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Work-Life Balance in Japan


(Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.)

"One thing I've noticed is that, and this is really interesting, when we have meetings, inevitably you'll have at least half of the Japanese side or the operatives being active in the discussion fall asleep. And they don't mind that at all. In fact, I think, and this is my personal view and I think it's been corroborated in some articles I've read, that they have very long hours. They don't go home until the boss goes home. And in that sense they get very little sleep, or they sleep in their offices—not very good sleep.

"So they tend to fall asleep in meetings. And it's completely acceptable to do that on the Japanese side. On the American side, we see that happening and we'd ridicule these people, like, 'He's falling asleep; he's not paying attention.' I've seen instances where a question is asked on the American side, and the person who's falling asleep immediately wakes up and answers the question. Well, that takes great skill. I've never seen that before. I asked a Japanese counterpart once, I said, 'Well, are they sleeping or are they paying attention?' 'He's in a very contemplative mode.' [laughing] Hmm. 'Contemplative mode.' In other words, he may be sleeping, he may not be sleeping, but you really can't tell. His eyes are closed, he may be nodding off, but apparently, there's some internal mechanism that [keeps] him going."

A retired service member discusses work-life balance in Japan.