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

Karoshi: Consequences of the Salaryman Identity

In this next path, we will see how an increase in the salaryman identity has also increased rates of karoshi. This is indicative of how salaryman are overworked, and the disregards the wellbeing of the laborer in order to promote economic growth.

Karoshi syndromes are characterized by stroke and ischemia, and other cardiovascular attacks due to physical fatigue. It also includes mental fatigue as a factor, causing higher amounts of mental disorders. It is an ultimately fatal condition, whether due to having a stroke or committing suicide (Demetriou 7). In 2016, over 1456 cases were reported to result from karoshi (Demetriou 2). Karoshi becomes more and more severe as Japanese work longer hours indicating characteristics of the salaryman that can be extremely detrimental to one’s health.

However, the government was shown to be very reluctant with attributing karoshi to poor working conditions. Karo-jujitsu, the term coined for worker suicide due to overload, was not considered a valid medical condition because suicide was stigmatized and seen as a choice made of free will without any surrounding influences (Kanai 209). In addition, the standards for diagnosing mental disorders were much more relaxed, lowering the occurrence of karoshi in statistical data even if the data is incorrect (Kanai 210).

The actions of the governmental institutions indicate Japan’s unwillingness to admit that their working standards for laborers and salaryman are harmful. Because the salaryman brings in the most capital and supports most of the economic growth, it is believed that by allowing the salaryman to work less will cause the economy to suffer or regress (Nemeth 14). In addition, salaryman may not be so ready to complain against long work hours, as they are seen as idols and there is a certain standard they feel they must uphold. This societal pressure of being perfect can ultimately cause them harm, and to even take their own life. In the next path, we will see how the consequences of the salaryman identity cause young Japanese youth to be fearful of the future that lies before them and bring about a new identity: the hikikomori.

Works Cited
Demetriou, Danielle. "'Death from overworking' claims hit record high in Japan." The Telegraph, 4 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/04/death-from-overworking-claims-hit-record-high-in-japan/>.

Kanai, Atsuko. "“Karoshi (Work to Death)” in Japan." Journal of Business Ethics(2009): 209-15. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Nemeth, Barbara. "Masculinities in Japan." (2014): n. pag. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <http://theses.cz/id/w3ov0n/Diplomova_Praca_Barbara_Nemeth.pdf>.

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