Our third floor apartment gives us a close-up view of power lines just outside our window. Another 50 meters away, we can see clearly inside the trains as they slow down to stop at the upcoming station.
At 7 am the trains going away from Tokyo are nearly empty. However, trains going the other direction are quite different. We see the backs of the people who managed to get a seat, all wearing white shirts. Each window that passes by, more white shirts. Packed in, standing room only, more Japanese business men—all wearing white shirts, the uniform of the Japanese workforce.
We see them setting off to work early in the morning and then coming home late in the evening, bright white shirts illuminated by the train car lights in contrast to the dark of night.
The long hours of the Japanese businessman are common knowledge around the world. However, the harsh reality of this life is the story that only few outside of Japan know.
Four years ago my friend transferred from Europe to the Japanese office of his company. During his time in the Japanese office, he endured extremely long office hours. The pressure included an unreasonable workload and the expectation that he, and all his coworkers, would stay until the boss himself decided to go home.
Recently he and his young family returned home due to the immense strain it caused them all. He realized he was sacrificing his relationship with his wife as well as missing out seeing his children grow up. Before leaving Japan, he told me, “I now understand how Japanese businessmen have no time or energy for anything but work.” I could see the relief on his face to get out.
Life as a Japanese businessman is exhausting. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NIV). This rest Jesus spoke of is almost entirely unknown to those weary souls wearing the white shirts.
By Tim, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that Japanese businessmen will hear the good news of Jesus.
- Pray that ways will be found to tell them the good news.
- Pray that Japanese society would experience significant change so that this culture of extremes in the workplace would allow for more balanced lifestyles and the opportunity to hear about Jesus.