As we’ve talked about before, overtime is pretty common in Japan. At a startling number of companies, it is not considered in the least bit unusual to find staff, who are contracted and only being paid to be there between 8:30 am and 6 pm, still at their desks until 9, 10, or 11 at night. Others may leave the office a little earlier, but are often wrangled into drinking with the boss or entertaining clients until all hours. Others still even work on weekends and, returning home late at night, only see their family while they’re sleeping.
Dutiful partners may grin and bear it when their husband or wife is absent from home for such enormous stretches of time, but kids only speak the truth. Like this little one who, on her father returning home seemingly for the first time in a long time, greeted him like you might a guest or customer to a restaurant…
Irrasshaimase, the phrase shouted by restaurant and shop owners when a customer steps through the door, literally means “welcome” and, like so many phrases in Japanese, is rarely deviated from by industry staff. Despite the way it is often boomed at customers by enthusiastic staff and shop owners, this is a formal greeting reserved for patrons, and not something that a person – say, a member of one’s own family – would use other than for the purposes of humour or, a rarity in Japan, sarcasm.
Imagine, then, returning home one day to be met by your three-year-old daughter and her treating you like a guest rather than he very own father.
“At work, while we were talking about how ‘I’ve only had X hours sleep’ and ‘I’ve worked XX days straight’,” one Twitter user wrote yesterday, “one of my superiors commented that when they went home for the first time in a long time, his three-year-old daughter said ‘Welcome!’, and upon leaving the house again called after him with ‘Please come again!'”
That’s… got to be depressing.
We can only surmise from this tweet that the worker in question spent so little time at home that their daughter genuinely felt that she ought to address him with a more formal greeting than a typical “okaeri” (“Welcome home!”) and “itterasshai!” (“Have a good day!”). Is there any wonder the word karoushi 過労死 (death from overwork) exists in Japanese?