Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Competitive Gamers affected by Salaryman Culture


One population in Japan that is specifically affected by salaryman culture are competitive gamers in Japan, whose goal is to win tournaments. Competition in these video games are called “e-sports”. While e-sports are different from normal sports because it doesn’t "[involve] physical exertion,” the aspect of competing using skill is similar to that of sumo wrestling and women soccer players discussed in class. Even though there are successful Japanese competitive gamers such as "fighting game legend Daigo Umehara", in reality eSports is mostly obscure in Japan (Gilbert). Other countries such as the US and Korea have eSports events with “screaming fans” and korea especially have “unmatched infrastructure, tougher competition and better players than every other region put together” (Zacny). These competitive gamers in Japan are part of a non-mainstream culture, similar to the Japanese skateboarders we learned about in class. For example, Japanese players of the game Super Smash Brothers developed by Nintendo host “smashfests” in which players play together at someone’s house and also run live streams of community-led tournaments, just like how the skateboarders in tokyo housed people and took videos. While “video games are often viewed as a source of distraction,” for these Japanese gamers, it is a way to “develop ties and work together with a community” (Molyneux 381, 382).

Many Japanese competitive gamers are popular globally, and some fly to tournaments in the outside Japan to demonstrate their skill and meet fans. One of these people is Super Smash Brothers Melee player Masaya Chikamoto, with the nickname “aMSa.” aMSa is famous for using Yoshi, a dinosaur character that was uncommon "in competitive play" due to weaknesses against several characters ("Yoshi (SSBM)"). aMSa is known as a pioneer in Yoshi play and “has tournament results and wins that are unprecedented by other Yoshi [players].” (“Smasher:aMSa"). His iconic red Yoshi has inspired several fans around the world.



  However, aMSa is unable to attend tournaments due to his work as an IT engineer. In his public twitter account, he explains that this is due to him being a “shachiku,” a term that means “corporate cattle” in Japan (Morales). aMSa has limited yūkyū, which means paid leave, so opportunities to go to tournaments become rare. With some Japanese corporations “[doing] all they can to discourage their employees from actually taking paid leave” workers are exploited and are unable to do leisure activities they enjoy (Okunuki).

Some tweets from twitter show how aMSa’s fans outside Japan are starting to recognize the word “shachiku,” lamenting aMSa’s absence in tournament. This shows that restrictive policies of salaryman affect the entertainment of both people in and out of Japan. This problem is not only for notable Japanese players who go to tournaments abroad; some local players struggle to travel to events within the country due to these issues.

These details show how hegemonic salaryman ideals can be oppressive to various populations. For instance, herbivore men can be negatively portrayed by society for not following mainstream aggressive heterosexual ideals. Many competitive gamers are unable to have the social experience of meeting fans and other players due to overbearing “shachiku” culture. Women can feel uncomfortable about the excessively heterosexual nature of salaryman and ideas about sengyou shufu. Even salaryman themselves are affected by the effects of overwork and karoshi. Although the salaryman culture has weakened due to decreases in “life-time employment” and skepticism about overworking, it is still a significant part of Japanese society that affect all populations (Dasgupta, 192).

This idea of change being difficult to achieve due to prevailing societal standards is expressed well in Shannon Brook's "Rejecting Japanese Nationalist Gender Identities" which I highly recommend reading.


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