Let’s talk dress code.
At The Company, there is a strictly enforced dress code here and it’s serious stuff. If even one of us slacked off, well I hate to imagine the consequences. Suffice to say, a fairy dies each time I wear a slightly inappropriate tie, when my pants don’t match the suit jacket I keep at work an angel loses it’s wings mid-flight, and a unicorn is impaled on it’s own horn if my shoes don’t match my belt. Violating the dress code is just not done.
So things got hot and serious lately when I asked about “Cool Biz”. For those not in-the-know, Cool Biz is the official government mandated period where anyone in Japan who has a day job doesn’t have to wear a tie or a jacket. Thats right, it took a government mandate to make people over here stop wearing these easily dippable coffee and soup hazards.
I asked because it’s hot in Japan. And Muggy. Not southern China hot, not Rome in the summer hot, but pretty hot. And it, well, you know, seemed reasonable to me being a well informed gentleman, scholar and traveler of places unseens with people unmentioned that we follow this mandate given to us by the Japanese government itself! My boss’ response?
<insert giggle here*> Ano…I don’t know. Maybe June?
So like any polite and respectful Canadian I sat down and shut up about it as the Conservative government has trained me to do so well. But wouldn’t you know it, not forty-eight hours later she finds *gasp* a memo! Dated last month! And it has important news! I can take my tie off! May first!
Back in Canada, and even China, I was always certain that when people followed the letter of the law it was because they feared the consequences. I knew that if I did X then Y was gonna get my ass. And that seemed like a perfectly reasonable response. Especially in China where not following the rules has often rewarded people with invitations to permanently stay in a nice building surrounded by barbed wire and walls somewhere with lots of other people who didn’t follow the rules.
But here in Japan there is a really unusual mentality about being a “trouble-maker”. People don’t want to be labeled a troublemaker, they don’t want anyone to think they could be a troublemaker, they won’t take risks to the point of being called a trouble-maker. A few months ago when Japanese journalist was killed by ISIS, the reaction in Japan was heavily divided. It was so divided that the family felt obligated to apologize to everyone for their child who WAS KILLED BY TERRORISTS…for being a trouble-maker.
I’m not trying to bash on his family here. I’m 100% certain they had good reason to appeal to everyone and appear modest about this issue and I feel for them. What I’m not board with is that this seems like it’s part of the entire cultural mindset that taking risks and appearing even a little bit like a trouble-maker is just not done. Ever. Not even once, just after lunchtime. This is a problem for me, because as I’m sure everyone can attest, I relish being a “shit-disturber”. I like that people recognize I enjoy causing a little mayhem for everyone’s enjoyment**.
Taking risks is part of getting some kind of pay off. If you don’t take risks, you don’t get any pay off. But in Japan it’s practically an institution to not take risks, not bend or break any rules, and not get rewarded for thinking outside of the box. Nintendo has made it an artform to think outside the box with every other generation of game console they’ve produced, and it’s paid off well for them. Taking bigger and bigger risks gives you a bigger and bigger pay off and Nintendo has managed to do it alternating cycles. Maybe this entire working culture could do with an adrenalin shot in the arm to boost it’s famously stagnant economy.
But then again. Maybe not taking risks is why crime is so low in Japan.
*She is Japanese lady after all. Giggles are a constant and required opener to any silly statement made by an uninformed gaijin such as myself.
**Mostly my enjoyment.