Tokyo companies’ late-night overtime habits exposed in time-lapse YouTube video channel【Videos】

In the busiest city in a country famous for working employees to death, Tokyo Workers hopes to help people find the work/life balance they desire.

Once upon a time, I was offered a job by a large, prestigious Japanese company. As we were discussing the terms of the contract, I asked the interviewer (my potential boss) how much overtime I could expect. “Oh, we don’t really do overtime here,” she said, which sounded great to me. However, also sitting in on the interview was a rank-and-file worker from the department, who chimed in with “Yeah, we usually only have, like, two hours of overtime each day.”

As you can see, Japanese companies aren’t always completely upfront about how much overtime work a job requires. So in order to present a more accurate picture of their working environments, the organization Tokyo Workers films the Tokyo offices of major Japanese companies, in time-lapse, to see how late their interior lights are on.

▼ It’s past 10:30 p.m. when Toyota’s Tokyo office goes dark

▼ At 10:20, the majority of the office lights are still on at Sony (the central building in the video)

Tokyo Worker uploaded its first video in the spring of last year. About seven months prior, Dentsu, one of Japan’s biggest advertising/PR companies, had instituted a mandatory 10 p.m. lights-out policy, following the suicide of one of its overstressed employees. Tokyo Worker wanted to see if the company had made good on that promise, and sure enough, they had, as shown in this video of all the light’s blinking out at Dentsu just as the clock strikes 10.

▼ Plenty of lights still on at video game developer Square Enix (the top three floors) at 11 p.m.

However, Tokyo Workers’ goal isn’t necessarily to expose and shame companies that burn the midnight oil. The organization even admits that, all else equal, simply reducing working hours will have a negative impact on a company’s output. But what Tokyo Workers wants to do is close the gap between how much overtime work job hunters expect to do (based on information available to them before joining a company) and how much they’ll actually end up doing.

▼ The offices of manga publishing powerhouses Shogakkan (left) and Shonen Jump’s Shueisha (right), where a lot of employees probably aren’t getting home in time to watch the start of the late-night anime TV programming block.

▼ Two buildings owned by Kodansha, another publisher with strong ties to the anime/manga industry

The organization cites a late-2016 study by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare which found that 31.9 percent of college graduates end up switching jobs within three years, which is a startlingly high number for a country where lifetime employment with the same company was the norm just one generation ago. Through its videos, Tokyo Workers aims to give job hunters a better picture of the featured companies’ corporate culture, so that they can avoid jumping into a job they don’t understand the reality of and eventually quitting, forcing them to look for new employment and the company to find a new employee.

▼ A wide shot of Tokyo’s Tennozu district, home of JAL (Japan Airlines) and JTB (a.k.a. Japan Travel Bureau).

▼ Past 1 a.m., there are enough lights still on at the East Japan Railway building (seen on the right) that some employees probably won’t finish work in time to catch their last train home fot the night.

Tokyo Workers acknowledges that the connection between what time the lights go off and what time work stops isn’t absolute. Some office lights might remain on for security reasons, and in this digitally connected era, just because people aren’t in the office doesn’t mean they’re not still working. Still, it hopes that these candid videos will be of use in letting prospective employees know what they’d be getting into before they decide to sign an employment contract.

Source: Tokyo Workers via IT Media
Top image: YouTube/Tokyo Worker

New list of inappropriate Japanese job interview questions from prefectural labor department

Governmental organization says your potential boss shouldn’t ask if you want to get married, where you were born, or what kind of car you drive.

Japanese society is world-famous for valuing for harmony within groups, but what aren’t quite as well-known are Japanese companies’ penchant for on-the-job-training and flexible definitions of work responsibilities. Combined, these elements mean that even more so than in other countries, hiring managers in Japan are acutely concerned with whether or not a job applicant is going to mesh well with the existing office atmosphere, and so the topic of conversation in job interviews can often meander away from professional skills and experience.

However, Kumamoto Prefecture’s Department of Labor has let it be known that it wants companies in its jurisdiction to start reining in what it believes are inappropriate questions to ask during a job interview. The governmental body has put out a statement indicating broad topics it feels employers have no business asking about, such as the applicant’s family, housing situation, religion, and political philosophies, as well as a list of example questions that it says interviewers should not ask:

● Where were you born?
● What kind of work do your parents do?
● Are you an only child?
● What kind of car do you drive?
● Are you Buddhist?
● What political party is closest to your way of thinking?
● Do you want to get married one day?
● Which historical figure do you like?
● What do you think of Marxism?
● Are you a member of any groups or organizations?
● Which newspaper do you read?

Some of these, such as directly questioning someone about their political or religious beliefs, seem like obvious attempts to blacklist members of certain demographics. The question about marriage, meanwhile, no doubt was included in the list since speculation that a currently single woman will quit her job after getting married has long been cited as a barrier female candidates face in securing employment.

Some of the other questions, though, such as asking what kind of car a person drives or which historical figures they’re a fan of, are the sort of things that could conceivably come up in everyday, polite conversation (especially considering young Japanese people’s recent booming interest in samurai-period history). However, Kumamoto’s Department of Labor asserts that the answers to such questions may be used to form an image of applicants’ social status or ideology which are unrelated to their ability to meet the job’s performance requirements, and thus unfairly impact their chances of getting hired.

▼ Kumamoto’s Department of Labor feels your potential employer doesn’t need to know that you drive a 27-year-old Mazda.

Though it classifies the above questions as inappropriate, the Department of Labor does acknowledge that they might not be being asked with malicious intent, but merely as things that spring up in the interviewer’s mind during the course of the conversation. Because of this, the department encourages hiring managers to prepare a list of questions they will ask applicants ahead of time, rather than going into the interview with only a vague idea of what to talk about and playing things by ear.

The department has also stopped short of designating the above questions as illegal. It has, however, said that violators will receive reprimands, and also that it will be holding a conference in August to further discuss with local companies what are and aren’t appropriate topics during a job interview.

Source: Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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New cosplay job-hunting site opens, offers everything from one-day to full-time positions

Cosjob is here to help you go from just playing in an anime costume to working in one.

With summer here, a lot of people are looking for part-time jobs to have some extra cash in their pockets during the warm months of the year. And while there’s nothing wrong with such standards as taking on a few shifts at Starbucks or Uniqlo, if you’re looking for something more creative and exciting, there’s a new Japanese employment website that’s just for cosplayers.

Cosjob launched on June 28 and is managed by the same organization that administers Cosplayers Archive, one of Japan’s biggest social media networks for cosplayers. In some ways, it’s not too different than other job-hunting sites. Users can upload profiles/resumes, and employers can post help wanted ads that contain a description of the position, desired skills, working days/hours, and payment details. The difference, though, is that Cosjob is all about jobs that involve dressing up as popular characters from anime, video games, and other forms of otaku media.

To clarify, Cosjob isn’t run like a traditional talent agency, where applicants need to audition and, if accepted, be assigned a manager who controls their career and takes a cut of their earnings. Anyone who registers is free to apply for any listing they wish. And while, on the top end of commitment, Cosjob will have postings for full-time positions that require an in-depth knowledge of the employers’ product range and industry trends, it will also have single-day and part-time gigs for those still dipping their toes in the deep waters of professional cosplay, perhaps while going to school, working on independent artistic projects, or maintaining a mundane, mainstream job.

With schools in Japan going on break and the rainy season done, the high season of otaku-oriented fan events is about to kick into high gear, which should result in a steady stream of new job listings on Cosjob. If you’re ready to throw your anime-themed hat into the ring, Cosjob’s website can be found here.

Sources: Anime! Anime! via Hachima Kiko, PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: CosJob

One in four surveyed Japanese workers admits to wanting to kill boss, Osaka quake helps show why

The results of a recent survey come with Twitter horror stories about power-hungry superiors pushing their staff around, even mid-crisis.

While there are many, many perks to life in Japan, the culture around work is ever controversial. With employees considering deeply if they’re even allowed to take sick leave or duck out of work for a few minutes to buy a boxed lunch, it’s no wonder there’s a whole world of unvoiced resentment bubbling away beneath some workers’ civil facades.

This was thrown into sharp relief at 7:58 a.m. on Monday, June 18, when Osaka suffered one of the most intense earthquakes it’s experienced in decades. Trains and buses were thrown off schedule, stranding millions of harried commuters en-route, and for some it was simply impossible to get to work or school. There was also the sad fact that they would need to wait hours to return home and reassure their families in person.

It’s the kind of traumatic event you would expect bosses across the country to sympathize with. And yet:

Once it was clear my boyfriend couldn’t get to work he came home to email his supervisor about it and they promptly replied with “Please walk to the office to receive your wages for the day”. It took him an hour of walking to reach his workplace, where at noon all the staff were told to evacuate the building and return home, which took another hour’s walk. There’s something seriously wrong with Japan!

“Typical scene at a “black company” post-quake:

Worker: Hello, who’s calling?
Boss: Thanks for your work today. I noticed you didn’t submit your report. Is everything okay?
Worker: T-There was an earthquake t-
Boss: The deadline is tomorrow, alright?

This is just how it is with big corporations.
In particular it’s how it was with the big corporation I worked at, Ni**hin.

“When the earthquake hit I got an email from my boss.
It said: “Is everyone safe? All staff, please respond to this email to ascertain your safety.”
So far so good, right?
The next line: “Are you able to attend work today? Can you do business? If so, please let us know.”
Japan is a country of wage slaves.”

This selection is just a sampling of a multitude of similar tweets to the same tune: while Japan does have a kind of leave designated for this kind of emergency (特別年休 tokubetsu nenkyuu, or special leave) some companies fail to make it clear that it can be taken, or obscure it with complicated bureaucratic procedures. The policy of caring about your employees only so far as they support the bottom line of the company is a long-standing problem, to the extent that the neologism “black company” is in frequent modern use. Yearly awards are even given for the worst offenders!

With all of this bad sentiment brewing amongst the work force, the results from a recent survey conducted by news survey aggregate Shirabee are a little less shocking. 1,006 men and women ranging in age from 20 to 69 were asked:

“Have you ever wanted to kill your boss?”

A whopping 27 percent of those surveyed answered “yes“, meaning over one in four respondents have felt the stirrings of homicidal urges – most likely brought on by unfair business practices. Even factoring in the likelihood that participants were joking, that’s a scary amount.

The response to the survey’s results, and even the anecdotes shared above has been mixed. While many share the frustration that comes from feeling your boss doesn’t care if you live or die unless it affects their pay check, some pointed out that if the workers really wanted to stay home they should just do it, just like one impassioned husband did when he needed to look after his wife. Others added that just quitting is healthier on the psyche than harboring murderous intent year after year and complaining about your bosses online.

“If you die in an earthquake your company will not take responsibility for your death.
If you die in an earthquake your boss will not take responsibility for your death.
The safety of yourself and your loved ones always comes first.”

It’s not all doom and gloom in the corporate world, however. Amidst all of the outrageous stories of bosses pleading employees to walk hours just to sign an attendance sheet, there was this little spot of hope:

“Me: I made it home safely after the earthquake.
Boss: Great to hear. Do you need tomorrow off too?
Me: No, it’s okay. Sorry to cause trouble.
Boss: Oh, don’t worry about it. This is just how it is with earthquakes.”
This is a “white company”.”

Thankfully, most of my friends and family managed to make their way home from the earthquake unscathed and with special leave secured, but fingers crossed that next time either company superiors grow more sympathetic or their employees gain the strength to stand up to them – without any bloodshed along the way.

Source: Shirabee via Nico Nico News, Otakomu
Featured image: Pakutaso

Japanese worker orders bento lunch, gets punished with televised apology and docked pay

People are saying this is Japanese workplace culture gone mad.

When lunchtime rolls around in offices throughout Japan, thoughts turn to the ubiquitous bento boxed lunch. If you’re lucky, somebody from home may have made one for you and packed it in your bag, but for many workers the only way to satisfy a craving for a boxed meal is to go out and purchase one from a local store nearby.

That’s what a 64-year-old employee of Kobe City Waterworks Bureau did recently, ducking out of the office occasionally to order lunch from a local bento store. While his actions might seem innocent enough, his employers say these trips took place during work hours, and so they’ve decided to punish him for it with a pay cut, issuing a formal public apology on his behalf.

According to the Bureau, the lunch-ordering fiasco began when another official looked out an office window and saw the worker leave the building and head towards a nearby bento store. These trips to the store, which took three minutes each time, were said to have occurred a total of 26 times between September 2017 and March 2018. After calculating the time spent away from the office, the City decided to dock the worker half a day’s pay as punishment, with an official formal apology also issued to atone for the scandal.

City representatives bowed deeply at the televised press conference, with one of them saying “It’s immensely regrettable that such a scandal took place, and we wish to express our sincere apologies.”

Since the news was reported, many people across the country have expressed outrage over the strict handling of the incident. While it’s true that city officials and civil servants are held to a high standard in Japanese society, and their conduct is expected to be impeccable, many believe the city has taken the matter so far that it impinges on worker’s rights and borders on inhumane treatment.

“Are people not even allowed to go to the toilet now? This is like workplace slavery or something.”
“They still permit smoke breaks so why is this so unforgivable?”
“What about all the politicians who sleep in parliament? They ought to be fired, then.”
“The punishment is totally absurd – 26 times over a six-month period means he only left the office once a week.”
“I can’t believe someone was there timing his trips every time instead of doing their own work.”
“Absolutely ridiculous – arranging this formal apology with the press would’ve wasted more time than the three minutes he spent buying his lunch every now and then.”

According to the man’s superiors, the reason he gave for leaving the office to buy his lunch was because he wanted “a change of pace”. In Japanese workplace culture, though, where people usually eat lunch at their desks, stay back until the boss leaves at the end of the day, and work at the expense of their health rather than take a sick day, wanting “a change of pace” can be viewed as an unprofessional, inconsiderate act.

While change might seem a long way off for Japanese workers, people can at least take inspiration from some of these local trailblazers, who are slowly chipping away at the staid system to create a better future for us all.

Source: Yahoo News via My Game News Flash
Featured image: Pakutaso

Japan’s second-largest convenience store chain changes service policy for sake of foreign workers

Family Mart relaxes customer service rules in recognition of clerks who aren’t native Japanese speakers, also allows dyed hair.

Convenience store clerk is not a particularly lucrative or glamorous job. It’s still a front-line customer service position, though, which means it’s a position that Japanese companies take very seriously.

As such, it’s a pretty big deal when convenience store chain Family Mart, a ubiquitous part of the Japanese landscape, enacts policy changes, as it did in March (just before the start of the Japanese fiscal year in April). One change: clerks are no longer required to tell customers “Thank you very much. Please come again,” as they complete their purchases, and instead merely need to say “Thank you very much.”

Why? Because Family Mart thinks the “Please come again” part is difficult for its increasing number of foreign employees to remember.

That might sound like an offensively dim view of the communication capabilities of Japan’s foreign residents, but the linguistics behind the previously required phrase are actually pretty complex. In Japanese, the standard way to say “Please come again” is “Mata kite kudasai,” but that’s nowhere near what Family Mart employees were required to say.

For starters, the basic word for “come,” kuru, is generally considered too casual for use in customer service. Instead, clerks were supposed to use the more polite verb kosu, which also means “come.”

Kuru (left) and kosu (right)

Okay, so they had to change “Mata kite kudasai” to “Mata koshite kudasai” (koshite being the form of kosu used for requests/commands). Big deal right? But that’s not all. Japanese has a systematic form of grammar used for respectful speech, which requires adding an o- to the beginning of a verb, lopping off its last syllable, changing that removed syllable to its corresponding stem ending (for which there are multiple methods depending on the base form of the verb), then adding the preposition ni and the appropriate form of the verb naru (usually “become,” but meaning “do” for this purpose) onto the end. So koshite would be no good. It’d have to be changed to okoshi ni natte, which would now give us “Mata okoshi ni natte kudasai.”

▼ Changing mata kite kudasai to mata koshite kudasai, and then changing that to Mata okoshi ni natte kudasai.

Except even that’s not the correct phrase for interacting with customers. Kudasai may mean “please,” but for respectful speech, it should be changed to the more polished kudasaimase. And then there’s one more step to the process, dropping the ni natte, since okoshi can also function grammatically as a noun, finally giving us Mata okoshi kudasaimase, the phrase meaning “Please come again” that Family Mart clerks were previously required to say.

▼ The compete transformation from mata kite kudasai to mata okoshite kudasaimase.

So with a growing number of employees who aren’t native speakers of Japanese, Family Mart has decided it’s simpler to just have its clerks say just “Arigato gozaimasu” (“Thank you very much”) instead of “Arigato gozaimasu. Mata okoshi kudasaimase” (“Thank you very much, and please come again.”).

The chain’s policy was quietly changed in March, along with the abolishment of a rule that prohibited employees with naturally black hair from dying it. In consideration of youth trends, Family Mart now allows clerks to have dyed blond or brown hair, though wilder hues are still prohibited. The company has also not relaxed its rule prohibiting clerks from wearing earrings or necklaces while working, citing hygiene concerns (convenience store clerks do double as food prep workers, after all, cooking and serving up fried chicken, croquettes, and other items prepared in-store).

In the three months since the new rules went into effect, Family Mart says it has yet to receive a single complaint regarding the dropping of “Please come again” or brown/blond-haired clerks, suggesting that the relaxed policies are here to stay.

Source: IT Media via Hachima Kiko
Images ©SoraNews24

Japan now has over 40,000 foreign convenience store clerks as it continues to internationalize

Researcher says more than half of central Tokyo convenience stores have foreigners working the graveyard shift.

Japanese convenience stores thrive by constantly introducing new products, so that there’s something new on the shelves just about every time customers come in. However, recently many shoppers have been noticing another change: a rapidly increasing number of foreign workers.

Not long ago, young foreign residents looking for part-time jobs pretty much had their options limited to tutoring Japanese learners of their native language or working in restaurants serving the cuisine of their home country. Over the last few years, though, there’s been a surge in the number of foreigners working as convenience store clerks, prompting Japanese author Kensuke Serizawa to look into the situation and write a book, titled Konbini no Gaikokujin, or Convenience Store Foreigners.

According to Serizawa’s research, there are now more than 40,000 foreign convenience store workers employed by the three biggest chains (7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson). Expanding the examination to the 55,000-plus convenience stores nationwide, Serizawa says that roughly one in twenty is non-Japanese.

The majority of these foreign clerks come from other Asian countries, with Serizawa citing China, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan as the largest sources. The Japanese government doesn’t give out work visas for convenience store jobs, though, and most of these foreign clerks are also studying in Japan, either at universities, specialized schools, or language institutions.

Student visa holders in Japan are allowed to work up to 28 hours a week, and a common scenario is to attend classes in the morning or afternoon while working night shifts. Late-night convenience store work usually earns the employee a few hundred yen extra compared to Tokyo’s minimum hourly wage of 958 yen (US$8.80), and a Sri Lankan employee at a Family Mart near Serizawa’s home now pulls in 1,300 yen. The author claims that within the 23 central wards of Tokyo, 60-70 percent of convenience store branches employee foreign clerks during their late-night hours.

But while the number of foreign convenience store workers is on the rise, Serizawa is quick to assert that this isn’t a case of foreign labor pushing Japanese job seekers out of the market. Multiple convenience store owners he spoke with said they get few if any Japanese applicants when they post want ads, as convenience store work is seen as a harder job than, for example, working at a karaoke parlor, which pays a comparable wage. And indeed, those late night shifts can make for a difficult lifestyle. An Uzbekistani clerk at Serizawa’s neighborhood branch of Natural Lawson (Lawson’s fancier sister chain, which previously offered breathtakingly beautiful translucent desserts) regularly works through the night, then hops on a morning rush hour train to go to class without sleeping.

With the major convenience stores always looking to expand (Lawson wants to add 4,000 branches in the next three years) and the Japanese government hoping to attract more foreign students (the goal is to increase their number from 270,000 to 300,000 by 2020), it’s likely that foreign convenience store clerks will become increasingly common, and hopefully they’ll all be as valuable of employees as this Nepalese hero.

Related: Konbini no Gaikokujin on Amazon
Source: Gendai via Otakomu
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