Working in Japan consists of eight interview subjects who speak candidly about their employment conditions, corporate culture and opportunities for advancement.
From the daycare worker to the real estate broker, each subject endures their own unique challenges, but there are a number of similarities they share as well.
There is a definite hierarchy at play in Japanese working culture, and it's one that must be navigated carefully by its employees. It requires a strict discipline that many westerners may find off-putting; employees aren't necessarily encouraged to provide their personal opinion on business matters, and they might be met with incessant denials if they insist upon doing so.
Details are crucial. Meetings might drone on for hours during which every task is dissected and scrutinized. Desks must be free of debris at the end of the working day.
Working hours can be strenuous. One subject speaks of her daily routine, which consists of waking up at five in the morning, taking a two-hour subway ride to her place of employment, and carrying out her shift well into the evening. This is the norm for many in Japan, though it can vary between industries and the various working classes. One of the film's interview subjects claims that a traditional 9 to 5 work day might inspire better time management skills among Japanese workers.
On the whole, these workers don't seem to harbor intense displeasure with their employment conditions. It's simply what's expected of them and what they expect from themselves. Many of them fail to take advantage of their earned vacation time, because there is too much work to be done. Even when they break away from the confines of their offices, they continue to work at home from their cell phones or laptops.
Most agree that working conditions have improved over the past few decades; employees enjoy greater freedoms and benefits than they once did. But these improvements are occurring slowly, and are rarely exploited by a well-conditioned workforce.
Working in Japan unspools in a loose, informal and playful manner. It's an entertaining look at a culture which might seem foreign to some and very familiar to others.