on benches and smoking cigarettes. I always got bad vibes from it. Maybe it was one of those "black companies."

Either way, the salariman is in many ways a symptom of a larger societal woe--the sort of general passivity of all Japanese that has allowed for the creation of an abusive workplace culture. And those in positions of true power wouldn't have it any other way.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Its time that Japan figures out that meaning of life is something different what they think it is. How about love, affection, empathy to the people in your family and around you, instead of the fake smiles? How on earth can work be more important than kids, family etc... what fears running in those peoples minds? And how can you expect that the next generation will do something different to their kids if they dont even know what the meaning of love. empathy, affection is? This is what humans make us different from animals. I call this salary men society the purest form of exploitation in the 21th century. And they do it only cos someone has the urge of getting filthy rich. I see more happy faces in third world countries than in Japan. Hope this will be the last generation and a new system will be come in power soon, the materialistic capitalism is in its final stages.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

A certain Pink Floyd song might have been a better choice.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What are the salarymen achieving for themselves, their families and their companies?

Buy a house in a soulless suburb that will be worthless in a generation? Raise your kids to be obedient clones with irrelevant, dream-draining, education? And not rock the boat at the office, do exactly what has been proven to work already, in the hope that seniority will eventually bring you up a pay level?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Buy a house in a soulless suburb that will be worthless in a generation? Raise your kids to be obedient clones with irrelevant, dream-draining, education? And not rock the boat at the office, do exactly what has been proven to work already, in the hope that seniority will eventually bring you up a pay level?

Exactly. I've often talked with friends about not having kids, or at the very least waiting until you're completely ready for it. Not having kids eliminates a lot of what this article talks and hints at. Namely, not being tied down to supporting children, an oftentimes parasitic spouse, a family sized box in the suburbs miles away from anywhere you really need or want to be, and servitude to a job you hate that is necessary to finance all of these things.

I'm not suggesting never having kids, but I'm advocating people live for themselves first. Once you're happy with your own lot, maybe then you can have kids if you want and can afford to. Certainly better than burdening yourself at an early age to please society.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Salarymen, what is the meaning of this word? Someone who is selling their time for money. And over time is not paid and vacation time is not taken... And this limited time is taken away from your life... and you cant spend this time with your family and friends... Do they know that humans have a limited amount of time in their lifes? Do they also know that the older we get the more our health and body gets weaker... How on earth can they spend enuff time with kids and family if they are made so busy at work? There is one of the real reason for the society problems in japanese families. I feel sorry for those guys, society pushed them into one of the worse form of slavery that planet has seen. Their only way out is alcohol, smokes, fanatasy worlds-manga and love hotels..plus buying materialistic stuff. one of the unhappiest not functional cold harded societies i have seen where mental illnesses and alcoholism are not even been openly discussed. ITS TIME TO WAKE UP JAPAN.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Here's another anecdote; an American friend of mine taught English to a Japanese salaryman who shall remain nameless (since I don't know his name). This salaryman has now turned his bank on the corporate life and is much happier now and has a better family life as a result. One of the things that happened to him when he was a salaryman was all the men in his office and the boss went on a business trip somewhere in Japan. The boss arranged for them all to have prostitutes spend the night with them in their rooms. This guy happened to be happily married and didn't like the idea of infidelity so told his boss he would rather she did not come to his room. His boss warned him that if he didn't do it he would be letting the team down and he would be phoning the madam the next day to check everyone did the deed. So this boss forced his employee to be unfaithful to his wife in order to maintain his position at the company. That's such an abuse of someone's values and private life for the sake of the company.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

I'm calling BS on Mr Gale's friend's student's anecdote.

A man who didn't want to be unfaithful to his wife not only allowed his boss to bully him into it, but then this supposedly happily-married man spouted his mouth off about it to some forn eikaiwa teacher?

Could I interest you in the purchase of a sprawling cattle ranch in central Tokyo?

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

I have no reason to doubt the story. My friend is certainly no liar and this salaryman and him became friendly outside the classroom. The guy is now seriously anti-salaryman lifestyle and wanted to explain how bad it all was.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Sounds a little fishy to me as well.

I feel sorry for those guys, society pushed them into one of the worse form of slavery that planet has seen.

Try telling that to black people in America, or to women who have been sex trafficked. I think you will find they don't have the same sentiment.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

CLEO, i heard similar stories where company bosses dictating their salarymen. Force them to drink until they dead drunk, force them to visit together sex venues... They all forced to follow cos they all want the 6monthly bonus and keep their jobs... this bonus payment has a lot of power in japanese society and can be withdrawn any moment. So they all forced to follow rules of the boss... and if you dont follow than they will throw you gently out. I spoke to somebody who been gently force to go as salarymen... They made him sit in an empty room every day and told him if there is any work they will let him know. He resigned on his own free will....

5 ( +7 / -2 )

A man who didn't want to be unfaithful to his wife not only allowed his boss to bully him into it, but then this supposedly happily-married man spouted his mouth off about it to some forn eikaiwa teacher?

The factors together might make it seem unusual, including the two additional factors of the eikawa teacher retelling it to Stewart who then posted it to JT, but then again look at the population size, which is the number of salarymen in Japan. Then it becomes not at all unthinkable.

I'd have thought the salaryman could have jollied his boss into taking on the salaryman's "date" in addition to the boss's, but maybe the boss wanted to ensure all attendees were in on the conspiracy, so no one free to blab.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

i heard similar stories....

And that's all they are, stories. The boss checking up with the madam? Oh come on.

maybe the boss wanted to ensure all attendees were in on the conspiracy, so no one free to blab.

But he did blab (if we're to believe the 'story'.) All the way onto JT. So that didn't work out too well, did it. Let's hope his happily-married (she thinks) wife never gets to talk to his English teacher, or his English teacher's friend, and never reads JT.

this bonus payment has a lot of power in japanese society and can be withdrawn any moment.

Not unless there's a very good reason, it can't. I'd like to see the bucho who would write on the employee's record, 'No bonus because he turned down the whore I offered him.'

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

But he did blab (if we're to believe the 'story'.) All the way onto JT. So that didn't work out too well, did it.

But not so far as we know to wife, HR, boss's wife, etc.

I'd like to see the bucho who would write on the employee's record, 'No bonus because he turned down the whore I offered him.'

Same as for firing women when they take maternity leave. You don't think management puts down "took maternity leave" on the layoff notice, do they?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

You don't think management puts down "took maternity leave" on the layoff notice, do they?

They can write 'Took extended time off', which is true though not the whole story. What would be true but not the whole story regarding a refusal to commit adultery with a prostitute?

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

They can write ...

Why would they write anything close to the truth if the company could get sued for it? Aren't managers smarter than that?

It's a lot smarter to place the employee in successive dead-end positions until they can be surplused as unnecessary, or in USA wait until the next anything-goes mass layoff.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Stewart Gale

I have no reason to doubt the story. My friend is certainly no liar and this salaryman and him became friendly outside the classroom. The guy is now seriously anti-salaryman lifestyle and wanted to explain how bad it all was.

You should have every reason to doubt your story. You heard it third hand and the person telling it has an ax to grind against salarymen (in your own statement). You should be very, very dubious of such outrageous claims.

Who would tell such a story to their english teacher? Crazy.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

"Work, buy, consume, die" - seems to be the credo for salarymen in general. Not my cup of tea. The opposite (and more positive) would be the artist's credo: create, experience, learn, create more. These are two completely different kind of people and lifestyles.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Aren't managers smarter than that?

Not if you believe half the stuff that gets written on JT, they're not. :-)

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Cleo, feel free to doubt or believe the story. It's up to you.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The whole salaryman story seems like one of those modern myths that gets bandied about by someone who heard from a friend of someone who knew the wife of the boss of the guy in question and so on. I'm of the belief that these types of stories are created to show just how weird Japan is supposed to be.

this bonus payment has a lot of power in japanese society and can be withdrawn any moment.

Not as easily as you seem to think. The bonuses in Japan are not actually bonuses. They say it works is that they divide up the person's yearly salary by say 16, giving 1/16 every month, then giving a 'bonus' of 2/16 twice a year. It's actually more a forced savings plan than it is a bonus. Companies can cut the bonus, and when there had been a major screwup in the company, or the company goes majorly in the red, they sometimes will, but it's not a decision made lightly, and is rarely done in practice.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Hmm. I feel as if this article was written without tackling the issue head-on. There was only one real sentence that stood out to me, which was:

They would trade a lifetime of loyalty for a solid career path where promotions and pay rises came with time served.

The authored failed to link this very problem to the severe lack of productivity and general 'energy' in the workplace. Workers know that bonuses are periodical, rather than performance-based, so they can just cruise on by and collect their biannual bonuses - along with their steady pay increases.

A few years ago, I noticed a renewed sense of hope among the younger generations who were aspiring to develop their skills and even branch out & work abroad. However, I've most definitely noticed a shift back to the 'old Japan', where they're focused solely on landing the job & staying employed for life. It's an absolute tragedy & a tell-tale sign that Japan is on the wrong path for the future. I truly believed that Japan was going to embrace 'international business' with the Olympics around the corner, but I've basically accepted that Japan will never change.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

PandabelleOct. 10, 2014 - 10:51AM JST One of my friends made enough overtime pay in 3 years working for a major Japanese telco to buy a house - cash.

Somewhere near Fukushima, I think )))) And, yes, friends and friends' friends always do that )))))

"graduating engineers" /sinnyuusyain get abt 19 -25万円 plus bonuses

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All those years in cram schools, slaving to pass the all important university test, kissing the backside of their bully senpai in university, slaving as a junior in a corporation, and being treated as no more an ATM by their wife and kids just to be just another drone in an office. I don't know whether to pity them or laugh at them. They did make their choice each step of the way.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@StuartGale

Not only do I believe your story (the only part that doesn't ring true is that the salaryman in question didn't want to be unfaithful to his wife!), I've heard and even witnessed far worse than that. I swear I could write a book.

Who would tell such a story to their english teacher? Crazy.

Oh, you have no idea!

7 ( +10 / -3 )

"In a Tokyo karaoke booth thick with cigarette smoke"

That's one of the reasons why I avoid karaoke like the plague.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Tessa, I completely believe the story and I know as well English teachers can become sounding boards for all sorts of problems by their students. I think, in particular this guy wanted to shout from the rooftops how much he hated the system.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Somewhere near Fukushima, I think )))) And, yes, friends and friends' friends always do that )))))

"graduating engineers" /sinnyuusyain get abt 19 -25万円 plus bonuses

Who's talking about wet behind the ears graduates? Mid career averages in Tokyo are 600-700 man a year, easy.

It wasn't a house in the center of Tokyo, obviously, but a new house in the Kanto area.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have to respect the livers of the average salaryman - they must be made of cast-iron! But I can't really respect the system of putting one's family on a lower priority than one's company. I have almost never heard any of my uni students express a wish to become a salaryman after graduation, which is quite telling.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid,” father-of-two Chiba told AFP. “My dad told me to stop being silly. He worked for (Japanese computer giant) Fujitsu for 40 years and wanted me to work for Fujitsu too.

“But I failed the exam,” he added over the din as a colleague belted out a Japanese folk song. “I’ve been in insurance for 13 years. It is getting tougher with the economy the way it is.”

Yes, but more important, can you hit the high notes? giggles.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Cleo: simple lack of imagination. Oh the things a bunch of men will do to please their boss, the things a boss will come up with to gauge his men's dedication...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Salaryman life is just a different form of boot camp, drinking instead of marching, do what the boss says unfailingly, up at 0500, lights out with the last train. It sucks, really. But it's conform or else. The Japanese military spirit didn't go away, it was just channeled into industry.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The Japanese military spirit didn't go away, it was just channeled into industry.

Truer words were never spoken.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I have gone on lots of times how salary men's lives suck, dreary, zombie like, hellish commutes, its all rather common knowledge, Japan is in DIRE need of a MASSIVE re-invent of pretty much everything! BUT we still have gone down enough for the locals to care enough to change!

Three cheers for those that did though!

Cleo, I cant believe you think men from office's going to sexual service joint doesn't involve some who DONT want to go by do anyway.............it would be suicide for your prospects at the company, dim as they would be in any case.......surely you know this stuff happens. Don't follow the herd & you end up with a desk off in the corner looking out a window, surely you have heard all the stories of ijime to get these types to "quit" on their own.

Now for some direct experience, in my 2nd year here out drinking with about 5-6guys from the office next thing I know we are in a couple cabs off somewhere, my nihongo was pretty limited but thought we were headed to a SNACK Bar, I had been to one so while I HATE them(still hate them) , anyway we get there & there is all this talk if a foreigner mer can come in & in about a minute I realize this aint no snack! Soapland.............not my thing & I was even single, they got me in, all the while I was telling them I want no part of it, anyway I ended up inside the "lobby" with a couple shady looking dudes drinking beer while the other guys disappeared for a while

I was a totally bizarre experience, I can imagine the pressure a salaryman who didn't want to go would have trying to get out of it without causing real damage to his job prospects.

Bottom line Cleo is this crap happens & IS very real, very surprised you think otherwise as this kind of thing happening is hardly a secret, although the guys who go try to sometimes keep it a secret sometimes they don't give a damn who knows, this has been going on for ages in Japan.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The fact that they would have gone to fuzoku isn't what struck me as unlikely in that story, the whole 'I'm going to talk to the mama-san' thing is what came off as fishy.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

All those lives lost like tears in the rain. Sad to give so much for so little in return. I worked at a place where a male employee had to have a heart operation, serious life threatening condition, once he'd 'selfishly' (As I heard managment say) used his paid leave, he wasn't allowed to take any more time off. Disgusting abuse of human beings. I left that place, but with a VERY big smile on my face.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

What slays me is going to Tokyo in August and seeing salarymen dripping sweat, in 3 piece suits, neckties and shoes!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A friend of mine, a Japanese businessman calls me lazy for NOT working my life away, for leaving the office and getting a career that allows me to have stable working hours. He told me I could never understand the Japanese way of life and that I'm lucky because I'm a woman.

I gave up on getting my view across after a while, and getting him to understand that I actually work as seriously and as hard as my husband would do, in that way dividing the cost of living between us and actually be able to enjoy each other's time.

Then, I have a much younger friend of mine who quit his salaryman job and travelled all the way to my country and now works also at another company but he said he feels free from "japanese judgement".

3 ( +5 / -2 )

The "prostitute" story sounds like just an extension of the drinking etiquette: You drink like everyone else, or you will not be considered a team player and instead, be considered someone who might relay what's said at the drinking session to higher-ups. One who doesn't drink is suspicious.

Prostitutes? Yeah, I could see a boss ordering everyone to participate in order to prevent there being someone whose "hands are clean" from reporting the activity.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I know waaay more Japanese 'salary men' who don't drink, at all.

For every 'stays until the manager leave & he leaves at 11pm' there's 99 more who go home between 5-8pm. (Seen the commute anyone?).

There is solid truth to the stereotypes & the cultural norms that produce them (from cram schools, to low wages & no OT, to 'expected to attend' evening social gatherings where alcohol is definitely consumed. But I think this year is a little better than 3-5 years ago, there's less % living like this than there was in years gone by.

Things are getting tougher in the whole western 'end of growth' era, but I hazard a guess many, many Japanese 'worker drones' - the majority I'd even guess - both male & female even though things 'could be better', do spend time with their kids, do have hobbies, holidays and by & large are happy.

PS Some Karaoke bars, though they'll still likely stink like old smoke, have non-smoking rooms & it also d lends who you go with.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

promotions and pay rises came with time served. instead of skills aquired.

and here lies one of the problems with J salarymen, no real need to be more productive just show some type enthusiasm by staying at the office late. guarantees you wont be fired, the longer you serve the more you get paid.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@ReformedBasher

" Apple, Google and Microsoft sit on bigger piles of cash, and is all of their stuff done domestically? No."

And yet Google has been voted as the best company to work for:

http://fortune.com/best-companies/

Japanese corporate culture is some of the most inhuman in the world and it's getting them nowhere.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This article and associated comments have annoyed me somewhat. To dispel the myths and stereotypes:

All Japanese men are not Salarymen. The average Japanese business person goes home at or around knockoff time. That is why there is a peak hour at 6pm in Tokyo. But yes a very small portion work extreme hours. However often they are paid for it. Japanese mostly do not get bonuses. It is called a bonus but is fixed based on salary and may be negotiated by unions (yes unions are actually very common here). Individual performance has no bearing. I work as a business person for a Japanese company and the conditions are no worse then what western business people work in. Some people go out after work because they enjoy it - I know I do! You can not define western work environments by Google and Facebook. They are exceptions. As soon as someone mentions this it is obviously they came to Japan post graduation and are working as an English teacher! There can be great rewards for being in a large Japanese company. And not just financial. The average businessman in a good company makes good money. Equivalent to six figure job in the west. But with no commuting costs and negligible mortgage repayments. Yes some, perhaps many, Japanese are dissatisfied with business life. But we I've in aspirational times and the same is true of most western business people. It is also common for people to complain about their jobs - that is human nature and you will find that everywhere on the planet.

I have experienced working in business in the west and in Tokyo. I personally prefer Tokyo but others may prefer the west. However it annoys me that foreigners with very superficial experiences in Japan often strongly reinforce stereotypes, perhaps they are trying to reinforce their own choices in life? Try working for, say, GE or GM in the US, then come to Japan and work for Toshiba. I will listen to your opinion then!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Salarymen are gnarly.

They are the perfect examples of all that is wrong in the modern world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The longer you live in Japan the more quirky the country seems. Even after 12 years here i still get surprised by unwritten social rules and traditions.

But i still feel more comfortable here than I do back in the UK where people are totally screwed over by the government and big corporations. I just been back for a visit and cannot believe how people survive on such crap wages with zero hours contracts. Every country is the world is being squeezed by the digital economy and big corporations maximising profits at the expense of their employees. If you think its bad now just wait 50 years till the true nano tech boom arrives and everyone loses their jobs

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The problem here seems to be that everyone here commenting has their own thoughts of how their lifestyles should be in terms of the country they come from. What works in one country may not work in another life and work "is what is is" in Japan and foreigners can not change this. Its the Japanese way of life its either you except it or leave it or continue writing and to muse one another. Its ironic that from most of the post JpToday topic centered around the salary man and is long hours of work etc but as soon as one poster wrote about the boss getting prostitutes for his employees the comments change the entire topic as the commenters responses centered around the boss ordering prostitutes which was totally off topic.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

kaimycahl,

Clearly the Japan WAY of work/life is no longer working(if it ever really did), not even close, the decline I witness day in day out for 2decades is clear as a bell, a whole lotta problems that are steadily getting worse as time passes.

Japanese are a fatalistic bunch they will collectively have to fall pretty badly before any real chance at change. I have never advocated Japan do like such & such country, they need to make their own way. The one thing many don't realize is that doing basically nothing is the SAME as doing something, there are consequences, just saying

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@iloveNippon

"The average Japanese business person goes home at or around knockoff time. That is why there is a peak hour at 6pm in Tokyo. " -Are you kidding me? Have you ever even lived in Tokyo? There is no 6 PM peak hour AT ALL.

"It is called a bonus but is fixed based on salary and may be negotiated by unions (yes unions are actually very common here)." -Unions are impotent in Japan; any cursory examination of scholarly material on the topic will tell you that.

"You can not define western work environments by Google and Facebook." -We're not defining it by Google and Facebook; we're defining it by very real policy matters and very real statistics that, again, can be found at any number of sources on the Internet. Western companies treat employees better than Japanese companies do.

"There can be great rewards for being in a large Japanese company. And not just financial. The average businessman in a good company makes good money. Equivalent to six figure job in the west." -Now, this is just flat-out untrue.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@LBW200

Yes that is why I commented

Thanks for agreeing?

Seemed people were talking about google and facebook above.

Show me comparitive statistics.

Dont say flatout untrue unless you can prove otherwise. Japanese salaries can be competitive especially in the big companies.

The point is that the business world is difficult in any major world city. Tokyo is not unique.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japanese are a fatalistic bunch...

That is my impression as well. One of Japan's (many) problems is that the yes-man ratio is very high. Many people accept what they are told and try to do what they are told and that only. Initiatives and going one step further seem like a weird concept. Anybody can sit and squeeze in the office, that is not taking initiatives.

I believe they younger generation will no longer take the BS corporate lifestyle of Japan kabushi gaisga. That pleases me greatly.

The problem that still exists is that people have a really hard time standing up for themselves and their ideals. I frequently hear at work: "Okoru yo", which to my ears sounds absolutely ridiculous. People, grownups, are afraid of being scolded or told off at their place of employment. The notion of argumentation and actually having a differing opinion from your boss is all but nil. That's pretty scary...

As all things in Japan, changes will take a long time. Sure, it might change on the outside but real change takes forever. That is really typical of a closed society. Afraid of anything their imagination, Japan will keep hugging the comfortable.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

For every 'stays until the manager leave & he leaves at 11pm' there's 99 more who go home between 5-8pm. (Seen the commute anyone?).

This. 100% this. People see what they want to see, remember the horror stories they hear and not recognize what the average person does.

If all these salarymen are working so late, every night - why is my train so crowded with salarymen at 1800? 1900? Why are all the restaurants and pubs near my office filled with men and women letting off steam after work at 1800?

No doubt plenty work themselves to death. But a majority? No way. No. Way.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Pandabelle

Exactly. Why people can not see the obvious? I also think it is in part Japanese cultures fault as people love the 'woe is me' tails about how hard their life is.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If all these salarymen are working so late, every night - why is my train so crowded with salarymen at 1800? 1900? Why are all the restaurants and pubs near my office filled with men and women letting off steam after work at 1800?

My local train lines and subway lines only start to get crowded around 19:00. (In fact, so-called "rush hour" is regarded as the hours between 19:00 and 21:00, no earlier.) If you consider that most of those passengers have a one-hour commute to get to their local station, and a further 30-minute walk or bus/bike ride to their actual homes, then in fact most of them are not saying "tadaima" until after 9PM at the earliest. Then it's dinner, bath, TV, and sleep around midnight. Wake up again at 6AM and repeat the whole cycle, five or six days a week. This is definitely not considered normal or healthy by western standards.

No doubt plenty work themselves to death. But a majority? No way. No. Way.

Oh, you are right there. The majority of those people who work themselves to death are males. There's a reason that Japanese women are the longest lived in the world!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Tessa, where do you live? My job takes me all around Tokyo and the trains are definitely crowded after 17:30. Try riding the Joban line for example. Or try standing outside of the Shiodome building in Hamamatsucho. I had a meeting there just last week and I was surprised to see an endless line of workers filing out at 6pm.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@bicultural

I use the Osaka and Keihanshin major train/subway lines. The only workers that I know who get to leave the office precisely at 6PM are either government employees or dispatch workers. And OLs.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Most Japanese contracts will look something like this: Working hours 9 AM to 6 PM with one hour for lunch, plus 40 hours of "included overtime" each month. That basically puts you at 9 to 7 PM for a normal day. The overtime days would range from an 8 PM to a 9 PM finish, I'd say. And that puts you at home around 8 or 9 PM each night, on average.

Tokyo trains get busy at 7, sure. I can buy that. But they don't get really busy until 8,9,10.

I don't see people leaving at 6 PM. Ever.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Vast opportunities in Japan for companies willing to employ M-curve women and family-prioritized salarymen!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tessa

My local train lines and subway lines only start to get crowded around 19:00. (In fact, so-called "rush hour" is regarded as the hours between 19:00 and 21:00, no earlier.)

Well that's sure not the case in Kanto. Out on the East side the trains are stuffed from 1800 or so.

If you consider that most of those passengers have a one-hour commute to get to their local station, and a further 30-minute walk or bus/bike ride to their actual homes, then in fact most of them are not saying "tadaima" until after 9PM at the earliest.

Big assumptions. That's not the case for a normal workday for any of my circle of friends, and they're all company employees. Sometimes it's like that, but not typically.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My male in-laws were/are all salarymen. Relatively speaking, they had/have it pretty good as far as compensation and material well-being. Of course, they work(ed) like slaves. I've gotten to know them and their friends fairly well. They are nearly all-right, though.

And I mean right, as in right wingers.

That is the saddest thing about their lot: they slave(d) away for a system that has incrementally abandoned them. And they turn to nationalist propaganda to explain their woes.

Sad.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Amazing! Slavery still exists in 2014...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“Corporate Japan has broken the social contract. Why make all the sacrifice if it’s not going to be reciprocated?”

I have thought the same since I have worked here. WHy throw your entire being into something that may not even care? These workers really don't get anything out of all the OT. Honestly, I think the best thing overall for Japan to do, is to enforce unpaid OT laws. Hit companies with serious fines if they go in and find workers off the clock. It would help with per hour efficiency, and may help these guys become real Dads.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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