Karoshi 過労死

Karōshi (過労死 : excess – labor – death) is a Japanese word that means “sudden death caused by excess of work”. This specific word only exists in Japanese, but it’s starting to be exported to other countries like Korea where the same problem is arising.

After the Second World War, Japan was able to recover very fast and became the second economy in the world in less than three decades. There are many reasons that helped Japan to recover so fast, one of the reasons was the effort that Japanese did working as much as they could. At the end of the 60s working 12 or more hours a day was considered normal. In 1969 the first case of “karoshi” occurred, he was a young employee (less than 30 years old) who suddenly died after working more than 40 days in a row.

The problem became more common at the end of the 80s when executives working under lots of stress started dying at their work places. Nowadays the Ministry of Labor has “karoshi deaths” public statistics. During the last years the average is 1.000 “karoshi” deaths, this is not a lot but if you put it together with the 10.000 people who die because of “stress/excess of work”, and the 30.000 people who suicide (mainly because they are not happy with their jobs) it starts to be scary.

One friend explained me how one of his workmates died from “karoshi”. One day, when they arrived in the morning to the company they found him “sleeping” in his workplace but when they realized that he was not waking up after some hours… He died from hear attack and he was only 27 years old!

Reading “National Defense counsel for Victims of Karoshi” I found more terrifying examples:

Miss Yoshida, died when she was 22 years old after working during 34 hours as a hospital nurse.

Mister Miyazaki, died after working during 4320 hours during his last year.

Mister Yagi, he used to work 70 hours a week and spent almost four hours a day commuting. He died when he was 43 years old. In his personal diary he wrote “At least slaves had time to eat with their families”.

Many people do not die, but the number of people who is really stress and ends up suffering mental illnesses is very high. A recent example is well known by everyone, prime minister Abe suffered from stress and lots of pressure from bureaucrats and the “Japanese dark side”. The day he resigned he was hospitalized in order to be treated from “stress related problems”.

Read this article if you wanna know more about “karoshi”.


Victims of both nuclear explosions

“Hibakusha” (被爆者: being exposed, bomb, person) is a Japanese word that means “nuclear bomb victim”. In this category of “hibakusha” there is the people who where within two kilometers from the hypocenter at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, those who where within five kilometers from the hypocenters sometime during the next two weeks from the explosion, and those kids who were born from women who are in the previous categories. Nowadays the Japanese Government says that there are 250.000 “hibakusha” who are still living with and average age of 75 years. Most of the receive monetary support from the government.

Yesterday I watched a documentary about seven victims who were very very unlucky. They were in Hiroshima the day of the first explosion and in Nagasaki the day of the second one. In this case, the victims are considered “Nijuu Hibakusha” (Two times exposed to the bombs) and it is believed that there were at least 160 victims in this category. Hidetaka Inazuka, the documentary director found seven “Nijuu Hibakusha” who are still alive and created a film about their experiences. The documentary explains with big detail what happened to a Mitsubishi employee who suffered both explosions. This Mitsubishi employee lived in Nagasaki but the day when “Little Boy” was dropped in Hiroshima he was there in a business trip. Fortunately he was inside a building with big walls that protected him against the first radiation. He was heavily injured but managed to return home(Nagasaki). He was explaining to his people about what happened in Hiroshima, and in that moment it happened again! He thought it was the end of the world, or maybe those terrific brilliant hot things were following him.

The documentary is called “Nijuu Hibakusha”, and I think there is only Japanese version.


Face training

“Face training” is on sale here in Japan. I’ve already seen two nice office ladies playing in the train while commuting. “Face training” is one of those weird games that are launched in Japan once in a while and never get exported. “Face training” is not really a game, is a system that let’s you improve your facial expression. The game comes with a camera, and while you play the camera recognizes your face, if you are smiling or not, if you are making a “nice” angry face and gives you advice to improve your expressions.

“Face training” ad I saw at Yurakucho station.

DS while you play “Face Training”.


Yakult and lactobacillus casei

Yakult (ヤクルト) is the name of the first company in the world that commercialized products with “Lactobacillus Casei”. It was during 1935 (Much much before Danone made their L.Casei products popular in Europe and USA) when a Japanese scientist called Shirota discoverd the “L. casei Shirota” and created a company that would become the current Yakult. Yakult is NOT a yogurt company, is a bacteria company. Their business is based on finding new applications and new bacterias and they commercialize their findings as drinks, cosmetics and drugs. They also have a baseball team.

In Europe many yogurt companies try to sell products with Lactobacillus casei suggesting that are modified healthy yogurts, but those are NOT really yogurts (The definition of yogurt says that it has to contain Stretococcus thermophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus). In Japan the market is more defined, clear and mature, there are the yogurts and there are the probiotic drinks.

The main Yakult drink is the “Yakult”, it comes in a little bottle with a pretty retro design, it seems that the bottle never changed since the 70s. I love the standard “Yakult”, it has a pretty soft-acid flavor.


Pack típico de 5 Yakults.

In the western countries we had a nice life during decades without Lactobacillus casei while in Japan they drank Yakult. It was until Danone brought the idea of selling L.Casei bacteria. It’s ok, but it’s interesting/curious seeing how big companies create new necessities so the consumers would buy their products. Japanese children from the 70-80s drank Yakult and milk everyday. European children drank milk and we were very happy without ingesting L.Caseis. Nowadays, after the Danone CMs brainwash, European and USA kids are also drinking Actimel or similar drinks everyday.

Yakult has a pretty powerful brand image in Japan, their name is a synonym of “probiotic drink”. There are other brands selling similar drinks with different varieties of L.Casei. Yakult is also available in Great Britain, Taiwan, China, Philippines, USA, Mexico and Korea.

And interesting phenomenon related with Yakult are the “Yakult obaasan” (Yakult aunties) who are Yakult delivery old women who usually use bikes to do their job; instead of milk delivery, Yakult delivery!

“Yakult obaasan” delivering Yakult in the morning.



Kojima Yoshio 小島よしお

Ale from pepinismo.net did a Spanish version of one of the most popular humor gags right now in Japan. The name of the humorist is Kojima Yoshio, and his basic performance consists on saying stupid things and from time to time he says ” “そんなの関係ねえ!”, it means “It’s not related” but it could better be translated as “So what? I don’t care!“.

This is Ale’s video, that was published some days ago and it’s right now one of the top seen videos in Japan this week.

And this is the original Kojima Yoshio version.


About the stamps

I’m gonna write some information about each of the stamps I showed yesterday.

Mazinger Z
The three stamps from the first column are the easiest ones. All of them feature characters from Mazinger Z.


Atom is one of the most charismatic characters created by Tezuka Osamu, the father of manga. Atom and Doraemon are two manga characters who are usually used as a symbol of Japan.


Kenichi Fukui
Kenichi Fukui is one of the 10 Japanese Nobel Prize laureates. He won the chemistry Nobel prize in 1981 because he discovered many things about orbitals and chemical reactions, that’s why he has a cloud of electrons on his head.


Karakuri is a Japanese tradicional art. The purpose of Karakuri is to make puppets that can do surprising things. It’s considered the origin of the Japanese interest towards robotics.


It’s a bird who lives in Asia, mainly in Chine, Korea, Japan and some eastern Russian areas.


Okazaki fragment
It’s an important DNA fragment discovered by Reiji Okazaki and Tsuneko Okazaki at the end of the 60s.


Is a JAXA satellite launching rocked, it’s considered one of the most efficient satellite launching devices in the world.


Humanoid Robot
Japanese created the first humanoid robot ever. The one shown in the stamp is one of the most photogenic humanoid robots… but I don’t remember the name!


Japan is the biggest magnet producer in the world. They produce the most powerful magnets in the world.


Miffy is a character created by a Dutch artist but it’s so popular in Japan that 99% of the people thinks that it’s a Japanese creation. The character in the stamp is a Miffy’s friend.


Thanks for your comments in the previous entry!


Cool stamps

Today I receive a package with this stamps:


Can you recognize the characters and symbols represented on each of them?


Luxurious food for dogs

In the new Tokyo Midtown complex in Roppongi there is a shop for dogs. Much of the stuff they sell in this shop is even more expensive than the equivalent food for humans. They have many kinds of pasta, prepared salads, and I even saw tiramisu and puddings for doggies! Hey, I would like to be a dog living in Tokyo… or maybe not, maybe I would prefer eating meat and run freely in a countryside place.

midtown tokyomidtown foodfordogs
Prepared salads, desserts and sandwiches for dogs.

midtown tokyomidtown foodfordogs
Fusilli for dogs.

midtown tokyomidtown foodfordogs
The shop’s entrance.

Other posts about dogs in Japan: