From Us to You, Global Observations, Travel

Worked to Death

It isn’t surprising that some of us get stuck in a rut over our commitment to work. Work-life balance is an ongoing negotiation. It’s not uncommon to feel stressed, and for that to manifest physically in our bodies, creating chronic pain issues. Sometimes, this can even lead to a heart attack or stroke. Stress also toys with our mental health, leading to conditions such as anxiety, depression and suicide. In Japan, there is a word to describe this phenomenon, “Karoshi”, from the Japanese, ka ‘excess’ + rō ‘labour’ + shi ‘death’. (Karoshi | Definition of Karoshi in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved from This is not referring to workplace accidents but death because of the stress to perform. To be on. To be a functioning cog in the wheel. To keep everything moving forward as it should. But is being a slave to one’s job ever worth the potential cost of your life?

Security, stability and status may be good reasons to work for an established or corporate company. But in today’s economy, there is still never the guarantee that a company won’t go under. Difficulty finding an alternative job could be a reason to stick around, even if that means working more than we should have to. Staying with a company demonstrates loyalty which is often rewarded with better benefits such as more days off or an increase in pay.

There is a general sense of valuing the effort of the team over the individual, so there maybe be a drive for employees to be good at their job, and to do it in a pleasant and organized way. But it seems that the traditional value of work still stands – putting in longer hours automatically means you’re a hard worker. Slowly, the government is sidestepping around that. Work reform laws that are currently being put in place are attempting to tackle some issues to make the work environment more appealing. These include limiting overtime hours, enforcing holidays and re-negotiating benefits for temporary and part-time employees amongst other things. The increase in the number of foreign residents in Japan means more international companies on Japanese soil. Maybe exposure to foreign work ethic will also generate some positive outcomes, to see how things can be done differently. After all, employees’ lives’ depend on it.

By Megan Katz

On a one-way ticket, Megan is taking time to follow her curiosity literally. Fortunate enough to be on unfamiliar soil, she is keeping her senses clear and her wit sharp. As a maker, dancer and enthusiastic conversationalist, she is seeking meaningful ways to move through new spaces. Endlessly fascinated by human behaviour, local food and cultural norms, stay tuned as Megan shares her thoughts navigating newfound perceptions and impressions.