Like most traditional Japanese companies, we begin each morning by doing light exercises. After that, on a rotation basis someone goes to the front of the room and reads out the SHAZE (company rules/motto/philosophy). They then have to give a short ‘one point speech’ about ‘anything they want’ although it must be about work, and must be deadly serious.
What is SHAZE?
The SHAZE is basically a list of rules that we employees must abide by. Here are some examples:
- Always greet others loudly and clearly （ちゃんと挨拶をするな）
- Enjoy your work (楽しき働き）
- Work together as a team
- etc etc
As you can see, despite reciting these every day for the last 3 years I cannot actually remember more than 3 of the lines from this 15 line chant. This is because the rules are so vague and redundant. In reality, I do not see anyone obeying these rules, and in fact most of the time they do quite the opposite. Nevertheless we continue to recite them every morning.
The true purpose of SHAZE
Superficially, SHAZE is there to get us to obey these lame rules. However I suspect that the real purpose of SHAZE is this:
- Force everyone to arrive on time by having a very large an public meeting right on the starting bell at 08:30
- Create a kind of ‘OK it is work time now’ moment (Japanese like to clearly seperate timezones in this way, there are many other examples such as the communal hand clap at the end of a work party)
- Force everyone to improve public speaking skills and confidence by running the SHAZE once every 6 weeks.
- Create a kind of military-like ‘we-are-one’ atmosphere where everyone stands to attention and acts in unison.
- To avoiding deliberate non-conformance to Japanese tradition
SHAZE Directors cut
Most days we just do the standard 15 line SHAZE. But sometimes we have what I call the ‘Directors Cut’ which can last up to 5 minutes. There are several versions of it:
- 1st of the month Directors Cut
- 21st of the month Directors Cut
- Presidents version
- New Year version
- New Fiscal year version
The contents are basically ‘more of the same’, but just last longer and are harder to say.
Dodgy Religious Element
The is something about SHAZE that gives me the creeps in that it reminds me very much of a prayer or religious chant. There is the vicar character at the front leading the pulpit, and the rhythm of the speech is very much like a prayer. It is difficult to describe, but it also has this very distinct ending with is very much like ‘amen’.
In the New Year SHAZE they even bring in a real priest and get them to do SHAZE in the company’s shrine outside in front of the whole company. Interestingly the priest turns up in this massive 7-series BMW, so I suspect it is a profitable business for them. It is beyond ridiculous to see a fully fledged priest in all the robes, strutting around the shrine splashing water in the idols while at the same time reading out bizarre company slogans about some of the projects we are doing. We use a lot of acronyms so the priest has to chant about ‘TTOP’ project and ‘BMO’ initiative etc. It is really horrific actually.
How I deal with it
Personally I never say the SHAZE and I notice a few others around me dont either. When we are hit with the Directors Cut, I genuinely cannot say it anyway is it is too long to memorise. When I have to lead the SHAZE myself, I have it written in romaji so I just read it numbly in the best military voice I can muster.
For my ‘one point speech’ I normally have to spend a whole morning preparing something, writing it up and getting it reviewed so it is understandable. I normally just explain what I have been doing lately or some little challenge that I was faced with. Its banal stuff.
It is not easy to translate directly but SHAZE basically means company rules or company motto.
In my opinion it would be better translated as ‘a big fat waste of everyones time.’ For example:
- Wow, todays meeting was a real SHAZE.
- With the late start, long distance and all the traffic, by the time I got to COSCO it was already closed. It was a total SHAZE man.
- We spent 3 weeks preparing the data for system dept, but in the end they decide to pull a SHAZE on us and cancel the project.