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    Dusk May Fall Upon The Land Of The Rising Sun

    Japan’s toxic work culture, how Japanese youths are coping, and where Japan may be headed.

    Remember Karoshi?

    During the 1970s, workplace-related deaths were widespread. It won’t be surprising if it was your neighbour, your cousin, or perhaps a loved one.

    This unfortunate thing embedded itself into Japanese culture. And it was given a name. Karoshi. It means death from overwork.

    And despite the absurdity, nobody in Japan, including the government is doing anything significant to combat it. Karoshi still happens today.

    It all began with a code

    The samurai were known for their prowess, skill, and especially their undying loyalty to their shogun. This discipline came from a code called Bushido. Essentially, this code demands obedience, loyalty, and courage in the face of death.

    This code of conduct was the norm for most of Japan, in the Edo period. This way of being continued until after World War 2. And then it disappeared.

    Japan was committed to removing the stain of its crimes after World War 2. But one wonders if time can wash away the bloodlust of a warring nation.

    Bushido returns with a boom

    The Japan we know today started in 1980.

    The country went through an economic boom. Wealth spread far and wide. The future industrial giants took their first steps. Japan began to hope for the future. Especially to hope that their stain will no longer define them.

    And just like that, Bushido returned. Although in a different form but its spirit remains. Employees were required to strive for diligence, mastery, perfection in execution, and unconditional loyalty to the employer.

    Eventually, Japan’s economy slowed down. But Bushido remained.

    The workplace today

    You may have heard of “Salaryman.” An unusual label for white-collar workers. On average, a salaryman works 80 hours a week. Most of it is unpaid overtime.

    Crazier still is this unspoken rule:

    Salaryman must work until after the bosses leave. The salaryman is better when they continue working until their colleagues leave.

    So what happens if this unspoken rule is ignored? The already slim chance of promotion will become non-existent to the “problematic” employee. Further, they are at risk of being an outcast within the company.

    The straightjacket of work etiquette

    Imagine the most mundane work etiquette, now crank it up to 100.

    Salarymen adhere to a strict dress code, especially women. Being polite is expected, more so when meeting new clients. This also means you will have to say “sorry” and “excuse me” for almost anything you can imagine.

    You’re seen as insignificant if you don’t have a business card. And if you have to receive a business card, you receive it with both hands. This also applies when you give your business card.

    Many other unspoken rules involve greetings, meetings, and even where you seat in a conference.

    Another “normal” situation: You worked late. Suddenly, you receive an invitation to go drinking. And you still have a heavy workload that needs to be done by tomorrow.

    What do you do?

    Any sane person would excuse themselves and go home to sleep.

    But this toxic work culture does not appreciate sane people. For salarymen, to decline would be to sign your death warrant.

    I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but this is actually the case.

    True Patriarchy comes from Japanese offices

    The Japanese workforce has an encouraging amount of women. In fact, the percentage of working women in Japan outgrows the United States. Does it mean the rules are different for Japanese women? Yes, but not in the way you think.

    The unspoken rules for the average salarymen are considered extreme by nature. But for women? Fantastically absurd.

    Climbing up the ladder for Japanese women is near impossible. Women in Japan are valued for their ability to have children, raise children, and build a wholesome home.

    In the offices, women are less valued. A study shows that female employees are widely underpaid. And about a third of women in Japan have experienced mental abuse due to sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power by their superiors.

    Consequently, women often choose to exit the rat race.

    The craziest stories I’ve personally read about? Women being bullied or discriminated against for wearing glasses, having no make-up, or choosing to not wear heels to work.

    I wonder if they only hire women for amusement.

    The crows are calling

    At the moment of writing this, the death rate in Japan has surpassed the number of birthrates. Young people continue to be immensely stressed, while the elderly continue to grip the status quo.

    The youth have no incentive to seek love and settle down. A wave of depression and hopelessness has enveloped the remains of young Japan.

    Anime, games, and manga culture have become an escape. Turning young Japan into “Hikikomori.” A label for people who completely withdraw from society. It is reported that almost half of the Japanese youth have turned. Some only go out for supplies.

    On the other side of the coin? Moving abroad. This trend has seen a consistent rise in past decades. With a boom in 2002. One only needs to scroll through TikTok, or browse Youtube. You’ll find several videos about “Why I moved to Malaysia” among others. Usually, they’re young singles or couples, hoping to have a better life and be free from the heavy burden of being young in Japan.

    Effects can also be seen in the rural areas of Japan. In 2014, a government report states that if Japan were to continue on their current trajectory, about 900 villages and towns will become ‘extinct.’

    Who’s to say this won’t spread into the cities?

    The sun may soon set

    I don’t think human history has ever recorded a nation dying out due to killing its young. But it looks like Japan is set to make this happen.

    If things don’t change, drastically, then perhaps in the future, the land of the rising sun will be enveloped in complete darkness.

    Japan as a nation may only be a distant memory.

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    Some food for thought.

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