The fantasy storyline of the article reminds me of the job I had back in late 90’s. I was actually procuring people out of the Japanese major manufacturers of electric appliances. I visited basement floors of the HQs of these companies, where there were numerous “cells” like the boredom rooms described in the article. Many of the people in the cells were senior managers and executives with their job description abruptly re-written and with their subordinates completely taken away. But they were still with the compensation package for managerial positions with annual salary of more than 10 mil yen.
Their new job description was to jot page numbers by their hands page by page of the yellow-page thick special books with absolutely nothing printed. There was neither a desk nor a table for each person. All he had was a pile of blank thick books, a few pencils, and a phone that only received calls from the supervisors. All of the belongings were placed directly on the floor. The cells were not the boredom rooms as the dwellers were forced to go over their designated quota of jotting pages.
In those days, countless famous players (, probably including SONY,) of major industries in Japan were firing their employees. The personnel department managers of these companies interviewed the middle-aged employees, managers, and sometimes executives every day. If the interviewees agreed to quit, they were sent to outplacement agents’ fancy offices, where they spent about a half year hanging around until they learned that there were not much job positions waiting for them out there in the world of reality. If the interviewees refused to quit, they were officially transferred to the basement department to work on the new simple special task, with their several million annual salary still guaranteed.
A major gaishikei outplacement agent, back then, had a huge lounge for these people in a newly built gigantic building in Osaki, where 9000 people were registered at its peak time. A book by a personnel cutting manager, titled “Kubi-Ron” became a best seller a little after those days. Even a kindergarten infant learned the new word, “Risutora” back then.
Mr. Tani’s article must be written by someone who is so naive as to be ignorant of such a big movement of firing people everywhere in Japan after the Bubble Economy suddenly vanished. The article does not mention Mr. Tani’s income, which I estimate to be far more than a few million per year for doing whatever he likes. He does not have to do page-jotting hard work at all. I believe that it is definitely a great moratorium hours gifted by SONY for him. Now that we are said to be in the age of globalism. I wonder what any listener in the world would say if Mr. Tani said, “Companies aren’t supposed to act this way.” I would say, “You are a really funny nice guy with a great sense of humor. What would you do with your so much money you earned for just killing time?”
Mr. Tani is reported to have said, “It’s inhumane.” It is indeed. It has probably been long so indeed. This is the one of the reason why Mr. Tani gets paid for doing nothing now. At least some portion of his salary has been generated because of the company was inhumane enough to the people except for him. He has been enjoying the fruit of his company’s inhumanity for a long while, and now he is not happy to face his turn coming along.
The article says, “in Japan, where lifetime employment has long been the norm and where large-scale layoffs remain a social taboo, at least at Japan’s largest corporations.” The well-known reality is far from the Japanese infamous myth of lifetime employment. Randomly find 20 Japanese employees in their late 40’s to early 50’s. I am quite sure that you will find less than 5 without any experience of job hopping. Another Japanese infamous myth is promotion by seniority. A very simple arithmetic thinking could tell that it can seldom go along with lifetime employment in most of the time and in most of the companies.
Given that the so-called lifetime employment system is almost a myth and that there have been many of them dumped out of the companies to keep paying people including Mr. Tani remaining in the organizations, Mr. Tani’s tale appears a great nowaday fantasy story that many might dream of.