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”.

4 Comments
  • ale/pepino

    September 30, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    I think they often misunderstand responsibility. At some times, it may be better for the company if you pull an all-nighter, but the company (and your family) both rely in your health so it’s your responsibility as well to rest, eat good food, and have fun with your family and friends.

  • koiko

    January 3, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Japanese is quite special culture country, we dont think so too hard worjk is a positive way with human. however, i believe current young generation shoulld be totally change the situation . They are completely enjoy in life and do it themself too. So dont too worry about this subject . I love Japanese living and drink with nice food especially in enjoy with pretty girl and sex service. I think most Japanese guy also love AV movie and Karaoke so on . In Japan, has many abnormal guy in the tram , they usuarlly looking for thr target, and then, they will do it…somthing u cant believe things compare with your country culture. That’s fine. just enjoy when be there. Good Luck!

  • Riri

    March 25, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    eh! that’s really scary. i wonder how many people die from murder?! i think the murder is even less than the suicide. how scary.

  • Kimiko

    September 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    yep… and no one really even thinks of it. working long hours is just a normal thing. it almost feels like you aren’t supposed to enjoy being an “adult”, thats just the way things are. i wonder if thats why so much entertainment things (anime, manga, tv shows, magazine) are so obsessed with high school and child life, because at least then you could enjoy things a bit more.