Sep 28, 2018

In Japan it is your fault when you get sick

I think when I had my most negative experience in Japan it was during my first real job. After I finished an internship I found my first real job as a seishain in a small Japanese company with rather traditional values. At that moment I didn't really care a lot where I worked as long as I had a job that would get me a long-term visa. My plan was to get the visa, build up a little work experience and then take my career to the next step from that.

At first, everything was fine. I had a nice senior co-worker who would show me how to do the job and I got the hang of it quite fast. Also, I was able to finish work without much overtime most of the time.

After a few months, the senior co-worker announced that they would leave the company. My bosses decided that I would be in charge of all the work we did together now, which basically meant doing the work of two people alone when I was still learning some of the processes.

My bosses said they would hire a new colleague as soon as possible. Some people came for interviews but either the interviewee or my bosses didn't like it, so no one was hired and I had to somehow manage the workload of two people.

It worked out for a while but I became more tired and stressed every day. But as my bosses realized I could handle the workload alone they gave up hiring altogether.

I must say that I did receive an increase in salary of about 20,000 yen but that didn't make up for the medical bills that were to follow.

Because of all the stress, I started grinding my teeth, which in the beginning I didn't even realize until my dentist told me during a regular checkup. I also had trouble sleeping a night, but I found a doctor who gave me pills that helped with that. 

After a while, another employee decided to leave the firm which further increased the workload of those that stayed behind and this kept happening again and again. 

More interviews with candidates were conducted but I had the feeling my bosses were looking for a superhuman with all the abilities and experience you could wish for. Unfortunately, they didn't want to pay much.

So we kept doing the work with a very small number of employees.  In the meantime I started to get headaches from time to time until they became more persistent and I had to fight headaches at work almost every day. I went to several doctors and tried several kinds of pain medication but nothing helped. I also got a night guard for my teeth to stop the grinding, as headaches can be caused by that as well. 

The night guard helped for about a month, then it got worse and I went to a different dentist where I got a more stable night guard that cost me quite a lot because it wasn't covered by insurance. This one also didn't help much.

During that time, because of the constant pain, going to work was really hard for me, nevertheless, I tried my best, but on some days I was just feeling so bad that I couldn't leave the house and so called in sick. This happened maybe once or twice a month for a few months so one day my boss called me and told me to take better care of my health. Being sick so much is a burden for the company. I felt really betrayed at that point because what made me sick was the stress at work and I was just taking my annual holidays for the sick leave.

In Japan it is your fault when you get sick photo

Working with a constant headache is tiresome

In traditional Japanese thinking, a worker is responsible for their own health and should make sure to not get sick. I can understand that to a certain degree but some sicknesses are just unavoidable no matter how much you take care.

At that point, I already saw no future for me in that company and told my boss that if me being sick "all the time" bothers him so much, they are free to hire someone else instead of me. 

I had already been looking for alternatives at this point and after a while a found a new job with a nicer boss who didn't complain about employees being sick but rather worried about their health. 

I hope your first working experiences in Japan will be better. 



Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/