The work culture in Japan, or so I thought.

When it comes to work, I’ve always been intimidated by the Japanese. When I was a kid, there was this tv channel (IBC 13) in the Philippines that always show Japanese documentaries. It showcased everything you should love about Japan.

And yet among all the things I saw, one of the things that I cannot forget and I know was etched in my mind is how hardworking Japanese people are. Their attention to detail is uncanny and their dedication to work really stands out.

And when I knew that I will be working with a Japanese company, I said to myself, its going to be a great AND scary experience.

It was my first day and I am scared as sh*t!

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I am doing a remote work and its for this Japanese company. So my first day is actually in our house, in front of my laptop, sitting near the window on a beautiful sunny day. What could go wrong? Nothing! Right?

Most people’s impression of Japanese companies follow these stereotypes.

  • Very formal! Emphasis on VERY!
  • Strict as hell!
  • The work hour is 25 hours a day 8 days a week!
  • Ties, Tux and Tucked In

And the list goes.

Then there’s this guy, wearing some old hoodie Star Wars jacket, grinning in front of my monitor. Who would expect that he is our CTO. He asks “How are you today?”, everyday! Wears casual attire, rustic at times, but most of the time, seems like he is from a very casual gig or concert or something.

I was like, huh? Where’s the tux? The tie? The VERY formal?

Honestly, my impressions where shattered.

Lol, who I am kidding? This is a startup.

Most Japanese companies are these big corporate companies and here, you can find those very formal and very corporate environment that most people think when you say Japan.

The company that I am working with is a startup in Kyoto. Since I am working remotely, most of my interaction with other employees is thru hangouts, github, slack and google docs.

As days passed, I really noticed how hard working they are. I was forced to really put effort into the work not because our CTO is monitoring our code but because I will feel really bad if I just slack off while they are pouring their hearts out to their work.

I feel their dedication to their work, not just as a company but as individuals!

And this is just while working remotely. Its a bit hard to be able to understand each other and communicate, so we paid them a visit last January.

As we enter the office, we are instantly greeted by the other members. It feels like the one I watched when I was a kid, or in anime scene being the foreigner new to the place.

I can feel, taste, hear and see the dedication in all of their work.

We went to a lot of place as our company brought us to some team related events, hot spring stay, lunch out, etc. Throughout our stay, I can feel the good work done by the people around me.

I started to understand that even though there are several corporate style work environment, there are also those who evolve and run things in a more modern and open way.

But it does not end there. There might have been lots of differences among them but one thing is very common, they put their everything on what they do. I was very focused on drawing the line between the “Corporate” and non-corporate type of environment that I forgot to actually look at how they put themselves to accomplish the best work they can.

Take this bento place for example. In our country (Philippines), we have some sort of a place like this. Small food stalls are very common as well. But if I compare their level of service to these bento guys in Japan, they pale in comparison.

Why? What drives them to put so much effort in the things that they do?

I don’t have the exact answer but I guess it’s because of how they retain their rich culture even as the times change. Their attitude towards work and doing it as perfect as possible reflects their culture as well. Because of that, I can feel, taste, hear and see the dedication in all of their work.

— Its just all work and they don’t know how to invest time on themselves.

WRONG!

At first, I thought about the same thing. I heard news that sometimes people overwork so hard, they die.

Yeah, its probably true that they work more than the average workforce but its not true that they don’t know how to take some time off.

During the weekends, parents really take time to invest with their kids. It amazes me since in my country, the parks are usually not like this.

As hardworking as they are, they make sure that they spend time with their family. Or spend some rest day during the weekend and probably treat themselves with some massage or something.

I came into Japan thinking that the people there are scary as hell when it comes to work. But I was proven wrong. And not just that, I was amazed by how the people balance their life.

I just wish more of us can try to do what they do. Being able to reflect yourself in the work that you do, big or small, is a very good trait that we need in life.

Niño R.Eclarin (Ninz)

Written by

Backend, Data, Architecture and Physics! I’ll be an astronomer someday.

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