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Osaka postman fights to keep mustache

57 Comments

Lawyers are rallying behind a postman whose boss told him he had to shave off his mustache to comply with grooming standards for letter carriers. The bar association in Osaka said that the order against 55-year-old postman Noboru Nakamura was "irrational" and violated his human rights.

"Having a mustache is part of an individual lifestyle and should be an individual decision," said Kazuo Okawa, a lawyer for the bar association. Nakamura has had a mustache since 1990. His conflict with his superiors started after Japan Post introduced new grooming regulations in 2004.

"I have taken care to keep my mustache neat and I don't think I make my customers feel uncomfortable," Nakamura was quoted by the Asahi Shimbun as saying.

"Some of my colleagues had to shave their faces against their will. I can't accept that," he said.

Many Japanese consider mustaches and beards to be uncouth, but facial hair has recently seen a boom among fashion-conscious men.

© AFP

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my postaman doesnt have facial hair but is grossly overweight, looks like he has just been dragged through a hedge backwards and never has his shirt tucked in. hassle him and leave grizzly adams postie alone

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Everyone knows you can't deliver letters properly if you have a moustache. (rolls eyes)

We have a post lady, and she has one. Doesn't stop her doing her job at all.

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without Picture or Measurement of Mustache...but anyway, i agree with the Bar Association that it is “irrational” and violates his human rights.

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Hey, Japan Post has decided mustaches are uncouth! Some companies/organizations say no mustaches and some companies say you have to wear a damn necktie. They have the legal right to make these dumb rules.

"Cleo - "We have a post lady and she has one."

Har!

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This case could turn the table on many aspects of Japanese work. Could it be possible to see male teachers having ponytails and beards like ZZ Top? Could it also go so far as to create a certain level of acceptability to tattoos? There is no way this guy will win his case. The culture of Japan is not ready accept something new like, freedom of expression.

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hold onto your handle bars and be a man. guff to these smooth faced SPAM types

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Next thing you know, the Printing Bureau is going to have to censor Hideyo Noguchi, that guy on the 1,000-yen note who looks like Charlie Chaplin.

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They have the legal right to make these dumb rules.

Actually, I think they have the right to ask to wear a tie, because you can wear or remove at any time, thus it's not a part of yourself (you're allowed not to wear a tie when you leave work). A moustache is a completely different thing, since it is a part of your body, and involves your private life as well. You cannot "wear" a moustache at home and not at work. Your legal rights are obviously infringed if a company ask you to do this, if it's not for a rationale reason related to safety (like having short or tied hair in dangerous work environments). Legally, this man is in his right. However, we all know laws are very loosely enforced here, or in a very creative way....

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i has never seen my local postman, and i don't think i will have a problem if he turn out to have mustache or even a tattoo on his face.

but clearly some(many) japanese do care more on another people business rather than their own.

anyway i hope he win the case.

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I demand my postman have a moustache

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Couple of good posts here. I like the reference to Grizzly Adams and also Cleo's jab.

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**Many Japanese consider mustaches and beards to be uncouth

we could write a tome listing all the quirky things Japanese people think or consider....I personally think the majority of Japanese men are just jealous as they can't grow a moustache or beard or sideburns to save their lives. Mr Nakamura's boss is probably a jealous smooth faced weeny. Many Japanese people I know are fascinated by the well formed and dense beard I sport, I get many favourable comments about it.

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Beelzebub

Hideyo Noguchi, that guy on the 1,000-yen note who looks like Charlie Chaplin

I laughed so much after reading this comment.

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Patrick - wouldn't "looking the part" be qualifying oneself as a fashion victim? Just following what one is "expected" to look like!

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I wonder if, realising that moustaches are considered uncouth, all pictures of the Meiji and Taisho Emperors should be photoshopped to remove their offensive 'taches.

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A postman with a moustache... Meiji era all over again... Can they also ride Penny Farthing ? please... please please...

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Last week my manager asked me to wear a tie, I refused, quoting that it's the Cool Biz season, and if the Prime Minister doesn't wear one, neither should I. She didn't argue the case. I was also asked to shave off my goatee. My reply was, if she shaved hers off first, THEN I'd shave mine off!

Strangely enough, I haven't seen her all week.

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Patrick Smash - Looking the part would mean dressing and grooming in a manner appropriate for a job, and following such dress and grooming regulations that exist. I won't hire any fellow with a pony tail or earring, or any other such poncey nonsense either. And moustaches are plain daft.

That's the kind of superficial belief that created this problem in the first place. Gees, even Einstein had a mustache! My philosophy professor had a ponytail and beard, but is one of the most highly educated and respected professors in the world. So, your opinion is just plain wrong. Appearances don't mean anything. There is way too much importance put on appearances in Japan although, it does go very well with the superficial nature of the society.

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It seems Mr Nakamura had been taking his moustache with him on his delivery rounds for some fourteen years before his clever bosses decided that a moustache hinders proper letter and parcel delivery. I think Mr. Nakamura's moustache's length of service trumps his bosses' new grooming regulations.

Speaking of long-serving face hair, if Santa with all his splendid face-fuzz can do his job - and do it well, never known him to be late, though he did get a bit confused once back in 1960 when he brought me a soppy feed-me-and-I-wet-my-nappy doll when I specifically asked in my letter for a St Bernard puppy or failing that a poodle, but apart from that - I'm sure Mr. Nakamura's doubtless much more sedate facial hair in no way prevents him from doing his job.

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I suggest that this fellow go to the library and locate old photographs of members of the early Japanese Postal Service in the Meiji Era. I'll bet moustaches and beards were "historically" part of the Japanese Postal service.

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I support the company on this issue. If only girls would sport mow hawks instead in beards, then romulus would be happy. a skin head is also ok but for god sake, not a shaggy beard.

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I agree with Cleo on this issue. His moustache wasn't a problem until 2004. He seemed to get the job done before then, and at this point the people he delivers mail to EXPECT to see him with one. I think they'd be more uncomfortable with the change of him not having one considering he's had it for such a long time. They might think it's a stranger approaching the house instead of the good ol' neighborhood postman.

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A mustache is a deviation from the norm, and thus cannot be accepted. Japan is Japan. If this guy doesn't like Japan, he should move to another country where such things are allowed - maybe North Korea would be good for him.

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If the man's tache is well kept ok. if he's got cookie crumbs and coffee in it no way. no slobs. Just like Pat Smash said!! I wouldn't hire an unkept person. Their pony tails and beards should be trimmed and showing no foreign objects protruding. Now if a man were well kept and wearing a skirt and lipstick he wouldn't get in my company either no matter how nice he smelled. Anyway moustaches look good on japanese men. they need something to make them look manly. I hope he sticks it to those bosses who probably look like girlie boys.

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I am with USNinJapan2.

There are regulations for correct attire, etc. And for some reasons.

Not sure about the person in question here as I haven't seen/met him, but it looks like in 2004 NEW regulations came into being(big whooping deal happens in any company worldwide).

He didn't conform, he knew about it for the last 4yrs and was free to leave and take new employment.

It is a companies right to set rules on how their employees should be dressed, tattooed, pierced or even hair-styled as the look of their employees is part of the image and brand they try to project.

People that don't like the rules are free to leave, simply just another condition in the employment contract(which change from time to time).

Just my view.

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The reason they are not permitted is because they're not compatible with the use of oxygen masks, gas masks, fire fighting gear, etc.

Neither Santa nor the postie uses any of that stuff.

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Postman-san knew the standards for groomin' and dress when he signed on.

End of story.

USAR

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USAR-

No, when he signed on moustaches were OK. He'd had his moustache for 14 years with no trouble before the company (revamped in 2003 from the old Postal Services Agency, and privatised in 2007 under Koizumi's reform plans) decided they were going to change the rules.

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cleo.

When an employer changes contract, rules, etc the employees are FREE to sign up under the new conditions or leave. NO?

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ZenB -

That's tantamount to saying companies can fire people at will simply by changing 'rules' to target the employees they want to get rid of, without having to give them severance pay or be charged with unfair dismissal. I'm not sure if that's legal, but it's certainly wrong.

His moustache was there before their arbitrary rule. If there had been a flood of complaints about letters and parcels not being delivered properly on account of the hair, the management might have a case, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

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Cleo.

Welcome to the corporate world. This has been going for decades and even longer.

This is not just something in Japan, remember one major international company was called the "Blue Suit Brigade" as everybody had to were blue business suits.

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A blue business suit, a tie, patent leather shoes, whatever, are not the same as a mustache. How can a neatly trimmed mustache, which has been a part of the man himself for 14 years on the job, suddenly become a problem? As others have said, if his facial hair was unkempt, or he was seen regularly with food, etc. sticking in it, that would be a problem, but I just don't get the people on this board who are defending the postal company...

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Sure, companies can change the rules and their employees have a choice to conform or get the hell out, but where do we draw a line between reasonable rules and insane ones? What if a company changed the rules to say that all employees have to dye their eyebrows purple? Or if they changed the rules to say all male employees have to get circumcised? Or that being black or asian is against the rules now?

A small caveat here, I am against dress/appearance codes in principal. I believe that as long as elementary rules of hygiene (e.g. no offensive body odor, mud on your face, rotting food in your beard, etc.) are kept, people should really care less about the appearance, and more about the quality of work. That's my personal opinion of course - I am one of these people that don't really care if a bank clerk has a pink mohawk, facial tattoo and is wearing a sex pistols t-shirt, as long as he processes my check quickly and without errors, while being polite and helpful. AS long as his appearance does not break the law (indecent exposure and all that), I'm basically fine with it and care only about the quality of his work.

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Having these daft regulations can make things very difficult for a company. It seems that JP demands all beards be shaved off. But even after shaving, the beard is still there, it's just very short. Do the regulations specify a maximum length of beard? If not, how many days' growth is acceptable? JP also needs to define the precise region of the face that must be shaved. Where exactly does it start and finish? Could you shave half of your hair off and claim you had just shaved your beard?

If they were to ask for a minimum length of hair on the scalp, would bald employees be required to wear wigs?

Also, do they allow female employees to have long hair? If they do, they should also allow their male employees the same rights. Discrimination is unconstitutional.

There is no way JP should win this case, although they probably will win in this land of arbitrary "rules".

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Doctor Tofu -

Quite. And eloquently put. I like the bit about the eyebrows.

Signing up for a company knowing that they have dress rules etc., that you're not prepared to adhere to is one thing; doing your job adequately for 14 years with no complaints and suddenly having new 'rules' dropped on your head out of the blue is something else entirely. And again, clothing is one thing, having the company invade upon your person is quite another.

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I am not disagreeing with you guys.

Recent trend is now that companies can fire you if you don't fit their profile of a healthy individiual or if deemed over-weight and can't shed pounds in a given time-frame. Never mind the compulsory drug-tests, etc.

One just needs to read the overseas news to see cases and companies like that.

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Zen Builder - good point. The ridiculous trend of control-freakism (yeah, I just made that up) is spreading all over the world. We seem to have more and more rules every time I look. I'm not sure about other countries (hell, even my own - it's been a while since I graduated), but in Japan it seems to start in schools - all the rules about the length and color of hair, which buttons can be unfastened on a warm day, what sort of jewelery you can or cannot wear... I had a (very) brief stint as an English teacher in public elementary and junior high schools, and the list of rules regarding appearance for a schoolchild in each and every one of them was literally longer than my job contract! And I just mean the text part - obviously my contract had no pictures with helpful scales to tell me what is the tolerance for tie length and how far my hair can reach below my shirt collar.

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I would just say "It ain't a mustache. . I just forgot to shave...a lot. . . every day. . . "

It is one thing for a company to have standards. And I am, in general, in favor of at least some semblance of a dress code. . no offensive clothing, hair kempt, body and hair washed, clothing clean, that sort of thing. Mr PatSmash's take against jewelery or hair length is, in my mind, just about as rational as the Post Ofice's fear of any facial hair. (In other words, completely Irrational). If ya dont like long haired freaky people, that is your choice. And if you dont want to hire a NEW recruit who doesn't fit your high standards of aesthetic sensibility, that is also your choice. But, having an employee who serves the company for 14 years, then popping up "You! I dont dig the 'stache. Lose the facefur or lose yer job" smells to me quite a bit like bovine excretia. The man had a 'stache for 14 years before the new rules popped up. And when the new standards came out, he took a stand. I say, Good on ya Postman!! Keep your stache neat and trimmed. . Hell, take it farther and grow a Van Dyke (what many people mistakenly call a goatee).

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hope he wins and sets example for Japan that is far behind on human rights and people's ability to defend them.

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Funny story.

My company NEVER objected to my below shoulder-length hair, but at a covention when I attended they objected to me carrying a Motorbike helmet and leather-jacket(needed protection).

Heck I was wearing tie and suit, usually carried the suit jacket in saddle-bags and changed when I got there. Will I leave a $500 Helmet + Jacket on the bike = NO WAY.

We had 4 Bikers(all club members so we carried colours) in my division who ONLY commuted via Bike, heck company even gave us covered parking. 2 spots for 6 Bikes.

Myself done with the corporate machine, now self-employed.

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Mailman-san, the world doesn't revolve around you.

You made a deal. You knew the deal. Now honor it or leave.

That's what grown-ups do.

USAR

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USAR--the problem is that he didnt make the deal. It isnt like he signed up for the military and knew coming in that he would have to get a haircut or something. He worked for the post office with the moustache for 14 YEARS before someone changed the regs. If he had been a rookie and signed on after the no 'stache regs came into place, I would side with the post office on this. But, seriously. . 14 years with no problem, then suddenly the post office decides it is a problem??? I am with the letter carrier on this one.

I am curious to see the regulation itself...anyone know where to find it?

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You made a deal. You knew the deal. Now honor it or leave. That's what grown-ups do. USAR

What grown-ups do is get their facts straight instead of repeating the same duff information over and over in the hopes that it will eventually be true.

He made no 'deal' regarding his facial hair. There was no 'deal' for him to 'know'. It's the company that suddenly decided the world revolves around them, and the company that needs to grow up and honour his 14 years of trouble-free work.

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EnGee, when mailman-san signed on he knew he'd have to follow current and future rules and regulations regardin' groomin', dress and all things sundry and not.

He knew the deal when he signed on. If he feels he cannot honor the deal he made on Day One, then he should be a man and leave.

The world does not revolve around him. He should stop bein' a child and act like a man.

USAR

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Cleo, are you tellin' me that the Japanese postal service has no written standards on groomin' and dress and the conduct they expect of their employees.

C'mon, Cleo, even you don't believe that whopper.

He knew the deal from Day One.

If his government agency stopped payin' him but expected him to keep workin' then they's be at fault.

That's not the case here. This is the simple non-issue story of a man-child who thinks the world revolves around him and refuses to grow up.

Occam's Razor.

USAR

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when mailman-san signed on he knew he'd have to follow current and future rules and regulations regardin' groomin', dress and all things sundry and not.

No, he signed on as a postie, not as military cannon-fodder. If the company suddenly decided they wanted all their posties with all head hair shaved, nose rings, face tattoos and Dr Tofu's famous purple eyebrows, would you still be urging him to 'be a man'? Or would you be struck with a tiny niggling doubt that maybe, just maybe, the company was overstepping its bounds as an employer and should just let him and his colleagues get on with doing a job they've been doing perfectly well for over a decade?

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He knew the deal from Day One.

The deal from Day One and for 14 years after Day One was that there was no problem at all with his moustache.

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"I suggest that this fellow go to the library and locate old photographs of members of the early Japanese Postal Service in the Meiji Era. I'll bet moustaches and beards were "historically" part of the Japanese Postal service."

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Cleo, if the Japanese postal service suddenly required him to cannabalize on child under four years of age each day on his route, I'd expect him to honor the deal he signed on Day One... or resign. That's what a man does.

"Cannon-fodder", Cleo?

Aren't you bein' a tad dramatic?

No?

USAR

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This NOT a new conflict.

His conflict with his superiors started after Japan Post introduced new grooming regulations in 2004.

So far close to 4yrs on it, how many companies you know that wouldn't have fired him a long time ago? Nothing to do with privatization, etc as the ruling predates it.

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this j-postman did proof that there is still human among this programed robotic base society.

a human who can think, feel and do not afraid to step up protecting what he thing it is his right.

i really hope that he will win the case.

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"if the Japanese postal service suddenly required him to cannabalize on child under four years of age each day on his route, I'd expect him to honor the deal he signed on Day One... or resign. That's what a man does."

That doesn't sound like a man to me, that sounds like a loser.

When people's rights are being abused and taken away, a real man (or woman) stands up and fights back. Otherwise we would quickly end up like North Korea.

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When you accept employment, you exchange freedom for security. Your employer (i.e., the one who employs or, to use a synonym, uses you) takes on the responsibility for making sure that the money you need to keep roof over head and food on the table is there without fail every month and, in exchange, you agree to serve the employer by performing certain duties and obeying certain rules.

Or, put rather more bluntly, the employer keeps the wolf from your door and, for that, you kowtow to the employer.

For employers, it's important that the persons they use (i.e., their serve-ants) be emasculated to keep them docile and obedient. This makes them more reliable and, hence, more useful.

Of course, these days the emasculation of servants is just symbolic. Suits, neckties, hair cuts, clean-shaven faces--it's all symbolic emasculation. Of course, it also makes for better relations with customers, etc., when employees are bland and non-threatening.

A real man is one who keeps the wolf from his door himself. And an even stronger man is one keeps the wolf from other's doors, too.

Real men do sometimes wear suits, neckties and keep their hair short, but the difference is that they do so as a matter of choice (generally so as not to scare customers), not because it's a 'work rule.'

But real men also, quite often, have mustaches, beards and, yes, long hair. Anyone who thinks long hair is something women have is historically-challenged. Short hair on men is simply a recent 'fashion' that has come about due to the increasing number of men in servitude during the last 100 or so years.

Whether the postal worker will have to shave is up to a court. It will be interesting to see if they uphold the employer's right to symbolic emasculation or allow him the freedom to act like a real man (without actually being one, of course). The former will support the stability of the society (docile & obedient workers) while the latter could lead to a weakening.

P.S. In this posting, I've spoken of real men because the issue at hand is facial hair. Of course, there are also strong women who keep the wolf from their door (and the doors of others, too).

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I'm with Cleo.

Of course, grandfathering-in carriers under the old rules would result in different rules for different employees, so that would be sticky.

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USAR an Employer should use common sense (which seems to be a lack off in this country), i also agree with Cleo.

If it was such a big issue, they would have fired him allready.

Maybe an idea for a new product? Clip on Mustaches for those stringent companies?

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Dear Mister Bauer, I'm sure the Japanese postal service did not change their regs just to target this individual.

If this mailman-san cannot adapt to the changes of the conditions of his employment, he should man-up, resign and move on.

He should grow up and realize the world doesn't revolve around him.

Graciously assumin' you're also not one of them, aren't you gettin' a little tired of all the self-centered crybabies who think the world revolves around them?

USAR

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Does the no-stache rule apply to the women carriers, too?

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