Japan's Harsh Work Culture: What about it is causing so many health issues? | Teen Ink

Japan's Harsh Work Culture: What about it is causing so many health issues?

May 31, 2022
By MayaCadili BRONZE, Parsippany, New Jersey
MayaCadili BRONZE, Parsippany, New Jersey
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

 It's 11 pm in Tokyo. “I’m so tired. Quick, let's catch the last train so we can go home…” the dark-haired female sighs while walking out of a building with her female colleague. You look over, why are they just now getting out of work? You plug in your earbuds, walking some more until you hear another voice, 

        “Up! There we go. Let’s get him home safely.” You turn your head and see two males in suits holding their drunk friend, also in a suit, by his shoulders, walking slowly. Why are so many people leaving work drunk, tired, and woozy you ask? Well that’s all due to Japan’s harsh work culture, which also causes many health risks for people, but what about it causes so many people to leave work with so many health issues? 

         If you regularly browse through social media or have visited Japan, you most likely know about Japan’s work culture and most importantly, how brutal it is. Furthermore, what is often unknown is how many people suffer from many health issues because of it. According to the article, “The "Karoshi" Phenomenon is Now a Worldwide Problem,” “The National Defense Counsel for Victims of Karoshi [death caused by overwork or job-related exhaustion] receives 100-300 calls per year” (Fuerte). One of the reasons the National Defense Counsel for Victims of Karoshi receives these calls is because of how much overtime they have to work. But why? 

        There is this unspoken rule in many work environments in Japan that even if you have finished your work for the day, you should stay over time until all your colleagues are done with their work, and you are looked down upon if you leave straight away after finishing up your work, which usually ends anywhere from 9-10 pm. As a result, this is a huge problem because not only do most companies force people to work long hours anyway, but this overtime adds even more time to their work hours and causes many people to arrive home very late, causing them to get very little sleep as most have to wake up very early in the morning for their next day at work. Therefore, it can cause issues such as insomnia for people. You would think “Well surely we get to go home after all this overtime right?” Wrong. It is encouraged in work environments in Japan to also go to an Izakaya (a type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks.) or drink with your Senpais (someone older, more experienced or in a higher position than you [regardless of age]” either at their home or even go for karaoke. If you refuse, your coworkers would probably say something along the lines of “The seniors will be upset.” (Reina · 麗奈(@reinasann) Tik Tok). Hence, this can last anywhere from 10 pm-12 am or even later. This is a huge issue because many people leave very drunk and consistently drinking every day of the week can lead to heart problems and high blood pressure.                     

Along with this, many people are overworked in Japan not even including the overtime which we all know why it’s bad but on top of all of this, the cherry on top is that it is also looked down upon to take a break or vacation! Japan has many public holidays, yet nobody takes the day off. That is because it is considered rude to take a break while your other coworkers have to cover for you. Therefore, So it is very rare to see people in Japan take days off. With this, people don’t even get a chance to rest once in a while so this is constantly hurting their bodies. 

You find yourself getting a new job at this really big company. As you walk in, isn't that the same guy who was super drunk last night, getting held up by his friends? You wonder how he seems so awake and diligent now. There is more to Japan’s ruthless work culture than just overworking, and waking up hungover. It can affect a person’s health much more than you think. All the unspoken rules, etiquette, and schedules can really take a toll on someone's body. Look deeper than the surface, and try to understand the real problems something might be causing someone to have.

The author's comments:

An informative writing piece on the harsh work culture of Japan.

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