Mar 25, 2018

On annual leave differences in Japan and at home

Back home in Australia, taking your annual leave almost as soon as it accrues tends to be the done thing...we're a nation of people that seem to live for vacation time. I would say that by world averages, we're pretty fortunate - 20 days of paid leave (4 weeks) a year is the standard, so you can take either several smaller trips a year or save it up and go on a month long international vacation if you'd rather.

People at work in Australia also openly talk about their vacation plans. It's not uncommon to see coworkers using their work computers to scour sites like Booking.com or Trip Advisor during lunch breaks, trying to find deals for accommodation or seeking out places they want to visit. People can tell you "oh, I've got 10.47 days of annual leave accrued!"...yes, I've heard people talk about it down to decimal places. It's printed on our payslips, so it's hard not to know how much you've got. In short, even during the work day we're often dreaming of our next trip, and how much time we're able to take off.

On annual leave differences in Japan and at home photo

From Hawaii's North Shore - on paid vacation time from my job in Australia.

It didn't really surprise me then, to read this article regarding global attitudes towards annual leave entitlements. Japanese workers, more than any other nationality, were unable to cite the number of days of leave they were allowed a year. There's also this more recent piece which notes that Japanese workers are the lowest ranked in actually using those annual leave days, and that 63% felt guilty for taking leave. 

I can pretty safely say that I don't think I've ever felt guilty taking annual leave. Overjoyed? Yes. Enthusiastic? Yes. Never guilty, though. I feel like there's very much a culture of "work hard, play hard" back home, and no one is going to begrudge you for taking those leave days - your bosses usually ask where you're going with excitement, and I've even had jobs where I've sent back postcards to my office when I've been on extended trips. I also had a great employer for several years who allowed you to buy additional leave - a certain amount would be deducted from your pay over the course of a year to buy an extra week or two. You were required to ensure it was okay with the department heads, but generally speaking there were never any issues with doing that. 

I'm firmly of the belief that taking holidays brings you back to work recharged and with a fresh attitude (albeit with a bit of the post vacation blues), and I really hope that over time here, people will lose that guilt and use up those annual leave days more...even if it does mean there's a massive obligation to bring back omiyage for the entire office!



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!