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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Know your children, talk to your children


If anything has characterized working life in Japan since WWII, it is overwork - usually for no extra pay.

The commuter trains at 8.30pm or even 9pm are every bit as packed with homegoing men in suits as at 6pm. A wander through the streets of Tokyo even past midnight - even on weekends! - reveals any number of fluorescently lit concrete and glass cubicles with heads bents over desks.

It is a truism to say that this kind of lifestyle impacts family life. While work addiction has tacitly been recognized as one of the sacrifices Japan must pay if it is to hold its nodding, bloodshot-eyed head high in the world, recognition of some of the dangers seems at last to be coming from on high.

Kids that hang themselves - often for apparently trivial hurts done them, or because of intolerable bullying from peers, others that stab mom to death while she's sleeping and cut off her head, and many many more such stories of often monstrous teenage misfits, provide compelling, if unpalatable food for thought for Japan's establishment.

It was therefore interesting to see this TV advertisement by Japan's Advertising Council about parent-child relations.

The ad depicts an open day at a typical Japanese high school - except with the roles reversed. The parents are on display, while the kids watch from the back of the classroom. Watch the video, subtitled in English by JapanVisitor, for an example of Japan striking back at at-home alienation.

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