New re­cruits start first day on the job in Ja­pan


With crisp new suits and fresh hair­cuts, thou­sands of Ja­panese 20-some­things started their first day on the job Wed­nes­day in an an­nual rit­ual that traces back to the coun­try’s fast-dis­ap­pear­ing jobs-for­life work cul­ture.

At Ja­pan Air­lines, more than 1,000 first­day em­ploy­ees tossed folded pa­per planes at a cer­e­mony in­side a gi­ant han­gar.

The bosses at shoe cream maker Colum­bus buffed new hires’ shoes, a re­minder they’ll have to live up to its motto: “A lit­tle sparkle makes a big dif­fer­ence.”

An ex­ec­u­tive at an aquar­ium north of Tokyo wel­comed one of the venue’s new hires in an un­der­wa­ter cer­e­mony — both wear­ing scuba-gear over their suits — which the neo­phyte later de­scribed as “a re­ally valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence.

April 1 is the start of Ja­pan’s fis­cal year, a day when tens of thou­sands of new re­cruits — some awk­wardly strug­gling to get com­fort­able in for­mal at­tire — fan out across Tokyo and other ma­jor cities to re­port for their first day of work.

Miss­ing the big day, known as “shin­sotsu ikkatsu saiyo” in Ja­panese, can hurt pro­cras­ti­na­tors who of­ten strug­gle to find jobs af­ter leav­ing school — com­pa­nies visit cam­puses to get their hands on creamof-the-crop stu­dents be­fore they fin­ish their stud­ies.

Over at the Bank of Ja­pan, gover­nor Haruhiko Kuroda sternly in­formed about 140 as­pir­ing cen­tral bankers what was ex­pected of them.

“As cen­tral bank em­ploy­ees, you must have a sense of mission,” he said.

Mean­while, the chair­man of trou­bled Sky­mark Air­lines thanked 11 new hires for ac­tu­ally turn­ing up to work at the now­bankrupt — but still op­er­at­ing — car­rier.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate you very much for choos­ing Sky­mark at this dif­fi­cult time,” Takashi Ide said.

About 90 per­cent of new uni­ver­sity and high school grad­u­ates start jobs at a time which was tra­di­tion­ally seen as the be­gin­ning of the life­time em­ploy­ment that de­fined Ja­pan’s post-war rise.

The popular im­age is one of self­less em­ploy­ees de­vot­ing them­selves to the com­pany, work­ing pun­ish­ing hours as they toil for Ja­pan’s fu­ture and ac­cept­ing they will be molded into the firm’s cor­po­rate cul­ture.

But those at­ti­tudes are chang­ing as the econ­omy strug­gles and firms of­fer more con­tract and part-time work, giv­ing young em­ploy­ees fewer benefits and lit­tle in­cen­tive to de­vote their life to the com­pany.

Crit­ics have blamed Ja­pan’s no­to­ri­ously rigid work­places for sti­fling in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive global mar­ket.


Ja­pan Air­lines (JAL) Pres­i­dent Yoshi­haru Ueki, front, and new em­ploy­ees of JAL Group toss care­fully folded pa­per air­planes into the air dur­ing the en­trance cer­e­mony at a han­gar with a Boe­ing 777 in Tokyo on Wed­nes­day, April 1.

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