Print Story "Straying from the Herd..."
Working life
By lylehsaxon (Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 09:13:03 PM EST) Life in Tokyo, Working Life in Tokyo (all tags)
The first day of my new "leave early" schedule last week (reduced hours due to the bad economy), I left the company at 4:30, and marched down the street feeling half-concerned about the reduced paycheck that leaving early is going to produce, and half-happy at being outside earlier than usual.

Since Tokyo is hit by the double punch of being in the wrong time zone to begin with, and also not having daylight savings time; for half the year, the light of day is completely gone by normal quitting times of 5:30 or 6:00, and even in the longest days of June and July, there's only an hour of dim light and twilight left.  So I happily looked around at the glorious daylight and thought "Now I can take more daylight pictures!".  (Some people think I specialize in taking night scenes, but the main reason I have so many night scenes is simply due to that being the only time I can take pictures!  Of course, it'll be more difficult to pay for transportation to go places and take pictures now, but if I can manage that somehow, I will have more time to take the pictures in.)

And so I approached the train station thinking I had already gone over the main parameters of the new situation I find myself in.  But... I got on the train, sat down, and within seconds realized that the atmosphere was different.  I looked around and saw that in place of purposeful businesspeople and students, there were many older people who looked like they were either retired or just shy of retirement age, but not working; and students.  One thing about Tokyo is that you can see students (easily identifiable by their student uniforms) pretty much any time of day or night, weekdays, weekends, national holidays, and whatever other kinds of days there are in the 365 days of the year (well - okay, maybe not on New Year's Day), so that's a constant, but even the students seemed more subdued than usual.

So how has it been at 5:45 instead of 4:45?  At 5:45, there's a sense of purpose in the air, with people feeling glad to be off work, and heading somewhere with money in their pockets for shopping, going out for dinner, meeting friends, going home early (no overtime - banzai!), etc.  Even the students seem to amplify the generally happy vibes of the working people.

And then, on the weekend, I went out for a walk and noticed a late-teenage (or maybe early twenties) man applying for a job at a restaurant (with an open front, taking advantage of the nice weather).  He had an air of quiet desperation about him, and I thought back to my student days when I looked for part time work and felt worried/desperate/etc. until I found something.  I continued my walk, thinking of how hard it seems to be to get the balance right - to get it so that you're gainfully employed and making enough money to pay the bills, and also buy some fun stuff (eat out, acquire tech gadgets, etc.), and you have enough free time to enjoy yourself outside work.  For someone who has achieved that balance, I suppose this is just a lot of verbiage, but the "When I have enough money, I don't have enough time; and when I have enough time, I don't have enough money" routine must be familiar to many - and I dare say most - people.  Certainly it's been the case for most of my life.

Finally, the thing I tend to overlook when thinking about working society: the element of being comfortable when running with the herd, and feeling unease when stepping away from the herd and finding that freedom comes with the price of increased risk.  Standing alone on the sidelines, you want to belong to one group or another.  Standing within the group, you want freedom from the group.  ..................  The elusiveness/difficulty of achieving balance, and the ease of going from one extreme to another.

Would I rather be bored?  Certainly not - the constant existence of a quest is what makes life worth living I suppose.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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"Straying from the Herd..." | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Photos by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:42:20 PM EST
You've got competition.
Indeed by lylehsaxon (2.00 / 0) #3 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 06:26:21 AM EST
The pictures are fantastic - I don't care for the text that goes with them though....


The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....
[ Parent ]
After another look... by lylehsaxon (2.00 / 0) #5 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 06:47:44 AM EST
After another look, I would say that's a whole different category of photography than what I do (thus not really competition).  Large format, slow exposure, telephoto lens, misinformed shallow text to go with it (maybe mine is too, but I like to think I can do better than that).  I'm not adverse to using telephone lenses, but I like to get into the thick of it.  My aim is to show what's like to be here.  Those telephone lens views show a Tokyo that a Tokyo resident might never see in decades of living here.  But yeah, those are very nice pictures for sure.  I stand by my criticism of the text though - I think it's Grade-A horrible, but it wasn't written by someone who actually knows Tokyo, so that's to be expected I guess.


The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....
[ Parent ]
Time/money by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 04:09:18 AM EST
I recently had a friend ask me what kind of job I want. Honestly, I can't even think about that now.

Kids / school / work - pick 2. Whichever is left over - I don't even have time to think about.

I miss my working days. I had a lot more time for hobbies. School takes way too much of my time.

A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
My Name is Earl

Nearly impossible... by lylehsaxon (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 06:28:56 AM EST
It does seem nearly impossible to do what is necessary and also do what you want to do.  A very few people are paid for doing what they want to do anyway, and then they don't have to sacrifice free time to pursue it - as most of us have to do.


The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....
[ Parent ]
Another myth debunked by anonimouse (2.00 / 0) #6 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 04:22:44 PM EST
I thought the Japanese idea of leaving work early was going to be defined as leaving before 9pm....

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
Honorable Employees & Contract Workers by lylehsaxon (2.00 / 0) #7 Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 09:29:51 PM EST
The Honorable Employees (full time workers with set salaries and twice-yearly bonuses) put in more time and have to be basically pushed out the door at around 9:00, but the hourly hired-gun contract workers are in a different game on the same playing field.  Cutting the contract workers' (about half the workforce as far as I can tell by observing the different colored security cards of the people I see while moving about in the company) monthly hours by 20 hours each month (per person) adds up to a fairly substantial savings for the company.  In fact, in some cases, requiring that the contract workers go home early is causing some of the full-time people to put in more hours, since they have to take up the slack.  There is also the caveat that when there is a specific deadline or project that needs the time, the set hours of the contract workers can be exceeded, but only after acquiring written permission from supervisors on a daily basis....


The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....
[ Parent ]
"Straying from the Herd..." | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback