In Japan, if you aren’t ten minutes early to an event, you are late.
Planning parties was especially difficult when I studied abroad in Japan. If I told all of my friends to come to my apartment at 9pm, my Japanese friends would show up at around 8:55 (5 minutes late) and my American friends would roll in at around 9:45 (or whenever they felt like it). To remedy this problem, I learned to tell my Japanese friends to come a half hour later than my American friends. After that, everyone arrived to my parties at around the same time.
In the land where trains magically run on time every day and no one is ever late to work, you would think the world could agree that Japan has mastered the art of time management.
However, one Twitter user isn’t convinced of Japan’s ability to follow a time table. The tweet in question was made by an Indonesian nurse who is working in Japan. It reads, “Japanese people are never on time. They are very strict when it comes to being late, but never stop working on time.”
The tweet has gained a lot of attention throughout Japan and was retweeted over 7,000 times in the first 5 days.
Of course, many people in Japan arrive before or at a scheduled start time, but when it comes to ending, Japan is absolutely never on time. Meetings that drag on past their scheduled time and uncompensated overtime are just a part of everyday work life in Japan. My coworker has a wife and kids but stays at work past 7pm at least once a week. Sometimes, he stays late just to show support for the other workers who have projects or lesson plans to finish. I remember interning for a Japanese company in the US where the president and vice-president were both from Japan and preserved a Japanese-style business relationship. The vice-president never left work before his superior, even when the president was just relaxing at his desk reading the newspaper at 9pm.
Many other Japanese agree with the tweet. “That’s exactly right, but if you feel this way, it’s best not to work in Japan,” says one Twitter user. Another agrees that the statement is accurate, but makes the point that “working overtime is the reason Japan’s economy flourished.”
As a result of economic agreements such as the Japan-Indonesia and Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, an increasing number of immigrants enter Japan each year. With this annual rise in foreign workers, Japan can expect more opportunities for discussing working hours and an increased amount of comments similar to the one made by the Indonesian nurse.