Friday, August 28, 2015

Do tons in a heartbeat, nothing in an eternity

Dear all,

Well, I fear I am not able to update this blog as much as I'd want to! I can testify though that it is due to work. Of course. After all, in just 4 days it will be a year since I first started working for a Japanese company

I have always been interested in the working system in Japan. After all, a quick search in Google will tell you everything about the karoshi and suicides, and if you dig a bit further you will read about the nomikai's (drinking parties which you have to attend whether you want to or not), the gossips (Japanese people love to gossip, yes, even the gruff-looking salary-man), the company-first/private-life-later (seriously), and the horrible, unending (and more often than not) unpaid overtime. If you insist on looking at the bright side, though, some articles will tell you about the sense of harmony and the benefits of the employment system (pensions, bonuses, commissions, etc.). 

I read all about it. I must have read at least five books on Japanese companies and hundreds of online articles and dozens of blogs. But I just had to try to it. 

So last year, I took a leap of faith, took all my savings and traveled across the world and here I am, a year later. 

There are many things to discuss about Japanese companies (it is a fascinating story, and I'm not even being sarcastic). But what I want to write about today is time

I remember posting about half a year ago that it was all about managing time and showing you cared and yadda, yadda, yadda. I'll keep that post just to remind myself how naive I was, and maybe to show my readers (if I've got any!) how my thinking process has evolved (devolved?) since then. 

Get to the office early (on time is late) and start to work, immediately . Most people might check their e-mails first thing in the morning, but in Japan you're expected to be 24/7 with your phone which of course is set up with your work e-mail (duh), so you can just go on working at home, during the weekends, etc. 

And when there is tons of work, there usually is so much stuff going on...! Writing up quotations, managing the project's costs, answering the phone and e-mails asap (as in, right now), joining meetings which take forever and accomplish nothing... I'm the kind of person who is always looking at the clock, but there are times when suddenly three hours have gone by and you're just confused (because you've done so much accomplished nothing in three freaking hours). And you end up catching a late train, munch on some combini lunch-box, splash in the bathtub, roll in bed and hope you'll survive the night. 
And then there are days that, because the day before you managed to do so much, are pretty dull. Or something. And then you wonder whether yesterday's death-like efforts were worth anything and you realize that, had you not given it all, files would be incomplete and the phone would still be ringing and production might be delayed a day or two and the whole project would be messed up. 

And... isn't that bizarre
Maybe this is not exclusive to Japanese companies though... (please enlighten me)

Because doing overwork is such an extended practice here in Japan, most workers have set their own pace. Sometimes, the amount of work can be done within the 8 hours stated in your contract, but why hurry when you have to stay anyway? Isn't it better to take it easy, take breaks and go at your own pace? 
It's a thing, I swear. 

Whenever I have talked to foreign workers about the Japanese system, most have agreed with me that the Japanese system, and I apologize if this offends anyone, slow

Any decisions made with first must be consulted with the bosses and their bosses and their bosses after that. Any ideas will -if you're lucky- be talked about again and again and again and who knows if any conclusion will be made in time. There are long business meetings, one fifth of which will be spent with pleasantries and -I kid you not- lengthened with the extremely long grammatical forms of the polite business Japanese language. 

There will be long e-mails, lists, databases, and everyone will be CC'd and expected to follow. 


Time is a strange thing, especially in this world called kaisha (company). 

Mid-level view of a city; the tops of trees in the foreground with many high-rise buildings in the background

PS. There is an extended rumor that foreign companies in Japan do not do overtime. Ha. Ha. Ha. 

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