Tag Archives: work in japan

Jyouchou 冗長 – Redundancy

We have a small army of full time cleaners at the company.

The times I see them they tend to be just cleaning bizarre things over and over again. For example, they clean the underneath of the roof over the main entrance.  Excuse me but how can dust gather on the underside of something, does not that defy gravity?  If maybe 1 or 2 molecules gather there, surely it does not warrant cleaning that EVERY DAY right?  And anyway, how many people are really going to be looking up at the ceiling as they enter a building?

I am sure these cleaners cause more damage than anything else, due to over polishing the surfaces and wearing them out.  It is totally redundant activity.

They also like to clean the toilets.   I’d say about 1/3 times I go to the toilet it is closed due to cleaning.  I then have to walk to the next one which is in another building a fair walk away.  I probably spend about 20 minutes a week walking to/from the toilet due to this.  The toilets are all marble though and its nice when you look down at the urinal and there are no wet stains there. But I’d prefer them clean it only once a day, preferably when no-one is around.  Cant they come in before/after work hours like normal cleaners?

But the annoying part is what they DON’T clean. That is, the entire of our office space!  I am in a huge 50m x 20m room, and the cleaners never enter it.  As a result, we have to clean it ourselves!  Yes, that is right, even though we have an army of cleaners and they spend the day pointlessly scrubbing immaculate surfaces, I have to come in at 7am twice a week every 6 weeks to vacuum the floors and dust the tables!!!  It’s madness.  I thought it was a security thing, they don’t trust the cleaners inside the office, but when I asked someone (casually and innocently at an enkai) I was told that is not the case at all.  That person (a senior manager) didnt know the reason why we did it.  So I think it is another one of these activities we do for team building/immasculating purposes.

So clearly I think the work they are doing is redundant, and with the way the global economy is going, it makes me wonder how long it will be before some of the cleaner army are culled into redundancy.  An announcement was made today about how we should try to cut costs by asking other departments if they have spare pencils before ordering new ones, and by recycling envelopes etc.  This kind of activity will save maybe $100 a year maximum, whereas I really wonder how much they are paying in wages for people to clean that-which-is-already-clean.

冗長 (jyouchou) means ‘unneccesary, tedious, verbose, redundant’ and should not be confused with 解雇 (kaiko) which means ‘discharged’ or ‘dismissed’


Shaze 社是 – Company Rules

korea-saluteLike 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.

Translation Notes

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.

Kentou 検討する – to consider it

fingerWhen I first started working at this company I didn’t get off to a good start with the Systems department for various reasons.  They were very cautious and would always give me the bare minimum of permissions, and be very guarded about their reasons for doing various things.  Unfortunately, while setting up the company website, I needed their help for various things including asking them to use their time to set up various things on the server (because they would not give me access to do it myself).  Often they would refuse to do it, or they would take months to do it, or they would do it completely wrong etc.

One of the senior guys in that department has spent too long staring at a UNIX command prompt, and he seems to think and act like a computer.  He has basically no social skills, although he is very knowledgeable about IT, server admin and so on.  When he writes emails, he doesnt address you with ‘Dear Mr X’ and he doesnt bother to sign off with ‘Best Regards, Mr Y’, he simply writes what he wants to say in the simplest way possible. Actually I think this is a good way to write email, I find it a pain in the a– to always type those salutations every time, however it IS social ettiquette and should be respected as such.

Translation Notes

Anyway, one time I asked them to do something and I got a very simple one line reply:


I hadnt come across 検討 before so I looked it up and it was translated as ‘to consider’ or ‘to deliberate’.  I took this as a good sign, thinking it just meant he would think about it and then do something.  However a week or so later there was no follow up.  I tried to follow it up a few times but my emails were ignored.  In the end I got my manager involved and he told me that 検討 has quite a negative nuance of ‘I cant be arsed to do that’.  Basically if someone says that to you they are politely saying ‘I’m not going to do that for you’. It seems to be one of those Japanese words that shouldn’t be translated literally

Seikyo 逝去 – to pass away

memoEveryday my inbox gets peppered with trivial announcements from the ‘General Affairs Department’ (総務部).  Maybe one in 100 times it may be something useful, but invariably it is banal stuff like this:

  • Factory floor will be polished from 10am-11am this sunday
  • Server XYZ123 will be rebooted this saturday at 11pm
  • Bob Smith’s Dad died
  • Sally Jones had a baby
  • Roger Brown got married
  • A new PDF manual for product A1SH-NL is available.
  • etc…

These emails are always incredibly wordy, and are loaded with pompous old Japanese that I suspect few people can read without a dictionary.  Actually the mails look more like Chinese than anything else due to the sheer number of kanji (Katakana is rarely used).

If I can be bothered to read it, the wording usually goes something like this:

Dear Sirs,

This is [senders name] of the General Affairs Department of [company name].  I am humbly writing this mail to announce [email subject].  Please read this email if you are interested in [email subject].  If it is of no interest, please accept my sincere apologies and stop reading the message.

We are going to [email subject].

Yours Sincerely,


That is if you are lucky.  Often it contains several large paragraphs of background and explanation all mixed together, plus several broken attachments to fill in (half of the attachments do not open on my machine because they have double byte Japanese characters in the filename, or the spam server has wiped them).

Anyway, it is quite alarming just how many peoples parents are dying, because I am getting at least 3 such emails every week. Of course, I filter out all these announcements to a new folder on my mail client.  Then I simply scan the subject of the emails for 逝去 and I know I can just delete those ones.

Translation Notes

Of course SHINU 死ぬ is the common way to say ‘to die’ or ‘to pass away’, but 逝去される seems to be the ultra-polite form that also has the nuance of ‘loss’.