Happening in Japan Japan

Just few notes about my “work environment” related notes

Before I go on with more of work environment notes in Japan. There are few things I’d like to make it clear.

First, I have not worked in Japan before, so a lot of articles do come from news sources, and other blogs. Those articles are screened through to see how credible they are, by comparing them with Japanese trends from news, personal contact, and also cross checked with many different corporate environment related sources.

Second, for couple of notes already, I have criticized Japanese work environment, mainly their work-life-inbalance. Just to be clear, I am not necessary criticizing overtime (although I do criticize unpaid overtimes for those paid hourly.)

After all, I work for video game industry, which involves overtimes, and sometimes overnighter. I want to make it really clear I am criticizing Japanese way, because of their harmful mentality, for example, they cannot leave when they are done with their work and their hours up, because they are expected that they ask their senior or a boss to see if there any other work to do, before you leave, and you are asked to stay to complete such tasks. If you don’t this, or if you refuse to stay, often, you are classified as defunct Japanese worker, because you are not working hard like everyone else.

Yes, I have to confess that I was asked to stay in this industry in the US, but that’s only because there were things relevant to my area of work, and it often was for crunch time. Andstill I was not prevented leave if I had to. But, if you have to stay late everyday, like it is becoming your norm, that’s just different story. And I usually have remedy if I had to stay late; there were no sweat me showing up quite late next day. A lot of Japanese business environment where you are expected to put in excessive overtime, you are still expected to show up at 9:00AM or when their work start next day. (could be same day, if they are working until 2AM)

You think I’m exaggerating? Let me tell you that more than 30,000 people commit suicide in Japan every year. When I was going to the job for internship, my instructor told me “leave within 5 minutes if you have finished and you say bye, as people will assume you are incapable of getting things done,” I guess if I do that in Japan, I’d be screwed.

Third, I’ve briefly touched on Japanese athletic mentality and about Senpai and Kōhai deal in Japanese sub-hierarchy. About athletic mentality, which somewhat related things mentioned above. It’s basically is excessive focus on how hard you work as opposed to how efficient you can get things done. For example, if you and your friend working in same kind of task. And say, you finished your work, because you figured out the way to do it faster, but your friend is still working on it, ended up working all night finishing it up. In the end, it will be your friend who will get better view. In these athletic mentality, they often assume you are trying to slack off by inventing new efficient way.

As for Senpai and Kōhai, frankly, I hate the concept. Perhaps, part of the reason I hate it is because I haven’t grown up in culture that practice heavily on the concept. But mainly, it is because, I consider people I work with colleague and not my senior of juniors. After all, as far as people of same corporate hierarchy, I feel each of them have unique and different talent, with different skills, and years at the company serves very little relevancy. There are few of my contacts trying to fit myself into this annoying scheme. I can tolerate them just because they are 4800 miles away from me, but if they are to be here permanently next to me, then that’d be the time for me to start looking for new place to work. I really don’t appreciate the way they try to step into my psychological personal space, just because they think I’m their Kohai, either. They aren’t necessary bad people, but I have disagreement there and I can’t get along with people showing such attitudes.

Some of my friends who worked in Japan may disagree with me, especially if you are not Japanese. Because if you are foreigner in Japan, they do not consider you “one of them” in terms expectation of how you do things. Frankly, I’m the kind of guy Japanese people hates the most; because I have very Japanese appearance, speaking Japanese, but my mentality has departed from it. This is certainly why I experience bit of awkwardness every time I go to Japan, too.

By Hideki Saito

In the video game industry for for more than 15 years. Currently working for Nintendo of America Inc. as a Localization Engineer, developing the translation solutions.