To join a large company in Japan, the child must study hard from elementary
school, or as is more often the case, he must attend the "right"
kindergarten, which will have its own entrance examination. Graduating from one
of the top universities, such as Tokyo or Kyoto is a must, if the young man
wants to join one of the very best companies. This intense pressure has played a
large part in the partial disintegration of traditional Japanese values and
morals. As I have mentioned in other sections, many Japanese children today are
rebelling against the system and society in general.
employment cannot be taken for granted anymore, even finding a job for an
university graduate can be difficult enough nowadays.
employed by one of the "top" companies, the new employee will have to
bend to the wishes and desires, of his new "family". In return, he can
expect to be paid a fair wage, long term employment (perhaps) and a
company will decide on the kind of work he will do, where he will do it and for
how long. Most large companies rotate their employees after about three years,
they may be moved to a distant location, with little regard for the employees
opinion, or whether the employees own family will be able to move with him. To
refuse a transfer would be to permanently tarnish his record with the company,
which could have very serious consequences later on in his career.
hours are usually from 8:30 am to 5 or 6 p.m. The image of the hard working
salary man, staying in his office until late at night is pretty accurate.
What is not so commonly known is that he may not actually be doing much work.
The group is all important in Japan both in and out of work. The working group,
allows for no individualism, if one member is really busy then the other members
cannot leave the office, even though they may not be able to assist him. Staying
until 9 p.m. is not unheard of, pretending to be busy at his desk, in reality,
half asleep. This kind of life is absolutely necessary if the salary man wants
to be promoted in the future. It is such a wasteful custom on behalf of the
companies, one must wonder for how much longer this working tradition can
continue. Quite many younger salary men point this custom out to me and say
quietly that they cannot respect it or wish to be part of it. If you ask a salary man
if he is busy at work, he will usually say that he is, despite the fact that he
may have nothing to do. The group or section he works for may be busy, but he
personally has nothing to do, it goes against the grain for him to admit the
season in Japan, is often a time of deep hidden worry in the office. As I have
already said, the employee has little say in the matter and it is unheard of to
rebel against a company edict, no matter how far the employee may be transferred
from his home. Transfers are sometimes used by companies to punish an employee,
sending him to a remote spot and leaving him there for a number of years, is one
form of punishment meted out to businessmen who have provoked their companies
often the salary man will transfer without his family, especially if his
children's schooling would be affected. This sometimes means that for several
years his family will live, in effect, without a father, which in its turn must
cause many problems for all involved.
There is one story that I would like to relate to you here, it is about a salary
man who was transferred from Oita (Southern Kyushu) to Tokyo.
he told me his story he had been in Tokyo for nearly one year and had two years
left, before returning to his hometown to work. He lived in a small studio
apartment, he always said that he was happy with his "single life", he
could play Pachinko whenever he chose, he could go drinking with his fellow
workers, without any hassle. The thing that struck me speechless was that he
would mail a parcel to his wife once a week." "What is inside
it?", I asked him.
dirty clothes", he replied.
never ever washed any of his own clothes. I don't think a western wife would be
very happy to receive such a package every week, but that is one of the more
traditional concepts of the working husband in Japan.
is very important for the businessman, as he may spend a large part of his life
with the same company (if he is lucky) so he needs to have a good relationship
with both his supervisors and subordinates.
companies want to create harmonious conditions for their workers, they do this
by having many formal and informal company sponsored events such as, athletic
competitions, parties and excursions, often involving the employee's family as
well. Many parties are held through out the year, welcoming new employees, good
bye parties, for those being transferred, end of year parties and so on. These
events help to create unity, a sense of really belonging to a group, which is so
very important in Japan. The rather "naff" expression "If you are not in, you
are out", holds completely true in all aspects of Japanese society.
mentioned in another section, it is usual for the salary man to stop off at a
pub after work, or play mahjong or pachinko, to relieve his stress. The serious
businessman needs to play golf, not for pleasure but for business success. It is
fairly common to see a young or old salary man playing "air golf"
whilst he waits on a station platform for his train. I know many foreigners who
find this practice, very stupid, I must include myself as well. I guess to us
foreigners, "air golf" reminds us of playing an "air guitar when
we were teenagers, but we at least grew out of it, I think!
offs are becoming more common as the recession continues unabated. The figure
for unemployment for all of 1998 stood at 4.1%, a new post war record. Suicides
are also on the rise. JR. (Japan Railways) recently voiced their concern about
the number of people jumping in front of trains in the Tokyo area, during
of the redundant workers are middle aged and mid ranking office workers, who
have little skill to offer a new employer, indeed they seem to me to be like
"ducks without a pond", going this way and that way, without any real
in their life, after being cut loose from their "lifetime jobs".
Temporary agencies are doing wonderfully from this new state of affairs. Many
companies are cutting costs by only hiring temps. The more resourceful salary
men are retraining after being fired from their "lifetime employment"
jobs, and there are some specialist agencies who will assist them.
my short stay in Japan this May, I was sad to find that working conditions and
the salary man's lot in life have not improved, indeed they are expected to work
even longer hours with less time for holidays. This shocking state of affairs is
directly related to the poor economy and the large unemployment problems.
Workers are very scared of loosing their jobs and thus, stay in the work place
for ridiculously long hours. free time seems to be scorned once more in Japan by
the working community, I think young people have other ideas though, which was
very good to see!
and pleasure go together in the Japanese business world, unlike western business
practices. Many western businessmen do not succeed in Japan, because they come
unprepared and with little or zero knowledge about how things are done here.
helps to build trust between the two parties, even though not one word of
business may be talked about. Legal contracts are not as important as trust in
Japan, face to face meetings are the most effective means of establishing a good
reach an agreement may take a long time from the start of a negotiation to the
actual signing of a contract. The reasons, as mentioned, to establish trust, and
there isn't usually one person who will decide, but many people who will be
involved with the actual results of an agreement. Some western businessmen or
governments try to pressurize the Japanese into making a quick decision, this
runs against the Japanese way of thinking and will very often do more harm than