While the ethic of hard work has served Japan well in the past, the country's workaholic culture has taken its toll on its population. Excessive work habits and karoshi (death by overwork) are often featured in international media.
According to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the acquisition rate of paid holidays by Japanese workers in 2017 was 51.1%, ranking the lowest in the world:
The situation is so dire that the Japanese government passed its "Work Style Reform Legislation" in 2018, which made important amendments to existing labor laws aiming to reform work habits and reduce working hours. Among the changes implemented in April 2019, for example, employees must now take at least five days of paid holiday if more than 10 days of their annual paid holidays are unused.
Yukyu Joka: Buddhist Ceremony to Mourn Your Unused Holiday
On the weekend of Labor Thanksgiving Day (Nov 23), a unique event called Yukyu Joka 有休浄化 (literally "paid holiday purification") will be held in Tokyo with the aim of positively influencing attitudes towards paid holidays.
In the same way that Japanese people attend kuyo 供養 ceremonies, meaning "putting spirits to rest," for inanimate objects which are no longer needed (the ceremonies for needles and dolls are most famous), Yukyu Joka is intended to be a kuyo for unused paid holidays.
Event organizers Ningen Co Ltd have invited Jōdo sect Buddhist Priest Takuro Sayama to perform the ceremony and have prepared several activities designed to encourage participants to consider the importance of taking paid holidays.
Lanterns representing the "spirit" of unused holidays
At the ceremony, the priest will perform the kuyo surrounded by a display of 300 lanterns individually printed with brief messages of regret about unused paid holidays. The organizers will select 300 messages from the pool of submissions they are currently soliciting on their official website until Nov 15. Moreover, specific episodes from the lives of the contributors who were unable to use their paid holidays will be projected onto a giant "Yukyu lantern" in the center of the stage. These contributions from the public displayed on the lanterns symbolically represent "the spirit" of the unused paid holidays which will then be mourned and "purified" through the priest's prayers.
For example, here are three episodes submitted by the public in a preliminary group:
- "I had to postpone my daughter's nursery school birthday party from May until December, and she cried." (A woman in her 30s)
- "My first child was born as I was polishing off a hamburger on a golf course in Houston."* (A man in his 30s)
"I yelled at my friend: 'Which is more important to you, your friend or your company!!!' At first, he replied: "Sorry, I can't choose," which was followed by a long silence just like a certain famous quiz show, but then he said: "My company," and that was the end of our friendship." (A man in his 20s)
- Japanese companies often conduct business over golf, so the man was on a business trip.
Make your own lantern
If you missed your opportunity to submit your message through the website, you can still do so in person if you attend the event. The organizers will have additional blank lanterns on location so you can create your own message and light it up during the ceremony.
Social media lantern
In addition, for those who have social media accounts, there will be larger lanterns for you to write messages on and pose with. If you want, you can use it to tell your followers: "I took my paid holiday!"
Visitors are encouraged to read the messages on the lanterns during the event. You'll surely find messages you can relate to, messages with resonate with you. If you do, put a sticker on that lantern and make your vote count. Message contributors whose lanterns collect the most votes will be awarded a "Golden Paid Holiday Request Form."
Your holiday fortune
The organizers have created oyasumikuji おやすみくじ, a clever word-play combining yasumi やすみ (holiday) and omikuji おみくじ (fortune-telling paper strips found at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan).
Based on episodes of positive experiences of paid holidays submitted by the public in a preliminary group, these "holiday fortune" strips provide daily suggestions for ways you can spend a five-day paid holiday.
Event Name: 有給浄化 (Yukyu Joka)
Dates: Nov 22 and 23
Timetable = 18:00 Yukyu lantern projection / 18:30 to 21:00 Ceremony / 21:00 End
Location: Tokyo Sankei Bldg. Metro Square Flat
Address: 〒100-0004東京都千代田区大手町1-7-2 (1-7-2 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo)
Access: Tokyo Metro Otemachi Station, E1 exit (directly connected to building)
Sponsor: Persol Career
Source: Ningen Co Ltd
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