Japan Photo of the Week: How many Japanese to change a light bulb?

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    Changing things up a little this week and getting into Japanese culture….

    I apologize for the quality of this photograph, it was a little dark, my train (which comes about twice an hour) was just about to leave and the only camera I had was my cell phone; however, this week’s photo is more about what is really going on, and to answer to the ancient question, “How many people (in this case Japanese) does it take to change a light bulb?


    Apparently eight… and one folding warning sign. To be honest, while it looked like they were changing a light bulb, I don’t really know if anything else is going on (training session maybe) as I was running to catch my train, but it brings up a (not so well maybe?) documented part of Japanese culture.

    A lot of people from outside Japan–myself included before living here–have the impression that Japanese people and students work very hard. Of course this is true for some people, but from my experience here, in general, my students are often lazy, my university “classes” were a breeze and many of–not all–my coworkers work for about half the day.

    At my workplace, when my coworkers are not teaching, a lot spend the time chatting away, surfing the net, reading the newspaper, and really do anything other than getting work done (of course not always, but in general this happens a lot). Then I hear them complain about how busy they are or how late they have to stay–sometimes until 8 or 9pm. Of course my American influenced mind just wants to give them a huge, “DUH! If you actually did something at work instead of messing around all day you could leave at 5pm!” But I didn’t think this would be good for work relationships, so I decided I would try and understand why this sort of thing happens.

    What I finally came to understand is that in general, time spent at work is more valued than productivity. So even though they aren’t always getting things done, they are showing commitment to the group by staying extra late. As far as university goes, apparently it is really hard to pass the entrance exam, but once you get in it does not matter so much what your grades are, just what college you went to. Apparently.

    So now you can understand why it takes eight people to change a light bulb. All of them are “working.”

    For a slightly outdated, yet pretty dead on, article about “useless workers” in Japan, The Quirky Japan Homepage is worth checking out.

    ***Personal Disclaimer***
    Of course like in any country, Japan has hard workers and lazy ones. I am not implying that all Japanese people are lazy or useless rather I am just sharing some thoughts from my experiences.

    This photograph was taken by Evan Pike.

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