Want to know just how far behind the modern times Japan is?
The Japan Times recently published an article about Japanese No-No’s.
And while I get that it was written for the English-speaking audience of this newspaper, the contents of the article will provide you with a bit of insight as to how western world-1950s and earlier Japan is.
Now… not every workplace has an HR (Human Resources) department.
The company I write for has one, but I wouldn’t expect the non-retail-chain coffee shop or mom-and-pop ramen noodle shop to have one.
Every employee - at which there is an HR department of at least one member—is presented with a set of company rules the employee is expected to follow.
This can involve simple things like the number of daily hours one must put in during a work-shift, the number of sick leave days or vacation days allowed, dress code (no shorts ever, can wear dressy-casual clothing, or if on a shop floor must wear steel toed boots and a hardhat… stuff like that).
HR will also help explain the companies benefit plans—100% medical coverage, 50% eye, 80% dental… things like that.
It also presents expected rules on decorum.
Not only do these rules explain how employees are expected to act in the work place—re: social media, face-to-face interactions, etc.—but also may include expected behavior outside of the workplace—the so-called “don’t embarrass the company, bro” clause.
Generally speaking, an HR department will provide rules on how to dress and act at work as a representative of the company and its ideals.
I’m not an HR guy, so I may have mucked up the words, but believe I generally-speaking, have the meaning.
In Japan… it’s the fricking Wild West…
Okay… maybe it’s not that anymore… it used to be. Up until the mid-1990s, if you were a female co-worker and were at a company gathering (a drinkathon), the odds were pretty good that at some point in the evening you were going to get sexually assaulted.
That might mean anything from a co-worker telling you you have nice boobs, to the grabbing of the boobs or butt or worse.
As a woman, you could certainly go to the police or to the company head and make a complaint… while I would like to say I think the police might go and talk to the accused, in 1990 and earlier Japan, I don’t know if that would have done anything.
Making a complaint to a boss - that would get the accuser a bit of a talking to… it would be like “shut your mouth, and know your role.”
It was a society where to make a complaint was to stand up and be heard… but Japan is the society where it has a very famous adage:
“出る釘は打たれる” - deru kui wa utareru
"The nail that stands up, gets hammered down.”
So… even if one wanted to make a complaint against a co-worker, they would be cowed into submission by others… to not make waves…
This is a social attitude Japanese have been raised up for a long time. I don’t even know when it began, but it’s an attitude learned quickly from the earliest days of school… and perhaps even learned at home in what is legitimately pre-school.
It continues through elementary school, junior high, senior high, university, work, and until the very last breath is taken after they turn 107 years old.
So… I find it laughable that a respected Japanese newspaper bother to create an article about no-no’s in the Japanese workforce.
Now.. to be fair… Japan has been trying to be more like Canada, let’s say… I won’t say like the U.S., because it’s leader allegedly doesn’t follow the same rules when it comes to socially accepted behavior… for him, it’s just about being a member with a member… a man… it’s about being a rich man.
Canada… you know our leader is appearing on the cover of the Rolling Stone, joining such luminaries as John Lennon (on the first ever cover); Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison, ET, Bette Middler (she was in a movie I was in where I played an extra in a bar - wearing a Jim Morrison shirt - that was the movie Stella), Eddie Murphy, Boy George, Michael J. Fox, Sir Bob Geldof, U2, Bart Simpson, Jodie Foster (my first girl crush), Winona Ryder (my 20-somthing girl crush), Gillian Anderson (my 30-something woman crush); Angeline Jolie—because Girl Interrupted is just that good… and holy crap… no one alive should be able to LOOK like Lara Croft Tomb Raider… was my also a 30-something and still crush. I can watch Mr. & Mrs Smith as easily as if it was Miss Congeniality.
Anyhow… and now the Rolling Stone has Justin Trudeau… I wonder if Dr. Hook and the what’s their names feels happy with the company?
I have a copy with the Incredible Hulk on the cover from 1971. Okay… what the heck was I talking about?
Oh yeah… manners…
Let me give you an example of what the Japan Times article was talking about.
Apparently men are no longer allowed to say (at work) such things as:
Kimi no toshidashi
(You’re getting old).
Hunh. Who the fug knew?
Kekkon no yotei wa aru no
(Do you plan on getting married?)
He’s not asking you out, rather he’s curious if you’re going to be an old maid - what with you being over the age of 28…
Rude questions, to be sure… but apparently perfectly within the social norms of the mid-1990s and earlier to be asked.
I would like to think that the influx of gaijin had something to do with that.
Yes, yes... gaijin have been entering Japan since the 1850s… and by entering I mean having sex with Japanese women.
It’s a trend that continued - well… it’s still continuing, god bless them, but it’s not just wham, bam, domiarigato-chan, foreign men are (more in the past 30 years) actually interested in having a real relationship with women and not just relations.
Who knew that it all depended on a “ship” coming in… there’s a seamen joke in there… look… in my head I could take that line about five different ways - and then create jokes depending on the way.
But… maybe I should just shut my mouth.
Actually... I think the influx of more intermarriages between the gaijin and Japanese is due to things like the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.
Not to denigrate other institutions that have been in Japan for longer periods of time, but on average, I would think the average JET participant (and even non-JET but qualified teachers) has a bit more upstairs in the old noggin...
While I know a university education doesn't mean one is smart... well... it's not a qualifying statement... it does mean that JET participants had to successfully go through an interview process, complete university, and have an interest in being in Japan. I didn't - the latter, I mean, but pretty much everyone else ever on the JET Programme wanted to go to Japan.
As I have stated ad nauseum here, I just wanted to get laid. Read my first ever blog for a better explanation.
Anyhow... I'm trying to state that JET Programme invites weren't necessarily there just to have sex. They were there for a learning and work experience... and if they happened to fall in love, that was great, too.
So... while many JETs (myself included) may have acted boorishly at first, some of us grew up.
But... in Japan... this behavior that I call "boorish" isn't necessarily boorish to Japan... it's just been the way it has been.
Thanks to some male JETs (like myself) coming in and laying down information on women's rights (yes, I know it seems stupid coming from a guy who just "wanted to get laid" - but that doesn't mean I don't agree with equal rights for everybody) and equality of life... showing that a man can also do housework, or serve o-cha (green tea) to other men... I like to think that some of our western thinking rubbed off on Japan...
But maybe the Japanese took things a little too literally.
The Japan Times newspaper article doesn’t just yammer on about boorish male behavior.
Nope… did you know that sometimes a man can have a woman as a boss?
Equal rights? Sure... now Japanese women are acting as poorly as their male counterparts - again, not everyone... and I'm sure its a few bad apples...
I have been in that position (under a woman) about three times… only once was it fantastic… she was like my big sister, and looked after me after my mother died, even helping me get another job. Thanks Marina!
The others… holy crap. I once worked in a small office space with eight female co-workers, and one alpha female boss… whose job it was to make the female workers feel like slugs, and to the only male co-worker to feel lower than a slug. What made it worse, was that my boss was hot… I mean scorching… like herpes…. so I was willing to put up with the abuse because, well, I kindda thought it made her even hotter… woof.
Unfortunately, at no time did she ever ask me out. Not even for a cuppacoffee. “Dyawannagofacoffee?” Apparently that means something dirty.
In Japan, some female bosses have been accused of alcohol harassment - aruhara ( mixture of the English words involving alcohol and harassment) - which really means the female boss invites young men (lower in position than her, as well,) for coffee during work time… but instead of coffee, it’s the dirty statement above… sakuhara (another mic of English words - sex and harassment).
What? The female boss wants to have sex with me? My chance to get a head, I mean ahead? What is wrong with people? Lol! I get it… young Japanese idealists would like to recognized for what they bring to the boardroom, rather than the bedroom.
Me… I think you know where I lie/stand.
Now… lest you think that women in the workforce - even the female bosses… are only operating as their male counterparts did for hundreds of years… just like those male bosses, the female bosses are being told to stop screwing with the employees.
Companies are actually telling their women to treat the office as though it were an “upscale hotel lobby.”
WTF does that mean?
Are women in the Japanese workforce hanging around hotels?
Apparently, that statement means: no slouching, loud talking, unseemly conduct or cheap shoes.
Wait… no unseemly conduct in a hotel lobby? Of course not… we’re not savages… we can wait until we get into the hotel room… or at least the elevator.
Morahara (Moral Harassment - don’t you just love how the Japanese create new words by sorttakindda combining two words into one?) (I know what I wrote - this whole blog is me poking fun at multiple cultures)…
Anyhow… let me direct you to the Japan Times article HERE.
While I still do think it’s embarrassing that Japanese society still seems to think it’s okay to abuse its underlings (Japan has, in the past allowed bullying by length of age to be a major factor in how it’s everyday society is run)… at least the newspaper article shows that Japan wants to change, and that it is trying to encourage its employees to change…
I have long believed that Japan was easily 30+ years ahead of the world in some things, and 30+ years behind the times in others.
PS: Image at the top is Charlie Chaplin in his masterpiece Modern Times, acting the mechanical jackass. I even spent the money to BUY a copy of the movie.