Change is Afoot

“I think Japan’s work culture is getting better. Younger people are pickier about the companies they’re entering. A lot of people now actually want to be able to take their yuukyuu (paid leaves). That would’ve been seen as a joke at a lot of places 10 or 15 years ago. But now, with buzzwords like karōshi (death by overwork) and burakku kigyō (exploitative employers), and with death by overwork recently occurring at famous companies like Dentsu, we’re seeing more government crackdown, which is a sign of positive change. Although Japan is still behind a lot of countries. So I’m hoping it will continue to progress.


Even my company is cracking down on overtime. A couple of months ago, we had to fill out stress surveys and seek counseling.

“I work in graphic design, which is notorious for excessively long hours and overtime. And it’s not really a high paying-job, since many people are willing to do this work, because it’s enjoyable. It’s also very demanding. When you want to create something beautiful, you end up staying until last train or past, till it’s perfect. But then your boss will want to fix it some more or clients will have more feedback about it.

“That’s why there’s a tendency in this industry to have so-called ‘black companies’. Some would say, ‘OK this is your salary, it includes up to 48 hours of overtime pay per month.’ That’s really gray. They should provide a salary for what the government considers to be the amount of work you do a month, plus extra hours on top of that. But that’s pretty much every design company I know. All my designer friends do saabisu zangyou (overtime without pay). At least it’s work you enjoy, as opposed to being a salaryman who’s doing something they’re not really interested in for the same amount of hours.”

(Kailene is a graphic designer and illustrator from America. To see her portfolio, visit She also appears on numerous Japanese TV shows and is a regular on Sekai Kurabetemitara 世界くらべてみたら)




【翻訳:Junko Kato Asaumi

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Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

2 thoughts on “Change is Afoot

  1. My husband’s company also started to restrict overtime recently. He complains about less income but I am quite happy that he comes home earlier. I have luckily not yet worked in a company where I had to do much overtime, so I kind of consider myself lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

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