Q Why can't Japanese workers take long vacations?

A The number of days off taken by the Japanese in 1993 was 124 days. Americans took 132 days off, the English 136 days off, the French 138 days off and the Germans 145 days off. This figure is still less than the other Western nations but more compared to when Japan was criticized for being a nation of workaholics. Japan still has a long way to go when it comes to taking long vacations like the 4 weeks taken in France and the 5 weeks taken in Germany.

The reason most often cited for being unable to take a long vacation is, "being absent will inconvenience one's colleagues." In the period of high economic growth, there were others who cited, "afraid of being left behind if absent from the office." The way Japanese companies are run is the foremost reason why the company weighs heavily on the workers' mind. Japanese companies are closely divided into a vetiicaltiered structure of bu (depa1iment) at the top and ka and kakari (sections) below bu. Each division is run by a person in charge who works together with the people under him or her. The company is like a big family and the employees call the company "our company." They tend to feel uncomfortable about being the only one to take a long vacation.

Unless the way American companies view employment as a personal contract between the company and an individual is not fostered, the Japanese will find it difficult to find another interest or a "life work" other than company work to occupy them throughout their lifetime.