Version 2.0 - Tokyo is coming soon. Please excuse the construction and let me know if you have any problems.

Updated blog on Japanese employees Take II

Thursday, November 20, 2008 / Posted by Zackary /

As I have many new readers I am posting an updated blog from last year.

Today is cold, dark and the rain looks to last all day. This is the kind of day I love to stay in bed, read a good book and turn up Kind of Blue nice and loud. As I have a cold this scenario sounds especially attractive.

In Japan employees only take sick days when they are really sick. I don't think they get paid if they call in sick. If I have perfect attendance I get a bonus each month. On the plus side the government health insurance pays your wages if you are too sick to work. People across the board wear masks in public, the kind that doctors wear. Children wear them too and they come in pretty colors and designs. Disney alone makes a fortune selling masks.

On a side note, Tokyo Disney is insanely popular in Japan. I would love to own stock in the company and set on the beach all day while someone brought me frosty drinks. Disney icons can be seen everywhere, even more than in the US. When I talk to woman about Disney their eyes glaze over like I am talking about paradise. I am not mocking them, I love Disney too. My friend Carl went last weekend and had a great time.
In addition to rarely calling in sick, employees work long hours. The Japanese actually have a word for dying from overwork.
I teach a business lesson on work which includes business hours. Students are not surprised when I tell them typical American business hours are 9 to 5. When I ask students their hours they claim to also work 9 to 5. I know this isn’t true so I ask more questions. Calling on a student I will ask her what time she left work the day before. "I left at 7:30," she will say. Turning to another student I ask the same question. "I left at 8:00," he will say. This game will go on as they claim to work 9 to 5. They are technically scheduled from 9 to 5 but nobody leaves at 5. If the boss is still there at 8:00 no one is leaving. I work from 8:30 to 4:15 each day. The Japanese teachers work before and after me. In the evening they don't do much but are here which is what counts.

Toyota's corporate headquarters are in Nagoya and they are like the Vatican. Toyota has their own city and pieces of many businesses. In their city they have dormitories for employees and many live there. It is common for men to stay in the dormitories during the week and go home to their families on the weekend. Many other companies also have dormitories for their employees. When you go out shopping or to a cafe during the day you see a sea of women. Asking a woman when her husband gets home, she will quote a very late time. I was with my friend Jeremy at a large Starbucks and he said, "We are the only men here." I failed to see how that was a bad thing. As we were leaving a half hour later high on venti lattes there was one male employee.

Toyota being Toyota decided they could change the rules. So they decided to not observe most of the national holidays. Instead, they created Golden Weeks which combine holidays into blocks of times of about a week or two. Many other companies follow the Golden Weeks in one form or another. One of my friends has to follow the Golden schedule but doesn't like it because most of his friends are off when he is working.

Nagoya in the summer is VERY hot and the humitiy is often 80% or more. A few years ago Toyota decided to let their employees wear short sleeve dress and be a bit more casual. Of course everyone followed their example so the summer is slightly less hot.

People ask me if Chicago is the automotive capital of America. I am sad that they get Detroit and Chicago confused as Detroit is not such a nice place. They do have a new beautiful airport. I never know what to say the main industry in Chicago is. Generally I talk about the financial markets and banks. Some days I feel like a goodwill ambassador for Chicago as I tell people about the wonders of the city. I was always proud to live in Chicago and I have never loved it more.

The Internet isn't working here at school today for some unknown reason. I am reminded of an Onion (a satirical newspaper) article entitled, "Lack of Internet leads to employees actually working." Without the Internet one does need to something to do. I guess in a worse can scenario that would be work.

The Internet just came back but I have a class.

Take care.


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