Mar 5, 2016

The japanese salaryman : The modern times Samurai

The japanese salaryman : The modern times Samurai photo

The Japanese salaryman is an iconic symbol of Japan.

Often critized for not taking care enough of family, spending too much times in the office, in meetings, in drinking with customers, he is in fact a real hero of modern Japanese society.
If I have to remember my almost 2 decades working life in Japan, many words could express the symbolic of the Japanese salaryman: Commitment, Never give up, and on top of this: Girininjyou (義理人情) 
I was often asked what was my favorite word or expression in Japanese.
I often failed to give a straight and direct answer as I did not reflect enough on this.
I can answer now and today that it is Girininjyou 義理人情

What is Girininjyou (義理人情 ):

Girininjyou (義理人情) is based on the word 義理 (giri) which means duty or obligation and 人情 (ninjyou) which means Human empathy.
It is an unique combination, very Japanese and very human. It expresses the duty and empathy you feel to peoples who have helped you and that when the time is ripe you will help in return.

Some examples:

  1. You might for some reason stop your contract with a distributor in Japan, but you might as well give them another opportunity when you develop business in another segment.
  2. You might cancel an exhibition (trade-show) and have the sales person from the organizer not happy in front of you but you might give them another chance, for another trade-show.
  3. You might leave your company but still give some information/opportunities to them whenever you have a chance (because they treated you well and so on)
This is a post I could develop for a while.
Meanwhile, to understand the roots of this post, you can refer to:
And also the time spent for japanese salaryman drinking in (Part I and Part II)
and also japanese salaryman entertaining customers (Part I and Part II)
You can also follow me on twitter at @gaishikeimanJP
Feel free to check also City-Cost for more news about Japan.


20 years experience in Japan. running http://directionjapan.com
French citizen in his forties living in Japan and almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan.


  • SalarymanJim

    on Mar 7

    I hear that this term is also something that is sometimes associated with yakuza. I wonder if there's and English word like this? Or a French one? I like the idea of salarymen as modern day samurai. Although sometimes I don't feel much like a samurai!

  • DirectionJapan

    on Mar 7

    Hi. Thank you for commeting. I believe that it might be associated with yakuza thinking way too. I do not know the right way to translate it in English or French. It might be "moral obligation" or "debt of honor", in French "Dette d'honneur" (which is by the way a Tom Clancy book) I also do not feel much like a samurai everyday...

  • SalarymanJim

    on Mar 16

    @DirectionJapan I'll keep a look out for that book! Thanks