The common wisdom about Japan is that it is a nation of workaholics. Indeed, Japanese people usually take their job very seriously. They are typically really into their job - whatever it is. Many of them seem to achieve the enviable state of their job being their hobby.
Needless to say, many of them are overworked, suffering chronic lack of sleep and very high levels of workload stress, spending the kind of hours at the office that you might expect of highly paid executives - but without executive-type pay or position.
And yet again, conversely, there are many, many times in Japan that you would be forgiven for thinking that work for Japanese people is as much about standing around talking and drinking tea as it is about busting a gut.
Take the scene I snapped above just down the road from the office in Tokyo's Kojimachi district. No less than four laborers were working on fixing a few paving stones in the sidewalk - a job that "back home" would take a maximum of two. No less than three people connected with the company commissioning the job and the company doing the job are standing around, arms folded or hands on hips, just watching.
Reminds me of the time I was accosted and quizzed on the street one night in Shinjuku carrying a suitcase by a carload of no less than seven policemen, or a couple of months ago when I aroused the ire of two railway station staff by asking one of them for directions when at the time both of them were vying to give directions to another customer.
As life in Japan sure brings home, while hard work and efficiency have their time and place, taking it easy has its too. Redundancy in Japan isn't just about having no job.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010