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Posted in: 5 reasons why Japanese expats say sayonara to their homeland for good See in context

I'm American but I've been here 8 years. I agree with this list although I would add that everything in Japan is too expensive and salaries are too low for the world's 3rd largest economy. I'm planning my escape this year or next.

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Posted in: Why do Japanese work such long hours? See in context

Why do they work such long hours? As other people have pointed out, it's their culture. The more interesting question is: is it hurting or helping Japan?

I've been here more than 5 years, and I can honestly say I have gone from absolutely loving Japan, to nearly hating it at times. The biggest reason is the horrible Japanese work ethic and business culture. If you work in Japan at a normal company you will begin to see the darker side of the country. In my opinion most of Japan's social problems (high suicide rate, depression, low birth rates, high rate of stomach cancer and poor health brought on by stress, absurdly high rate of singles, low salaries, exploding number of single mothers, men and women going their separate ways, broken nenkin system etc.) are caused mostly by Japan's business culture. A Japanese company takes most of your time, most of your energy, and gives you very little in return in terms of appreciation, salary and contentment; the salaries are not even enough to raise a family on (hence the low marriage/birth rates).

This may sound strange but Japanese people have a warped view of efficiency when it comes to time and labor. In an industry like mine (3DCG) you can expect more than half the staff to do "meaningless overtime", which means they are at their desks well into the night, but aren't actually doing much work (and any work they are doing is full of errors because they are exhausted). What they are doing is trying to create a good image to the company by showing what dedicated employees they are.. it's basically just posturing. They are also trying to offset their low salaries, because the laws in Japan are such that overtime [past a seemingly arbitrary amount] has to be paid. So since a company can really only afford to pay its employees what it can afford to pay, and half the staff is working and getting paid for overtime, everyone's salaries are therefore lower than they could be otherwise.

In addition to the overtime, you can also expect long, pointless, fruitless meetings; the sheer length and frequency of these meetings mean you literally don't have time to do the work you need to do. It seems like the reason for these long meetings is the fault of their indirect communication style; so getting things discussed, decided and accomplished takes many times longer than a western company where split-second decisions and changing of plans are normal and accepted.

Another reason so much time is required at the office (depending on the industry of course) is that there is a problem with Japanese companies using software and tools incorrectly... I call this the kanchigai tatsumaki or tornado of misinformation. The problem is that if you work in a technology industry that is constantly getting new software, tools, new information and ways of doing things etc., all of that information is going to be written in English initially, and 90% of Japanese people can't speak or read English, so they come up with their own ways of doing things and spread that misinformation around their incestuous industries.

I know it sounds like I'm slamming Japan, but to be honest I'm pulling a lot of my punches. It really IS as bad as everyone says, and anyone thinking of moving here long-term should really think about [more thoroughly than I did].

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Posted in: For those of you who work for Japanese companies, what are some of the best or worst things about it? See in context

I know this is an old article, but thought I should add my 2 cents.

Best: The fact that you are not Japanese and can move back to your country at any time. Worst: Basically everything.

I've been here more than 5 years, and I can honestly say I have gone from absolutely loving Japan, to nearly hating it. Before someone says "then leave!!!" let me say I am planning on moving back to the states (unless I can find a foreign-owned CG studio here in Tokyo). I'm sure compared to many countries Japan's quality of life is an improvement, but compared to an American lifestyle Japan is kind of like camping. Anyway I am definitely looking forward to getting back to a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, seeing as the salaries in Japan are about half of American salaries.

The biggest reason I began to hate Japan is their horrible horrible work ethic and business culture. I've never taught English, so I don't know what that's like, but if you work in Japan at a normal company you will begin to see the darker side of the country. In my opinion most of Japan's social problems (high suicide rate, depression, low birth rates, high rate of singles, low salaries, increasing rates of single mothers, men and women going their separate ways, broken nenkin system etc.) are caused mostly by Japan's business culture. A Japanese company takes most of your time, most of your energy, and gives you very little in return in terms of appreciation, salary and contentment; the salaries are not even enough to raise a family on (hence the low marriage/birth rates).

This may sound strange but Japanese people have a warped view of efficiency when it comes to time and labor. In an industry like mine (3DCG) you can expect more than half the staff to do "meaningless overtime", which means they are at their desks well into the night, but aren't actually doing much work (and any work they are doing is full of errors because they are exhausted). What they are doing is trying to create a good image to the company by showing what dedicated employees they are.. it's basically just posturing. They are also trying to offset their low salaries, because the laws in Japan are such that overtime (past a certain amount [35hours per month at my company]) has to be paid. So since a company can really only afford to pay its employees what it can afford to pay, and half the staff is working and getting paid for overtime, everyone's salaries are therefore lower than they could be otherwise.

You can also expect long, pointless, fruitless meetings; I have been in meetings that literally lasted more than 4 hours and accomplished almost nothing unless you enjoy long pauses of silence and watching middle-aged Japanese men make strange sounds and say souuuuuu-desuuuuuu-neeeeeeeee as slowly as they possibly can. Do you remember the scene in Lord of the Rings where the 2 hobbits are waiting for the Ents to reach a decision? After hours of waiting Treebeard tells them they "just finished saying good morning". Ya, it's like that! These long pointless meetings mean you literally don't have time to do the work you need to do. It seems like the reason for these long meetings is the fault of their indirect communication style; so getting things discussed, decided and accomplished takes easily twice as long as a western company. Furthermore the culture is very passive aggressive, so it's very hard to tell what people are really thinking, if they are being genuinely nice to you or if they are subtly being mean. Also, don't expect honesty if it jeopardizes group cohesion; there is a saying in Japan uso-mo-houben, which basically means that a lie is justified sometimes if it will help keep things stable. We saw this in action on the news after Fukushima where Tepco, the media and the government colluded in lies about the severity of the situation. Michio Kaku slammed Japan for its irresponsible and dangerous handling of the situation.

But getting back to the workplace. There is also a problem with Japanese companies using software and tools incorrectly... I call this the kanchigai tatsumaki or tornado of misinformation. The problem is that if you work in a technology industry that is constantly getting new software, tools, new information and ways of doing things etc., all of that information is going to be written in English initially, and 90% of Japanese people can't speak or read English, so they come up with their own ways of doing things and spread that misinformation around their incestuous industries. For example I once worked at a huge successful Japanese company (Denso) that had lost their original Photoshop files for icons for a project. Instead of remaking new icons they opened up old compressed Jpgs they had and wanted to use those; but those icons had a drop shadow, so they opened up each icon and were trying to erase the dropshadow by hand with the ERASER TOOL! When I asked why in the hell they were to modify nasty compressed images by hand, they said that other Japanese studios did it that way (as though that was a good reason). I eventually convinced them to let me remake all the icons in vector and created a system that automatically exported and replaced the assets from a central file every time they made a change to them... I saved them tons of time and headache but do you think they showed me any appreciation for that? Quite the opposite, I was viewed as a troublemaker for stepping out of the hierarchy... sighhhhhhhhh. Relating to this, any criticism (even positive criticism) will be seen as negativity, and will make you a pariah among your coworkers... because the most important thing in Japanese business is not efficiency, not quality, not a good outcome, but rather group cohesion. So why is group cohesion so important? Well because Japanese people do everything as a group, and the company is supposed to be the most important thing in your life (even above your family). This leads to a cult-like group-think kind of culture that really makes me cringe at times. Here's an example; at my current studio every day at 3:30 they do this little exercise routine called radio taisou (Google it). It's basically the national exercise routine (yes such a thing exists). It's technically optional since it would probably be against the law to force people to participate, but they expect everyone to do it. I did it for a few months, but after that opted to keep my headphones on and continue my work. No problem right? No, problem! I was called to a meeting where they told me they were concerned because I wasn't participating in the radio taisou. I literally facepalmed... and said "look guys, I have a lot of work to do... furthermore I'm a 35 year old man and I don't want to use my time on this planet to talk about not participating in radio taisou. Now can I go back to my desk now so I can continue my work for you?". I was probably a little heavy-handed with them, but after 5 years of this madness enough is enough. Anyway I digress, but listen, anyone thinking of moving to Japan long term working in a normal industry should read these words and take a huge step back and rethink their decision.

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Posted in: The mindset of workers who will always have low salaries See in context

By the title of the article I do get the impression that the author [and Mr. Kogure] probably disagrees with the analogy posted by Livedoor News. No matter, the analogy is incredibly flawed and should have been called out as begging the question.

As a matter of fact products of different quality/popularity DO cost different prices... the soft drink/juice analogy was particularly unfortunate since vending machines can be found every 50 meters in Japan. Go ahead and walk to your closest vending machine and compare the prices for yourself. Companies who work harder to market more effectively to their demographics are rewarded by demand for their product, and therefore [within reason] can sell their product for higher prices than less popular competitors. This is basic economics of supply and demand.

Aside from the flawed analogy it IS true that Japanese salaries rarely reflect the actual quality of an employee. This is damaging as it removes the incentive for people to better themselves (better does not equal working long hours folks). It stifles the drive to improve skill/efficiency to become a better employee that can contribute more value to the company. This leads to apathetic, disengaged, and sometimes outright depressed employees.

Think about it, [in the absence of being brainwashed] why in the world would anyone break their neck for a company that has no interest in rewarding them for their extra effort? Almost nonsensically a good Japanese employee is rarely one who takes it upon themselves to decide what areas they should improve or excel in; that is the company's decision - the responsibility of the worker is to fall in line and respect the chain of command. Anyway, in Japan employees who 'think outside the box' are often seen as troublemakers rather than creative collaborators who add value. In fact thinking too far outside the box or even constructively criticizing the company can get you ostracized or worse.

The sad thing is that from the Japanese company's point of view your meager base salary IS the reward (and I'm not even getting started on the corrupt bonus system); Over the years I have gotten the impression that they think you should feel lucky just to be a part of their company. Sadly the mentality of the average Japanese person is likely to give into this kind of bullying. Culturally you are expected to put the company first over everything else; those who don't are considered selfish and lazy. This is one of the reasons why in recent decades Japan has failed to compete with the West and even other Asian countries like Korea and Taiwan, whom have been steadily chipping away at Japan's profits since the 90s.

As a resident here I want to see Japan succeed, but they really make it hard on themselves sometimes.

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