Lessons on life, love and compassionate leave from a silly old bunny

This month I will explore compassionate leave — called kibiki kyūka in Japanese — the days you take off after losing a close family member. I chose this topic because I recently suffered a string of painful losses. Please bear with me as I relate to you what has happened to my loved ones over the past couple months.

Do you remember my granny bunny? I told you about her and the need for pet loss leave exactly a year ago in my February 2017 column, “Japanese need to take more leave, starting with when beloved pets pass.” Readers from around the world wrote to me in response to that article, empathizing, expressing warm wishes, like “I wish I could have taken off work after I lost my hamster” and “I feel such sadness when I remember my cat’s death.”

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Court cases shine a light on Japan’s problem with paternity leave



The Japanese government wants to raise the number of fathers taking paternity leave from 2016’s 3 percent to 13 percent by 2020, but two recent court cases show how hard it can be for some fathers to take their legally mandated paternity leave — especially if difficult pregnancies complicate the situation before the child is born.

On paper, mothers and fathers are entitled to take child care leave (ikuji kyūka) at the same time for up to a year and receive two-thirds salary for the first six months and half salary for the second six months. However, eligibility depends on having worked for your current employer at least a year and expecting to be employed a year later.

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外国人にも無期転換逃れ? 仏政府公式「日仏学院」やベネッセ子会社で労使紛争














Why Japanese people keep working themselves to death

TOKYO — Years after losing his son, Itsuo Sekigawa is still in shock, grief-stricken and angry.

Straight out of college in 2009, his son Satoshi proudly joined a prestigious manufacturer, but within a year he was dead. Investigators said working extreme hours drove him to take his own life.

The young engineer fell victim to the Japanese phenomenon of “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

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NS Solutions case is latest battle in long war against sexual harassment

The first time a court in Japan ruled on the issue of sexual harassment was on Aug. 5, 1989. On that day, in what has become known as the Fukuoka Sexual Harassment Case, the Fukuoka District Court found the individual harasser and the employer responsible for damages.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) had been enacted three years earlier, but awareness of issues affecting women in the workplace was still low in Japan; they were considered “workplace flowers,” “seat warmers until marriage,” “male workers’ assistants” or even “unsold Christmas cakes.” The last epithet referred to those whose values as women were said to be plunging because they had not married by age 25 (with Christmas Day being Dec. 25 and all).

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Are university teachers in Japan covered by the ‘five-year rule’?

By Louis Carlet (Hifumi Okunuki is off this month):

My colleague Gaetan and I recently presented a seminar on the “five-year rule” to a group of Francophones at an event hosted by the Francais du Monde — Association Democratique des Francais a l’Etranger (French of the World — Democratic Association of French Abroad).

Gaetan had prepared an organized lecture, with charts and translations projected onto the wall behind him. We worked to convince the attendees that next year they could use the so-called five-year rule to become permanent employees if they had served more than five years in fixed-term contracts. Many of them were university teachers.

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Job-Juggling in Japan: A Risky Stunt with No Safety Net

Mid-April 2009. Tokyo.

Teaching English part-time at Berlitz Japan. Teaching English writing part-time at NHK Bilingual Center. Translating freelance for NHK. Translating part-time at the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Executive president of Berlitz General Union Tokyo (Begunto). Working part-time as a union organizer at the National Union of General Workers. Covering for a hospitalized full-time organizer at the same union. Working as an intern at Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Ijuren) in the hope of getting hired there.

The above is a list of jobs, both paid and unpaid, that my activist friend Catherine Campbell worked simultaneously back in mid-April 2009. How could she possibly have held down so many jobs without collapsing under the pressure?

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The cost of convenience in Japan: when foreign students work instead of study

It’s midnight at the convenience store I often patronize near my home in Tokyo’s central Shinjuku district. The store’s open all day and night, 365 days a year.

There is one man I’ve seen quite a bit of lately — behind the counter, stocking shelves, carrying heavy boxes, cleaning, cooking food, ringing up purchases, barristering, giving out raffle tickets, and always using polite, respectful Japanese, from irasshaimase (welcome) to arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much).

Once, he ran down the street after my husband, who had just left the store. It wasn’t because this customer had shoplifted. God forbid. No, his addled brain had simply forgotten to collect the change (about ¥40), and this superclerk thought it right to leave his post and bolt down the street to hand it to him.

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Shane and Union busting.

Shane Workers Union (SWU) started in 2012.
SWU is currently negotiating for job security, better pay and health insurance (for those who want it).
In 2014, Shane management unfairly dismissed a member of SWU for leaving the workplace during his break time. In solidarity, the members voted and declared a strike after attempts to resolve the matter in collective bargaining failed. Following the first strike action in autumn 2014, two part time members had their work withdrawn and other members reported harassment by management.

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