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How much power or sexual harassment goes on at your workplace?


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One of my first experiences in my first year working at a Japanese company some decades ago now was going on the annual company trip for employees and managers, the shain-ryoko (社員旅行), where we stayed at a ryokan or minshuku-style hotel. Being fresh off the boat and a little naive at the time, I was amazed at how much of the entertainment revolved around sexual games and innuendo centered on the office ladies in their early 20s. At the time, I marked it up as a quirky cultural difference, and had a great time experiencing that outlandish aspect of Japanese culture.

Of the many evening alcohol-infused games played, one involved the young office ladies paired with low to middle manager types, and standing in a row. The object of the game was for each of the OLs to push a ping pong ball up the pant leg of the manager they were paired with, around his crotch, and then down the other pant leg. The first girl to get the ball up one pant leg and out the other was the winner.

I think things have changed a lot now in Japan, but in those days the young women were explicitly hired in large part to fulfill the ornamental role of "shokuba no hana" (職場の花) or "office flower" to make the office more "beautiful," to motivate the young to middle aged males, and to smooth things over with angry customers. "Shokuba no hana" is a word I heard used in reference to the young women in the office many times.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Power harassment.... Well the system of elders and their subjects groveling at their every word in order to keep their minimum wage job would be considered power harassment elsewhere but is the norm here so how do you label that? I've found that Japanese women in their 20s are very shy but from 30 on up they are the flip opposite and let you know too! Straight and narrow people!

5 ( +5 / -0 )


Very interesting. Having worked in Tokyo for almost 10 years, I'd say very little of what you mentioned has changed. My g/f has come home in tears numerous times after said nomikais with her oyaji bosses - whom often invite male managers from other companies because "young OLs will be there tonight". They even force them to change seats so as to pour their drinks & "keep them happy". Of course, not a single woman in a managerial role in any of their affiliated companies.

This country has some seriously endemic problems.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

No power harrassment, no sexual harassment at my workplace.

In fact no new business too.

So the staff are pretty busy thinking about their future.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

None I've particularly noticed at my job. But Mrs. Shmidlap (RETIRED) used to have a job where she dealt with business owners over the phone. Some of these guys would tell her ridiculously personal stories about their hard luck with women or troubles with their wives. When she'd relate one of these sob stories to me at dinner, it would always creep me out. "Why are they telling you all this when you're supposed to be helping them with their payrolls?" I'd ask.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

nobody ever sexually harassed me... maybe I should invest in new wardrobe and shave?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

My company has several very effective committees taking care of problems like that. A lot of times, problems have happened because people weren't informed about what constitutes 'harassment' so a large part of their job is the dissemination of information. We even have a committee taking care of alcohol harassment. The custom of peer-pressuring people into drinking a lot is disappearing too, nothing like the bubble jidai, Good thing too.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

First I would say wtf. If it happen again I would kick them in the ball.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Being the youngest woman in our male-dominated office has made me a target for sexual harassment especially when there is alcohol involved. I don’t really mind when they talk about women, make green jokes (I’m immune to that kind of talk), compliment my appearance, or ask about my relationship status, but I feel uncomfortable when it’s too much and particularly directed at me. For instance, a drunken co-worker had offered to take me home. In another case, one of my supervisors grabbed me by the waist and tried to lift me playfully (and he wasn't even drunk). In those cases, I politely yet firmly told them off and they haven’t bugged me since.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

No problems for me and coworkers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In my workplace, none whatsoever.

There's only me here, I'm boss, secretary, charlady and chief keyboard-thumper. Tea-lady, too.

Upside - no one to tell me I can't stop for a cuppa and a biscuit whenever I want.

Downside - gotta go and fix my own cuppa and biscuit.

Many many many years ago when I was working in a electronics company, some of the male staff could be a bit over the top with innuendo (not really harassment, more like stupidity), most of which I just let go. I was young and naive... in the same situation today, they would get a tongue-lashing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@cleo You could always grab your own bum end every now and then just for kicks!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In our school system, Power or Sexual Harassment are not tolerated. Accusations will quickly be forwarded up to Central Office and if substantiated, someone's getting re-trained at best, their contract terminated at worst. With an employee-base of over 70% women (our Superintendent of Schools is a woman as well), women don't have to fear reporting inappropriate behavior.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

At my husband's workplace last year, he went on a trip and brought back the requisite omiyage cookies. When he started to hand them out around the office, his boss demanded "Why are doing women's work?! Give that here!" snatched the box of snacks and made a female co-worker hand them out. Hubby was too shocked for words.

I won't go into all the power hara because I could write a book.

Luckily my workplace is mostly young folks/women, so no problems so far--it's the oyajis you have to watch out for!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hubby was too shocked for words.

Is hubby a westerner? If so, I can see how he would've been shocked. Heck, when I go on trip I don't believe in the requisite omiyage. The only souvenirs I bring are for a couple people in the circle.

Anyways, thats quite a story.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I had a coworker in the early nineties. She was gorgeous, seriously. She was also very touchy-feely, flirtatious, and openly sexual. But she was that way to every guy in our office, married (like me) or not. I'll admit it felt good, not having been in the handsome movie star line when faces were handed out. But, I finally called her and told her "I'm starting to think things I shouldn't" and nicely (as much as I hated to do it) asked her to stop, and she did.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But, I finally called her and told her "I'm starting to think things I shouldn't"

LoL. What's the significance of that -t- in parenthesis? There are women like her most big companies. So do you regret it?

0 ( +1 / -1 )


Nice story did you write it yourself?

The OLs of yesteryears are gone for a good decade or more and these days everyone fetches their own cup of green tea.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What's the significance of that -t- in parenthesis?

It's not parens, it's an apostrophe and then the ending parens.

So do you regret it

No, because, like now, I preferred my peace of mind.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

apostrophe . . . . my bad. K, fair enough. Nothing wrong with a piece of mind every once in a while rather than the flirty, gorgeous, touchy-feely, openly sexual piece of *ss being passed around the workplace.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Husband is Japanese.

It really happened. That among other abuses convinced him to switch jobs after a year. Now things are much better. A lot happened that you'd think was stories, but dinosaurs do indeed walk among us. Perhaps not in many newer younger companies thank goodness.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In my personal experience, the power/sexual harassment takes place not in the office, but during the after-hours drinking sessions. In my early days in Japan I was shocked to the core to witness the following scenes:

A young male forced to drink a whole bowl of grated daikon by his senior.

A young OL being tricked into saying the word "condom" and then being slapped hard on the head by her supervisor for being rude.

A middle-aged OL being forced to demonstrate golf swings by a senior, who then used the opportunity to grope her butt and breasts in front of everybody else.

Office party: young OLs being forced to play a stupid party game in which they had to eat a banana with male colleagues using only their mouths (one on each end, if you can imagine what that looks like).

A female colleague mentioning that she was hungry, and her male supervisor pointing to his crotch and saying, "eat this!"

Several male co-workers openly bragging about their "sex tours" in SE Asian countries, as though they expected us be impressed by the fact that they were so pathetic that they had to pay for sex.

I won't go into all the power hara because I could write a book.

Oh boy. I could write several volumes. Just don't get me started on street/train harassment. That would be several more volumes.

And people wonder why I have no interest in J-guys? Well, now you know.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Tessa. Are you sure you aren't exaggerating a little? Those are some hideous scenarios.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@Tessa. Are you sure you aren't exaggerating a little? Those are some hideous scenarios.

Nope. If anything, I'm toning it down. I don't mind if you think I'm exaggerating, because I'm not.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm toning it down

Wow. That's crazy, but I believe you even though I've never worked in a Japanese company. In the US, its the women who can be as equally raunchy, assertive and aggressive during the after work get-togethers.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My Japanese husband is now working at an American company here in the US. They have mandatory sexual harassment training every year, and he is too terrified to even look at some of the women in his office.

It's freaking hilarious!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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