Jul 11, 2017
Jisa Biz (時差BiZ) a Tokyo Metropolitan Government campaign to reduce congestion on Japan’s rush hour trains was launched today.
Fact! This expat lives on Tokyo’s most crowded rush hour train line - the Tozai Line. I hadn’t given it much thought when I first moved to the guilty area but as the months wore on the commute into work gradually became a form of work in and of itself. Where a commute used to be a safety zone between bed and the horrors of labor my working day is now bookended by the two hardest parts of the day.
It piqued the interest then when, browsing through YouTube last night, a perky Tokyo Governor Koike flashed up on an ad talking about something called “Jisa Biz”. Jisa Biz from the kanji 時差BiZ, 時 - time, 差 - difference/gap.
What is Jisa Biz?
Essentially, Jisa Biz is a campaign put together by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government aimed at reducing the human congestion on Tokyo’s commuter trains. An attempt to “reform the commuter rush” as the Jisa Biz homepage proclaims. This being Japan, the reform of something simply to improve the well being of the human condition is never going to take off on its own, it has to have a component, a “merit”, relating to work or business or money … or something like that. So it is that Jisa Biz is being linked to productivity in the workplace under the slogan 朝が変われば、毎日変わる - “If you change the morning, every day changes.”
How does Jisa Biz work?
Basically, Jisa Biz will see participating train operators lay on extra trains during the earlier hours of the morning (Jisa Biz Liners), companies will be encouraged to permit their employees to stagger their start times, telecommuting encouraged, and office cafeterias opened earlier to afford early arrivals a bit of breakfast before they begin work.
Largely then, Jisa Biz is taking place at a company level rather than an individual one. Companies can register their involvement in the campaign via an application form on the campaign homepage. In doing so their name (with a link) will be added to a pretty extensive list of names (some 260 so far) displayed on the homepage. As such then, the bad news is that the average worker in Tokyo may not be able to simply waltz into the office at a time that suits them, protected from the wrath of management by the safety blanket of Jisa Biz. At the very least, permission would need to be sought first.
The campaign homepage is extensive, to its own detriment. At least of far as a foreigner struggling to read Japanese is concerned. No foreign-language information is provided. If you can navigate through the pages, you’ll find information profiling participating organizations, interviews, messages from Governor Koike, and videos of the ads that have been employed to promote this.
Interestingly (and perhaps a given) the Tozai Line is one of the lines participating in Jiza Biz. Line operators are laying on extra services between 6:00 - 7:00 (although 7:00 - 8:00 would seem to be a better time slot but then I guess the idea is to get people heading out to work earlier). It’s going to be the cause of some curiosity then to see if the campaign has any affect on this commuter’s journey. Perhaps any Tokyo-based readers might do the same and jot down their observations in the comments.
The core of the Jisa Biz campaign (some train operators have already started their own campaigns to reduce congestion) will take place from today, July 11 through to July 25. The campaign launch saw Governor Koike visit Shinjuku Nishiguchi station this morning, and it is something that Koike proposed when she was running for election. The plan is for Jisa Biz to be held annually.
One of the first things that strikes about the campaign is its brevity. Implementing strategies to reduce congestion on Tokyo’s commuter runs is going to be most welcome, but somehow two weeks seems to merely damn with a glimpse of paradise (if it actually works). Perhaps if the early, tentative steps turn out to be successful ones the campaign duration will be extended in future editions.
We could, perhaps, hold up Jisa Biz in comparison to Cool Biz, the “campaign” to reduce energy usage while still keeping employees in some sort of comfort during Japan’s stifling summers. Koike herself was a strong supporter of Cool Biz the success of which can probably be judged by the fact that it has slipped into the nation’s subconscious - there must be few workers in Japan still tentative about slipping on a polo shirt during the summer. Jisa Biz, however, looks to be more complex, requiring of workers to stay away from the office or adopt new working hours. Still, while it’s always been easy to be cynical about these things, progressive thinking about the work culture in Japan is surely nothing but a good thing and something to be encouraged.
How aware of you about the Jisa Biz campaign? Does it sound like a good idea? Let us know in the comments.
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Love the concept - I just wonder how many businesses will embrace it I guess! I feel like rigidity is sometimes inbuilt here - not trying to be a negative Nancy or anything, just interested in how it would work with the existing corporate culture of some businesses/organizations here.