He is expected to be at his desk early each morning and not to return home until late at night, frequently just in time to go to bed and start the journey all over again the next morning. "There is no den in the Japanese home," says one businessman. "So if the father comes home before the children go to bed, this might cause friction in the family because there is no place for him. This is why the Japanese businessman feels at home in his job. In many ways the company he works for is his real family. In the olden days, most of the samurai warriors were allowed to serve only one lord. Now the lords have become the big corporations."
"Living in Japan there is no feeling of being rich," lamented a recent editorial in the powerful Mainichi newspapers. A survey by the Dentsu Institute for Human Studies backed up the editorial. The survey revealed that the average Tokyoite worked longer hours, had less leisure time and took much shorter vacations than a resident of New York or Los Angeles. As a result, though 78% of the New Yorkers and 82% of the Los Angeles respondents said they were "psychologically and economically" comfortable, only 42% of the Tokyoites felt that way. The study concluded that Japanese companies would have to shorten their hours before the Tokyo residents could feel as free and satisfied as the Americans.
This willingness to sacrifice material comforts for the good of the group has mystified Westerners since Commodore Perry arrived in Japan in 1853. "The workers of this country [ Japan] are carrying the economy on their backs, and one of these days they're going to get tired of putting up with it," says American corporate raider T. Boone Pickens.
But, for now, the dutiful salariman appears willing to put up with such hardship. "If the mix is right, the company becomes the group that gives life its meaning," writes author Jared Taylor in his critical study of Japan, Shadows of the Rising Sun. "The company is not an antagonist or merely a contractual partner from whom one expects certain rewards for certain services. It is a family, a club, a church, all in one. The company...is the altar on which he will sacrifice nearly everything."
The Salariman keeps his head down and his eye on the ball. "The Japanese have very strong feelings of group association and harmony," says Kazunaka (Karl) Uesugi, president of Uniden Valencia Inc., which owns the Valencia Country Club near Los Angeles—the club was purchased last year by the Uniden Corporation, a Japanese manufacturer of cellular phones. "If one guy does, the rest will follow. That's our strength. Establish an objective and work like a son-of-a-gun. In America everybody is so individualistic, they go their own way. Eventually they destroy each other. That's why we have overtaken you."
The one area in which the Japanese have not overtaken the U.S. is in leisure time, where Americans lead in per capita hammock consumption by a ratio of 10 to 1, easy. Maybe even into the high two figures. Nobody has actually counted because, well, it just seems like a lot of work.
But things are beginning to change in Japan. Total revenues of the country's leisure industries increased last year by a robust 8.9%. Many of the country's white-collar workers went from the traditional 5�-day work week to five, and even government clerks now take both days of the weekend off twice a month. Leisure activities that once were considered mere sloth have been approved, even encouraged, by the government.
Admittedly, many of these changes took place during the final ruling days of the Liberal Democratic Party, which suffered massive losses in the national elections last month for having a "geisha and golf mentality," according to one newspaper. But the changes are still there. "In the past we weren't supposed to kill time," says Katsuya Hayashi, director of the Japan Amateur Sports Association. "Now there are many people who are out enjoying sports for the fun of it only."
Japan is awakening to its potential as a booming leisure market, and it is turning to the U.S. to work out any bugs in the technology. "We wanted to develop our know-how in America so we can create the same kind of resort in Japan," says Josuke Sato, public relations manager for Marukin Shoji, the real estate and leisure company that bought the Riviera Country Club last spring. "It is a very expensive proposition to learn this way, of course."
Indeed. Rather than risk disgrace at home by owning a Japanese ski resort that might have been inefficiently run, the Victoria Corporation chose to learn U.S. resort-management techniques by buying both the Breckenridge and Stratton complexes, and it was willing to pay about $130 million for the privilege. "There's a huge opportunity in Japan to assist in the development of their leisure business," says Vail Associates president Michael Shannon, looking to turn the tables on Japanese investments in America. "It's now nearly equivalent to that of the U.S., but growing faster than the American market."