Japanese Salarymen — Got your back, jack!

It’s a well known stereotype that Japanese workers put in grueling hours.  I’ve been eye witness to this having watched my sometimes exhausted husband leave early and come back late.

During half the year it’s not like that and he comes back at a decent hour (8pm here which would be unthinkable as decent in other places).

But the system may not be as terrible as others think. It depends on the company and the workers themselves.  They have found work arounds and a camaraderie.

You might wonder, why not make it illegal to force workers to work so late?

Actually, it is illegal.  The law is on the books that a company can’t order you to stay until 12 am and not pay you.  Problem solved?


They don’t assign you to work late, they just give you so much work that you can’t finish it on time. You are expected to complete all tasks before you leave.  Yes, you are free to go by 6 pm.  But you have another 5 hours of work left.  It’s due to tomorrow?

Now they just say, ‘Well, so and so voluntarily stayed.”

Voluntary my ass!

How do you ban workloads and how do you decide when someone is being given too much work?  One could argue they are lazy if they can’t complete all the tasks.

My husband has a great company and he generally gets paid his overtime.  Usually he does come home by 7:30pm and only once a month does he go to a after work drinking party. (For some companies it’s almost every night).  His co-workers are great and very understanding.

They have a work around.

A “you scratch my back and I scratch yours” system if you please.  When one needs time off, the others work their share without resentment.  In return, if they need time off the others will work their share.  No sides are bitter and angry on this front.  They’ll even do it if the other side just needs extra vacation leave.

Right now my husband is working late, late hours because one of his female co-workers can’t come into work. Her child has the flu and she needs to take care of him.  While it’s sad to see my husband coming home by midnight, I am very proud that he’s doing it to help her.

Nothing hurt for a parent worse than having to decide between work and their children’s health.

So right now he and other workers are dividing up her work.

The system is what the system does.

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When I was in my twenties, I moved to Japan and met a man there. We embarked on our adventure through life and love. I have lived with him in Japan ever since. We want to start a family, but that is proving difficult. I struggle with infertility. We almost had a child, but that ended in tragedy. Now we enjoy each day and hope that one day we'll hear the pitter-patter of little feet and the bubbly laughter of a child. In the meantime, I enjoy writing, love, studying, traveling, and working. These posts are my thoughts and stories of my life here.

3 thoughts on “Japanese Salarymen — Got your back, jack!”

  1. So true that it is dependent on company culture. Mel’s work with 3 different companies with offices in Japan and visits often. One would be like that with long hours but the other two was not. All were foreign firms though. We normally generalize about these late hours and that could be true in the more traditional firms in Japan.
    On the other hand, many who work in Tokyo live far outside – some in Izu! So even getting off work at 6:30pm can lead you to be home only by 8pm!

    Liked by 1 person

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