Monday, December 10, 2007
Here is the best article I found on the subject:
Big in Japan: Man works himself to death, company compensates wife
by Matthew Firestone Dec 6th 2007 @ 10:00AM
Ever hear the joke about the Japanese man who worked himself to death?
Guess what? It's not a joke...
According to the Associated Press (AP), last week a court in Japan ordered the Toyota Motor Corporation to pay compensation to a woman who argued that her husband died from overwork.
According to woman's lawyer, Kenichi Uchino (the departed) had been working overtime as a middle manager at a Toyota factory when he suddenly collapsed and died in February of 2002.
He as just 30 years old.
Before dying, Mr. Uchino had logged 80 hours of overtime a month for a sustained period of six months, and had logged 114 extra hours the month he died.
Sadly, Mr. Uchino is anything but an isolated case. In fact, the Japanese even have a word for punching the clock until you drop.
Working yourself to death is known in Japanese as karōshi (過労死), which directly translates to "death from overwork."
Known in medical circles as occupational sudden death, the major medical causes of karōshi are believed to be stress-induced heart attack and stroke.
Depressed yet? Keep reading as the story gets worse.
Sources indicate that the first recorded case of karōshi was in 1969 following the death by stroke of a 29-year-old man in the shipping department of Japan's largest newspaper company.
However, karōshi was not officially recognized until 1987 when a large number of business executives started dropping like flies during the glory days of the famous "Bubble Economy."
Following an intense media campaign, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor began to publish annual statistics on karōshi.
Out of morbid curiosity, would you like to hear the statistics for 2006?
Of course you do!
Last year, an estimated 355 workers fell severely ill or died from overwork. This is the highest recorded figure on record, and is sadly a 7.6 percent increase from 2005.
In 147 of these reported cases, individuals died of either strokes or heart attacks.
It gets worse.
A separate 819 workers reported suffering work-induced mental illness. In 176 of these reported cases, workers killed themselves or attempted to do so.
And now back to the original story...
Not surprisingly, karōshi lawsuits are on the rise throughout Japan, and relatives of the deceased have been increasingly awarded compensation payments.
In fact, the protocol has even been streamlined!
Before compensation can be awarded, a specially designated inspection office must acknowledge that the death was work-related. However, this can take several years, and a precedent has been set for court cases to bounce around various judicial systems.
Here is the clincher:
The Japanese Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour also reports that the leading cause of karōshi is the practice of voluntary undocumented unpaid overtime, which is known as sabisu-zangyo. Just to clarify, that means that Japanese workers are choosing to work longer hours without documenting their time or seeking compensation.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I was surprised to see the following article online:
Basically it's a whole article about how the little princess of Japan does not bow. The public seems to be offended by this horrible act. In terms of the magnitude of this unspeakable offense it would be the equivalent of not shaking some one's hands but multiplied by 1000 in Japan. In this particular case it would be multiplied by 10,000 since it's the Royalty of Japan. Oh did I mention the little princess is only 5 years old!!!! I could barley tie my shoes at this age never the less keep my balance long enough to bow at random people who are always coming over to say hi for no specific reason. This got me thinking about how much bowing I do during the day. I determined that it is A_L_L_O_T. When I come into the office I bow, when I leave the office I bow, if I meet anyone outside of work I bow and it goes on and on. My favorite is if a lady at a store bows, I bow and then we keep bowing and bowing until one person (usually me) gives up and just walks away...usually while bowing. In reality I don't even notice bowing any more, it's part of my normal day.
According to reliable sources: "Bowing is the act of lowering the torso and head as a social gesture in direction to another person or symbol. Different cultures have placed varying degrees of importance on bowing, and have used bowing in a variety of ways. To show the highest degree of politeness, you bend your head and waist about 45 degrees. Common courtesy to most people is shown by bending your head and waist about 15 degrees. In a very casual meeting with a person about your age, nodding your head would be enough. People often bow while shaking hands with one or both hands." I have found this explanation to be 100% true. You have to adjust your bowing angle according to the person that it is directed to. Usually I forget to do this but hey at least I'm not as bad as the 5-year old princess.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Our adventure began the split second we got into the bus from the airport to our hotel. The Shanghai airport is about 1 hour away from downtown and it was the longest hour of my life. Apparently there are no driving rules in China. The white lines on the road are merely a "suggestion". You don't have to actually stay in your lane because if you do the other guy in the lane next to you will never let you pass, so you drive somewhere in the middle of the "imaginary lanes" on the road. Hence there was a lot of cutting in front of another car and missing their front bumped by 2 inches (in Spanish we call it "corte de pastelillo"). Speed limit? What speed limit? The faster you can get to a place the better, even if you don't know where you are going and have to cross through 4 lanes of traffic to get to your exit. Also traffic lights are just there for decorative purposes only. Did I mention there where no seat belts on the back seat of any of the cars we where in? Safety first always... I was shocked at seeing the basis for the Crazy Taxi video game in front of my eyes every time I got into a motor vehicle so I decided to do some research. It turns out that (according to wikipedia and if it's on wikipedia it must be true off course): "The Road Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China is a law which was passed by the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China on October 28, 2003, and took effect on May 1, 2004 on all parts of mainland China. It is the People's Republic of China's first-ever law on road traffic safety, and was intended to address an alarmingly high traffic fatality rate, which is four or five times greater than other nations." Ahh this explains it. I was visiting a country which has a traffic law that took effect only 3 years ago!!! Hello I have T-shirts that are older than that!!! It's a miracle we did not get into any accidents.
Once we arrived downtown we took a taxi to the race track to see the qualifying session. We where able to see the cars up close and they where loud!!! Here is Orlando with a big smile the dya of the race. I bet this is the first Colegio (our university's nickname) hat to have made it all the way to China, who knows maybe it was made there and it was just a homecoming for it.
At night we took a tour of the city which took us on a river cruise around the Huangpu River. The crazy thing was that one side of the river you had all the old English settlement buildings and on the other side all the modern skyscrapers. Old school buildings:
Star Trek inspired new school buildings:
After the cruise we vivisted Nanjing Road which is one of the world's busiest shopping streets. I really think you could buy ANYTHING there, no joke. Check out all the Pepsi signs, globalization at it's finest.
The last day we where in Chin we visited Yuyuan Garden which is located in the center of the city and is considered one of the four finest Chinese gardens in the world.
Everything was going well until a little old typhoon named Korsa decided to pay a little visit to China while we where there as you can see here:
As a result of the typhoon our flight back to Hiroshima was canceled at the last minute. We where actually on the plane ready to go when the pilot made the announcement. Personally I was glad the flight was canceled since I did not take it as a good sign that the plain was rocking back and fourth just sitting on the runway!!! So we where officially stuck in China with a group of Japanese tourist. Lucky us. So now we had 2 problems:
Thursday, October 04, 2007
The actual race was pretty cool because the cars kept spinning out and crashing into each other.
As I mentioned we also has a chance to checkout Yokohama which was actually a pretty cool and very modern city. We went to its Chinatown (this proves you can find one anywhere):
We found this super funny Panda store with every panda product you can imagine:
Here is Orlando goofing around with Yoshi.
We actually staying in Yoshi's parents house after the race and his mom and dad where soooooooo nice to us I can't even begin to describe it. Once we arrived at their house around 9 pm his mom had huge dinner ready for us!!! Hello for total strangers!!! Once again we got to sleep in a tatami room on some futons, which is always an adventure by itself.
You never know what you will find in Japan just take a look at what we found in the airport on the way back to Hiroshima:
Yes people this is an actual Pokemon airplane!!! , you have to have your camera ready to go at all times!!! There is never a dull moment around here.
Monday, October 01, 2007
What are you waiting for? Let's...
Enough said...this country has officially lost it.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I gave a speech (is anyone shocked?) at the end of the meal and let her know how lucky we all where to have spend the last year or so hanging out around Japan together and how much we would miss her excessive use of the letter Z. It actually took me a while (and vice-versa) to get used to her thick Spanish accent but in the end we both got used to it and I taught each other some slang works (for example: hangeo from hanging around and Vale for OK). Unfortunately my Spanish did not get more proper (like every good Puerto Rican I skip the last syllable of almost every word and Z's sound like S's) in any way.
Here is our diverse group of friends (Filipino, American, Japanese, Catalan and anyone else who shows up is fine too):
In this particular picture I think we did "Camisa Negra" by Juanes. This song works well because even the people who don't understand a words of Spanish get really into it and even sings along (all you have to do is read).
This is my second really good friend (hard to find true friends in any country) that goes back to their home country while I have been in Japan. I realized that one fact about these international assignments is that you know it's for a specific amount of time, but when the time comes to go back to normal life everyone I have met so far does not want it to end. I wonder if the same will happen to us? I guess only time will tell.
In general my friends did a really good job finding they way around Japan (check out their blog [there is a link on the right hand side] and facebook accounts to see more of their trip) and that is why they deserve this:
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Around 5,400 people with no fixed address spend their nights at 24-hour Internet cafes across Japan, of whom 27 percent are in their 20s, the health ministry said Tuesday.
In its first survey on so-called Net cafe refugees, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry also determined that people in their 50s comprise 23 percent of the total, and half of them work low-paying day-hire jobs.
In the survey conducted in June and July, the ministry gave questionnaires to about 1,700 sleepover customers at 87 Net cafes across Japan, while separately interviewing 362 people outside Net cafes in Tokyo and Osaka.
The ministry found that 8 percent of the respondents sleep in Net cafes because they have no home. Based on this figure, the ministry estimated that about 5,400 people in Japan use Net cafes as a home substitute.
In Tokyo, 58 percent are short-term laborers and 17 percent are unemployed.
The monthly income of those in Tokyo averages ¥110,000, compared with ¥80,000 in Osaka, with more than 40 percent of the respondents having experienced sleeping on the streets.
In Tokyo, 33 percent lost their home after quitting work and 20 percent said they left dorms and live-in housing after leaving their jobs.
The survey also found 66 percent of the respondents experience difficulty in saving money to rent an apartment while 38 percent were concerned whether they could continue paying rent.
Many said looking for a job is difficult because they lack a fixed address.
"We are just beginning to understand the underlying dynamics," ministry official Jun Teraoka said. "This survey will help us identify and tackle the many labor and welfare issues involved in this phenomenon."
Takeshi Ikuta, who heads a support group for homeless people in Osaka, said Net cafe refugees should be considered homeless, and the younger ones should be viewed as vulnerable.
"The government should take support measures for people working under unstable labor conditions before they are trapped in a pattern of sleeping in Net cafes," Ikuta said.
Customers at a typical Net cafe can stay overnight for ¥1,000 to ¥2,000 in a small cubicle equipped with a reclining chair, computer and TV. Many cafes offer free soft-drink refills and some even have showers.
The ministry attributes the rise in people making such cafes their home to the ballooning number of young people who hop from one temporary job to the next. Estimates put the figure at 2 million.
The job-hoppers are a byproduct of the economic crisis that hit a decade ago, as well as a shift in values among younger generations less ready to conform to Japan's more traditional corporate work ethic, analysts say.
Many Net cafe inhabitants rely on their cell phones to arrange day jobs that don't require a fixed address. But the casual nature of the work means they often receive low wages and no training, social security or health insurance.
The phenomenon has also raised health concerns. In 2005, 13 people contracted tuberculosis at a Net cafe in Kawasaki that health officials suspect originated from the cafe's homeless population.
Refuge sought by the homeless is not limited to Net cafes. Many also congregate in all-night saunas and 24-hour fast food outlets, according to the study.
A government survey released earlier this year found about 18,500 people — mostly 40 or older — live on the street nationwide, down 27 percent from a similar survey four years ago.
But analysts say the Net cafe refugees signal the existence of hidden forms of homelessness not counted in previous tallies, especially among younger people.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
This is definitely or ichi ban (number one in Japanese) vehicle. La puta literally mean the slut in Spanish. Every time we see one of these "feisty" vehicles we always bust our laughing!!! To make it even better, Yes it's a Mazda vehicle!!!
In second place we have the always entertaining Nissan Moco. Moco means mucus in Spanish... eewwwwww how gross!!! Atleast the car is not green.I know Japan does not have many foreigners but someone should have taken time (and considering the long ours they work ) to investigate the meaning of the names given to actual vehicles!!! Seriously just think of how in the world will a marketing campaign be developed in Spanish speaking countries? The possibilities are endless...
The next day they were off to Mount Fuji, here is Vicky with my mom.
Finally they made their way down (props to them for figuring out how to use the bullet train) to good old Hiroshima. Here they are in front of the Peace Dome.
Once they where here Orlando and I took them around the sights close by. Here we are in Miyajima on Saturday 7/28/07.
We also took time to do some "musts" in Japan like singing karaoke (after that we where humming and singing Mr. Roboto the whole time) and dress up in Yukatas (summer kimonos) as you can see below:
If this seems like a really long blog entry it's because they saw more things in 2 weeks that we have in one whole year!!! Imagine that we have not been to Tokyo yet and hey have!!! Crazy no? In general we all had a good time and survived sharing one bathroom for 5 people. I think my cousin summed it up the best when she said "Japan is very interesting and the people are very cordial, it would be perfect it it where not so freaking far away!!!". Agreed. Our main goal the past two weeks was for my family to feel that the 24 hour journey each way was worth it.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Who knew our so-called Japanese life could be so interesting? I mainly write it for myself in order to keep track of everything we have seen and done. Recently I went back to first entries of this blog and laughed my $%# off. I remember how I could not even figure out how to use the appliances around the house, I barely bought anything because all the consumer goods and food around here are extremely expensive and every day I used to go up and down the same street because I was afraid of getting lost!!! It was even a challenge to change the air conditioning to heater and back to air conditioning during the changes of seasons!!! Now I'm getting mentally prepared for my family's visit next week and I'm going to be the one telling them how to work the microwave and giving directions. I think their visit will let me see how much I have really learned in one year. Wish me luck!!!
Monday, July 16, 2007
The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.6 in the Richter scale. There where 7 people killed, more than 830 where injured and 500 houses where destroyed. The powerful quake caused transportation to grind to a halt and several blackouts were reported. Expressways were shut down for safety checks after landslides hit several roads.
Orlando and I did not feel the earthquake at all. We did not even know that there was an earthquake. We where golfing with some friends (Monday was a Ocean day, a national holiday in Japan) and had no idea until Orlando saw destroyed houses on the club house's TV. On the way back home he kept saying "I think there was an earthquake". Once we got home I checked the computer I realized what had happened. It's really sad to see all the destruction being reported on the local TV channels all day, non stop. We have no idea what the reporter is saying but a picture speaks a thousand words. My heart really goes out to all the people affected.
I realized we have been very lucky this weekend. A typhoon was supposed to hit the southern part of Japan on Sunday. Luckily it just kept turning toward the east and never actually hit us. We even had a typhoon party at the neighbors house and at one point everyone came outside to see where the typhoon was and guess what there was not even one drop of rain!!! Nothing, Nada Zilch!!! Hey I'm not complaining I've been through many hurricanes back home and I don't wish them upon anyone.
I would really like to thank everyone who worried about us and left messages on facebook, called or e-mailed us to check if we where OK. I'm happy to report that we are both fine.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
There where a series of small shrines (Shinto religion) all over Kyoto. Here is one of them:
We wondered around the Gion district which still has many old-style Japanese houses called ochaya, which roughly translated means "teahouses." These are traditional establishments where the geisha have entertained their very exclusive customers (not me) for a long time. Sadly, I have to report that I failed in my second attempt to find a real geisha, but I'm not giving up yet.
Everyone had huge high tech cameras, all I had was my trusty little Canon:
This proves once again that the size is not the most important thing. I managed to post all the pictures I took in Kytot with my tiny camera, go to the following page to check them out:
Sunday, July 01, 2007
The afternoon consisted of trying to relate to the kids by playing sports and trying to talk to them in English so that they would practice what they have been learning. I found that allot of kids once they got over the curiosity of staring at all the foreigners (only 2% of the population in Japan is foreign) they where eager to try to talk to you and ask questions. I tried to answer them back as best I could in Japanese so that they see that learning any language is hard and that making a mistake is OK. The funny part was that a bunch of them would consult what to say and ask each other if anyone knew the word in English and after 5 minutes of group discussion they would come up with a question. This is a very common trait in this culture, to always consult and obtain consensus as a group. Once the chatting was over it was time for...DODGE BALL!!!
As a reminder to everyone who has not played Dodge ball in for ever like myself, it actually hurts more than what you remember!!! I made some friends while playing as you can see in the picture below.
I asked them who was their best friend (BFF) and they said all of them because they are all in the basketball team together... even though none of them was over 4 feet 6 inches tall but that's OK it's the fighting spirit that counts. All the kids where super cute and nice, I really think I learned more from them than they did from me.