Working in Japan

This is a part of a morning ‘meeting’ that is held every day. Basically, all of the employees near the namikata offices meet in the lot of our nearby warehouse and a series of announcements are made. At the lot there is a mobile platform that people use when addressing the crowd. The basic setup involved the section chiefs standing on either side of the platform and the rest of the employees facing the platform. Everyday a different employee is chosen to represent the larger group and stands at the front of the other employees and directly in front of the platform. I’m not sure how the person is chosen, but there seems to be some sort of set rotation. All this week people from my section have been leading us, but prior to that it was always people I didn’t know.

Anyways, the chorei begins with one of the section chiefs climbing on the platform and greeting us with a “ohayogozaimasu”, again the order here seems to be predetermined, and the employees returning the greeting at the behest of the representative. Following this exchange, the representative will bow to the section chiefs standing on both sides of the platform and then climb the platform himself. He then makes a brief announcement, usually pertaining to the weather and how we should take precautions against it, and then recite the company slogan and safety protocols.

一つ渦潮マンは若い。[The Uzushio Man is young]
一つ渦潮マンは礼儀ただし。[The Uzushio Man is courteous]
一つ渦潮マンは規律ただし。[The Uzushio Man obeys the law]
一つ渦潮マンは責任感が強い。[The Uzushio Man has a strong sense of responsibility]
一つ渦潮マンは常に新しい技術を求める。[The Uzushio Man will always seek out new technologies]
I can never say the last one without getting tongue-tied -_-;

We go over the safety rules as well, but I can’t remember them off the top of my head. They’re a lot longer and the pronunciation is slurred so everyone can say them more quickly. Hence I only understand about half of the safety rules. The only one I can actually remember is:

だろうながら運転を行いません。[I will not drive while distracted]

Following the recital of the slogan, the representative will pass the platform to a section chief. The section chief will then make an announcement regarding anything that’s topical at the time. This can range from stuff they saw on the news that morning to an announcement about the current safety month/week. I really think that every week or month is dedicated to some kind of safety. When I arrived in June, it was national street crossing safety month. And the first week of July was general safety week.

After the message from the section chief, the factory workers get in cars to go to their work place and the rest of us stay for radio exercises. Radio exercises are basically calisthenics performed to some offbeat piano music and narrated by a guy with a super awesome voice. When the radio exercises are finished, we break into our various sections and have another mini announcement. These announcements are either about the weather, or things that are currently happening in our section. Then we are dismissed and return to the office to work (yay).

At our office we have a small kitchen where employees can help themselves to a number of drinks. The most common being mugi-cha, barley tea. Every Monday one of the ladies in the office will brew a pot of mugi-cha; it’s done throughout the week as well, but Monday is notable since there is no mugi-cha available for the first couple hours of work. Anyways, being a bit thirsty I wander into the kitchen to get some refreshments. As I got to get some tap water the lady brewing the tea stops me.

Tea Lady: The tea will be ready soon!
Me: That’s OK, I just want some water.
Tea Lady: Yes, but the tea is almost done. There’s some in the fridge too.
Me: I’m fine with water.
Tea Lady: [Opening the refrigerator] I’ll get some for you.
Me: I just want water…
Tea Lady: Really?
Me: …yes
Tea Lady: OK, but the tea will be done soon.

Now, in her defense, mugi-cha is a very nice drink for warm weather; but sometimes a person just wants water -_-;

You don’t wear shoes in the office, you wear slippers. In times of emergency it is also acceptable to walk around in your socks. Though recently it seems it’s OK to walk around in socks if you just don’t want to wear slippers as well.

People in the office wear different uniforms, I’m still not really sure what the difference is. I think it’s related to their job, but people within the same subdivisions in our section wear different vests. And it’s not seniority because people who have been here a long time wear the same uniform as some of the younger employees and vice versa. Also, the two interns from China wear a uniform that no one else in the company wears. However, the workers at the Uzushio branch office in China wear the same uniform (found this out while snooping around the Bemac website). Which has led me to believe they work at the Chinese branch office; I guess I could just ask them, but conversations with them tend to take a turn for the awkward.

[I omitted this conversation from an earlier post]
Me: You guys need kappa(poncho) too right?
C-san: Kappa?
Me: Um…raincoat?
C-san: ah, yes
Me: OK, meet down at the entrance of the dorms around 7:00
C-san: OK, I understand.

[A little later]
C-san: um…just me?
Me: Sorry?
C-san: Going to the store…just me?
Me: Uh no, both of you.
C-san: [gives a weak nod and retreats to W-san]
[After a brief discussion W-san approaches]
W-san: I can go too?
Me: Yeah, all 3 of us are going. Well, Captain Crunch (formerly K-san) is giving us a ride so it will be four in total.
W-san: …
Me: Um, yes, you can come.
W-san: …OK [retreats back to C-san]
[They have another mini-discussion and then leave the cafeteria]

Oh, and one other thing I recently noticed. I’m the only one in the entire company without a nametag 😦

Men vs Women
To preface this section, I’m still not really sure what people in my section do. I mean, I know what the section as a whole does, but I don’t know what individuals do. Looking at their screens from time to time I’ve derived that most of them are either designing circuits or playing a super hard-core game of Tron.

That aside, I have noticed the side jobs that seem to be divided by gender role. For the most part, the females in the office will ferry faxes and documents to the various subsections in the office. They are also in charge of screening department phone calls, taking out the trash, announcing when the lunch lady has arrived, setting out the bentos, and cleaning dishes/cups.

The males are mainly dedicated to doing their job (playing Tron), and don’t engage in a lot of side duties. The major exception is on Fridays when guys are in charge of cleaning the office. Two groups of two men will race around the office with vacuum cleaners while a handful of guys go outside to wash the company cars. Also, if there is some type of work excursion, the guys are usually in charge of set-up.

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4 Responses to Working in Japan

  1. David says:

    Thanks for sharing the behind the scene work culture of Japan.

  2. agnes says:

    I love not wearing shoes in the office
    Did you start that? not even wearing slippers?

  3. This is a great post and may be one that should be followed up to see what goes on

    A pal e mailed this link the other day and I’m desperately waiting your next write-up. Proceed on the world-class work.

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