Just to add one more face to this, from someone who has worked in 2 Japanese offices in Kyoto, I find the extended hours needed for work and lost productivity come from the time needed to make decisions, even the smallest and most menial things. The whole nemawashi thing. That said, you can gain some of that back through fewer mistakes made down the road because a lot of what they've corrected me on seems menial, but it has forced me to strive for perfection rather than just getting something done efficiently. Looked at another way, I think Japanese companies play better defence, American/western companies play better offense, with the latter being more exciting and satisfying, but not necessarily better in the long term (some exceptions being in the world of IT and such). I work at a fairly conservative company now and on the few days when i do stay late to finish something, I see most of my co-workers go home at 6-6:30pm (unpaid overtime). My previous company had most people leaving by 8 (paid overtime). Of course that's just my own personal experience, but i wonder if some of those myths of people going home late are over exaggerated and somewhat maintained from the bubble era when there was an extreme amount of work to do.
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