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Oct 10, 2018

Japanese work culture



Yesterday, I posted this video on my Facebook.



I would like to share my experiences and opinions regarding this.







You are reading this article, so I think you are interested in Japan.

Perhaps, you have a dream to go and live in Japan someday.



Japan has many good points, like beautiful temples, clean streets, a safe environment, interesting anime culture, cute stuff, convenient environment, and so on...



There are many web sites and YouTube channels mentioning these aspects.

So in this article, I would like to share my honest opinion regarding Japanese work environment or people’s mindset regarding it.



I hope sharing will help you somehow.









As the video says, the Japanese birth rate is decreasing rapidly.



Due to this issue, it is harder for Japanese companies to get enough workers.



To resolve this problem, two counter-measures can be presented...



The first is to use technology, like AI or RPA(Robotic Process Automation).
Getting computers to work instead of people.





The second is to hire foreign people...




Japanese companies need to hire more and more foreigners because they can’t get enough laborers in Japan.



So in the future, maybe you will have a chance to go to Japan as a worker.









I think Japanese mindset for work is quite unique.

However, I didn’t know it before I came to the Philippines and got married with my American wife.



For example, I have never seen someone yell at someone in a Philippine office.

In Japan, it depends on the work place. However, scalding someone is not a special thing in a Japanese office.



Generally, when new graduates join a Japanese company, they experience tough situations.

Sometimes, their boss yells at them, or clients get angry with them.

However, they get used to it slowly, and they learn that it is “normal”.



“Normal” doesn’t mean “global standard”.

It means the Japanese normal.



Because almost all Japanese companies are like that.

When they consult with their friends, parents, or seniors, everyone says “it’s normal”.





In my case, after I graduated my university, I joined the company, named Nomura Research Institute(NRI), as an IT system engineer.



Nomura holdings is one of the biggest financial companies, and NRI is one of the highest paying IT companies in Japan...



Before joining the company, I was so excited.

“I can learn about computer and programming in one of the top IT companies in Japan!”







However, in the company, what they did was different from what I imagined...

They only yelled at the development companies’ people...



“You said you can finish it by today! You need to finish it no matter what you do!”


“Do you think this quality is enough for our software!? Modify and recheck it before tomorrow!”



Like this, I often heard people around me yell at other companies’ developers on the phone.





NRI is the company who communicate with system users directly, and they usually don’t develop software by themselves.

They order the program from smaller development companies.



I wondered,
“Is this the way to develop software in one of the top IT companies in Japan?”


“Is this the way to develop software by the most educated, and smartest people in Japan?”


“Just ordering from other companies and yelling at them???”






I wanted to know if it is really normal in Japan, and I wanted to practice programming more.

So after working there for one year, I decided to change my job.






My next company was a smaller development company in Japan.

Actually, that company was nice because I could learn about programming well.



But the work environment was not so different.

I worked until at least 10 pm everyday.

If I didn’t like programming, I think it would be so hard.

Of course, I put a much shorter time on my time sheet, as well as my seniors.



Actually, one of my seniors got a mental illness and quit the job.

In the next project, one of my junior coworkers got a mental illness and quit.



Then, I slowly realized that getting a mental illness from work is just a normal thing in Japan.








Since I was a child, I lived in Kanagawa prefecture. Kanagawa is next to Tokyo.



My high school, university, and office were in Tokyo.

So I used the train every morning from Kanagawa to Tokyo.



Japanese trains are very punctual.

Generally, they arrive at stations on time.





However, every week (especially Monday), the trains are delayed greatly.



It is called “人身事故(jinshin jiko)”.



“Jinshin” means “human body”.

“Jiko” means “accident”.



It means someone committed suicide by jumping in front of the train.



If you start to live in the Tokyo area, maybe you will be surprised how often the “jinshin jiko” happens.






There is a unique part time job in Japan.

That job is called “マグロひろい(maguro hiroi)”.

“マグロ(maguro)” means “tuna”.

“マグロひろい(maguro hiroi)” means “picking up tuna”.



They tidy up the body after the “人身事故(jinshin jiko)”.



The reason why the job is called “picking up tuna” is because the bodies after the accident are similar to raw fish.







As mentioned in the video, Japan has one of the highest suicide rate in the developed world.



First, when I was a high school student, I was surprised that so many people committed suicide, and that trains stopped so often.

However, I got used to it soon, and it became just a usual weekly or daily event.



Sometimes, we got angry with the person who committed suicide because we needed to go to our office on time.



If we are late for work, and if it causes trouble, perhaps, we will be the next one to jump in front of the train.






In the second company, I yelled at my boss once.

He was a section chief, and I was a newbie.



He was a skillful developer.

He finished his task rapidly, and went home at 5:30 pm every day.



However, when we were busy, I was angry because at my first job, I was taught that going home when it's busy is a very bad thing.



I yelled,
“why do you go home even though we are busy?”


He replied it’s for his child.


However, I said,
“You decided to have your child. It was your decision. Didn’t you think about this risk when you had a child? So it’s your fault. You need to throw away everything because this is work.”


After a while, my boss started to cry.


But I continued to yell at him.




Now, I realize how this opinion is crazy and insane.

But at the time, I thought my opinion was correct because it was all that I had learned from my work experience.



In addition, I got a two rank promotion after it.

My opinion was supported by executives of the company, and I got a higher position than any other seniors who taught me programming.



In Japan, crazy people who throw away everything are evaluated highly.


Now, I can understand this kind of person doesn’t have balance, and they sometimes make a bad influence on the community.


However, I didn’t know this because when I was in Japan, I was taught it’s what makes a “good worker”.






When I was in the company, I was afraid because I was not sure if only the “programming” skill was enough to survive.

Because technology changes rapidly.



So I decided to go to the Philippines to learn English, because language doesn’t change so rapidly.


Shortly after, I got married with my American wife.






While working in a Philippines company, and talking with my American wife, I slowly realized that the Japanese work culture is not normal.



My company’s managers can think logically.



In Japan, even if it is obviously impossible, managers usually say,
“You need to do it within today whatever it takes!!!”


But in the Philippines, they understand if it is really impossible, and try to search for the other logical ways.




One day, in the Philippines, my wife fell and needed to have surgery.

During the surgery, I went to the office because I had a meeting with my clients.

However, I met my boss at the first floor of the company, and he said,
“You can go to the hospital.”



In Japan, I’m not sure managers will say that to me.

In Japan, work often has a higher priority than family or happiness.





Why does this happen?



I think this is partially caused by the language.


Generally, Japanese people can’t speak English.

My wife agrees with this, and my Philippine friend working in Japan said “zero English” for Japanese people.


My English is not so good, and I’m still practicing.
However, maybe it’s better than the average Japanese person...




When I talk with my wife, she sometimes talks about her friends from many different countries.

It’s normal for her, because she can make friends from other countries using English.

However, for Japanese people, it's difficult.

Of course, there are some good English speakers in Japan, too.

But generally, Japanese people have only Japanese friends.


So they have no opportunities to know the global standard...

Also, I didn't know...

If I hadn't come to the Philippines, and if I hadn't gotten married with my American wife, I would probably still think work is the most important thing in a person's life. I also wouldn't know it is not normal thinking around the world.




Japanese trains are awesome because they arrive at the stations on time.

However, we should think that someone is implementing rules in which even a one minute delay is unacceptable.

I think we need to think about why the train completely stops for a long period every week.




I think it is similar to work.

In Japanese work, even a very small mistake is unacceptable.
Managers yell at the person who did it.

Because of this, in Japan, my senior and my junior got mental illness, and quit their job.

We then needed to handle more tasks because of their departure, and it made it difficult to achieve the deadline.




Regarding my Philippines job, the client was one of the traditional Japanese companies.

They were doing the "Japanese way" even for Philippine developers, and unfortunately, many high skilled developers quit the job.


I don't think it is a good thing in the long run.

Afterwards, the clients still continued to say "developers in the Philippines need to change their mindset".





The Japanese population is getting lower.

Japanese companies need to hire more workers from foreign countries.



However, I wonder if foreign people really want to work in this environment?

Does working in Japan really make them happy?



Actually, I think Japan needs to change this culture somehow.


Of course, Japan still has some good points.

A "safe environment" is a very nice advantage of Japan.

Also, if you go to Japan as a consumer, the service will be amazing.



However, I am not sure if I can recommend you to go there as a worker...!


I hope this article helps you learn and think about Japan.
Thank you for reading!

4 comments:

  1. OMG! I read this post and the Jinshin Jiko gave me goosebumps over and over again. LOL
    I can truly understand your opinion well as I have lived with 2 Japanese guys in US. Once I shared room in the boarding school with a Nagano guy and another time I shared apartment with this Tokyo guy who speaks fluent English, well enough to share everything about Japanese culture. I have told you about this Kobayashi best friend earlier.
    I had worked for 2 big Japanese companies in my country long ago and I could see the big difference in their work culture. Right now, I have a Japanese company as my client which gives me pressure like how you described when they yelled at the vendors over the phone. My case is different because Mr.Takashi does not speak well, so he sends nasty texts to me instead. LOL

    Once I stayed at a hotel in Hakata (Fukuoka) for a week during winter. They have a very huge & beautiful onsen in the basement where lots of drunkard men would come inside close to midnight. I was shocked & saddened to see a few office workers mumbling to themselves as they were so stressed and frustrated. Like you say, many might have mental problems. I know that stress, leads to depressions and mental problems too. I agree with you that it has something to do with the Japanese culture which I could write many pages. We should have coffee and talk about this someday okay.
    Arigato gozaimasu for sharing this topic which I believe that it is the first time being shared by a Japanese. Well done.

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