At Cafe Croissant in Akasaka Mitsuke, I struck up a conversation with a non-Japanese gentleman who was sitting next to me having some coffee and snack. (Note: I have never had the guts to do this with a Japanese person yet. ) He turned out to be British who works for a foreign capital medical field company, and he has been living in Japan for two years.
He said, people work to 9, 10, 11 at night everyday in Japan. (He was a bit surprised when I said, well, I have done that for many years too.) He said that there is absolutely no need to work so late. He felt like even if they didn’t go straight home after 6 in the evening, they should go out, see the world. Being outside of the company vicinity would help these people think more creatively, he said.
It’s deeply rooted cultural issue. It’s something majority of Japanese simple accept as life, that dedication to work means working late into the night. It’s a vicious cycle. People are used to current housing situation which are often cramped and not fun, so they do not complain. Because they do not complain, housing market do not offer anything that would really make a difference in home life. Because the house is not the kind of place that offers rest and inspiration even compared to workplace, and when one marries and starts having kids one place to meditate or respite.
The topic came up today about SOHO or working out of home. Still for the majority of Japanese people, working out of home is impossible, especially if wife does not work outside of home, or if they have any children. There just isn’t enough space to be comfortable at home. I know. I have been through it myself for the past 10 years. Until recently, only time I really rested at home was when I went home so exhausted, that nothing disturbed my forgetful sleep, or when I was so sick, nothing bothered me in normal way.
Although these are the reasons I feel why people work late and why they don’t work out of home in Japan, small percentage of people are beginning to change things. These people are young, in their twenties, or people who lived in western country for a long time, and expect something comparable. I believe the day is not so far off that notable percentage of population will live/work in much better condition. I see the change in my life as well as in life of some of my friends and aquintances.