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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A week’s worth of questions about paid leave

Paid leave. The long form in Japanese is nenji yūkyū kyūka; the short form is yūkyū. For workers, yūkyū is a day of “complete liberation from toil,” as one scholar put it.

The right to rest fully is vital in ensuring that workers enjoy long, healthy and anxiety-free lives. Unfortunately, some employers do all they can to discourage their employees from actually taking paid leave, setting up artificial obstacles, insinuating they are lazy and using peer pressure to keep them at their work stations.

I myself teach at a university, and many of my members at Tozen Union are also teachers. I find that teachers in particular find it very difficult to freely take paid leave, and many more are unaware of the government’s guarantee of paid leave. Foreign teachers in particular may be unfamiliar with the law.

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