Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Time For Fun ( 8 )

In the past, I’ve seen some of my Japanese room-mates work about 10 or 11 hours every day and not even get overtime pay. Some of them were working 6 days a week. When they finally got a day off they usually slept-in, visited friends or relatives, and caught up on their house chores for the week. Many English students work long hours through the week, then, instead of relaxing around the house and playing with the kids on their days off (or day off), they go to an English school. I admire their drive and hard work.

One of my Japanese room-mates once told me “I don’t like my company because I' m too busy to get time to think about my own life”. I like daydreaming and need time to think about my life. I don't think I could live without it.

Like people everywhere, it’s difficult to quit a secure job and go into the unknown, but more so in Japan. Japanese companies reward long-term workers (who don’t make waves) with seniority, and reward seniority with money, freedom and authority. Japanese people (especially Japanese men) realize that it’s better not to job-hop and keep starting at the bottom. It’s better to `fight on` to secure a better future.

My room-mate finally quit her job. It got to the point where she was crying (usually to her boyfriend) at least once a day and heading for a breakdown. She got a new job which paid less but didn’t have forced overtime. She was much happier. A few years after marrying her boyfriend, she fell pregnant. One of the first things she thught about was enrolling her baby into her preferred pre-school. Her child’s acceptance was automatic after registering but I've heard that some of the elite pre-schools even have entry exams.

Most elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, universities and companies have entrance examinations. In Japan, scoring well in exams will ensure a good future. This is clear to both parents and children so children end up spending most of their free time going to juku or studying in their rooms.
Japanese people often say Ganbarimasu which promises “I will do my best”. Doing one’s best is highly valued in Japan and rewarded by parents, teachers and companies. It seems `Fun` is further down the list.
Recently, more and more young people are choosing unusual haircuts, part-time jobs with no responsibilities and speaking out against authority. Most Japanese look down on these young people. I think they are strong. They are choosing not to work like an ant their whole life. They are choosing to enjoy being lazy sometimes, daydream about their lives, and most importantly have fun. They are changing Japanese society.
More and more young Japanese people are looking for work without forced overtime. More an more are starting to think about escaping from their stressful work positions.

Big companies in Japan are losing their power to control their employee’s lives. I'm aware that the security of lifetime employment etc. is also fading, but it's a trade off.
How important is job security if you don't get time to even think about your own life?

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