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Karoushi?

June 17, 2008

Japanese people work too much. Everybody knows this. Not for nothing there exist the word “karoushi” (過労死), meaning “death from overwork” (mostly by heart attack due to stress). However, there’s a second facet of the picture. Up to my limited observation, Japanese simply are at the office extremely long. This often includes working, but also sitting around, talking, drinking coffee/tea, … just socializing. Which seems to be an important aspect of their culture, strengthens the social cohesion, but also quite often hinders people from going home in the evening, to their families or to any possible private life outside of work. Simply because it is expected to stay long, maybe going somewhere for drinking with the people from the office later, or just having to wait until the boss is leaving (despite having already finished their own work, having nothing else to do). Of course this is not the case everywhere, and there are different shades of this situation. As I said, they also do work hard, and what I hear from my Japanese friends with jobs in big companies doesn’t sound like too much fun. But as a rule of thumb, “being together with the people you work with” is of very high priority, often nearly to the point of a family substitute status. Thus pretty opposite to the typical German way, where people quite often try to leave work as early as possible, so that their “real life” can begin. If you ask me, I find both of these extremes suspicious. I like my work and spend more time there than necessary. However, there should be a life outside of work, too, and not necessarily with the same persons. Is that too much to wish for?

On a related note: In Germany, working that long would also be the death of any ideas of doing shopping. Here, however, stores have adjusted: Nearly no shop opens before 10 a.m. (except the convenient stores, which are available 24/7). However, they stay open late. Supermarkets and the like normally until 10 p.m. at least … one near my apartment even till 2 a.m., which is simply amazing! And the best: They’re also open all day long on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s heaven that you don’t have to plan what you’ll want to eat during the weekend just because the shops will be closed.

As for today’s pictures … well, since this post is already long enough, I included some more information as caption of each photo. Well, obviously, food is again the theme. In a nutshell: (a) lunch at a tonkatsu restaurant (b) vinegar ice – tasting a little strange, but definitely not bad, once you got used to it (c) green tea noodles – colored with pulverized tea leaves (d) dumplings, later roasted and dumped into a sweet sauce (e) tofu ice cream – a wonderful invention (f) green tea kakigori – shaved ice with green tea taste and a topping of sweet beans (g) variant of takoyaki – dumplings with octopus filling (h) deep fried soba (buckwheat) noodles, as a snack (i) curry hot dog. More infos if you click on the pictures.

Not my words, yet mine:
Often I must speak other than I think. That is called diplomacy.

(Stilgar, Dune)

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