My experience of working in Japanhas filled me with a lot of negative baggage that a person - especially me - should not take as indicative of, or typical of Japan and the Japanese. I worked well over a decade as a foreign English Conversation teacher. I worked in private Japanese elementary, junior and senior high schools, but I did not work for the schools. I worked for a company that dispatched me. Consequently, when the schools had holidays I had no holiday, but had to work in the company’s office doing clerical work (at a lower rate of remuneration, meaning less money for the same hours). This is a distinction that was always lost on Japanese teachers who always expressed admiration for my luck at having such a long summer or year end holiday. Eventually, I ceased trying to explain to them that I had no holiday at all, but that I had to work through the summers, etc.
Like a lot of foreign employees in the English racket in Japan, I had no paid holidays, no bi-annual bonus. (No contract end bonus, either.) I had no health insurance. My employer did not contribute to the national social security pension scheme on my behalf, nor the unemployment insurance system, all of which are legal requirements.
If I wanted to take a holiday, or if I got sick and missed classes, it always hit me right in the pocket book. And, foreign English teachers were/are highly expendable, making us constantly in fear for our jobs. There was certainly no security, and no social security, either. That’s probably still the case.
But then I changed jobs. Now I work for an organization that deducts from my paychecks all of my legally required contributions to Japanese social security, unemployment, health insurance, et. al. But my previous work experience led me to expect that I would never actually benefit from any of these deductions even if they were being made. My experience led me to the easy conclusion that as a foreigner here I do not rate as a person, and am more akin to an expendable resource. (A little known fact: in the 1950s the American-written constitution was amended to delete the word “people”and substitute “citizen” in its description of legal rights within the country.)
Then I injured my hand in a fall at work and all hell broke loose. I mean, was pestered by my boss and by the lady in Personnel to report the details, what doctor I visited, what the cost of treatment was, what the circumstances were, and more - all private information and none of their business as far as I was concerned. I wanted none of it and felt that I was driven by them into rudely brushing aside their zealous efforts to follow a procedure that I never expected to be applied to foreign employees. My thinking was/is that accidents happen. So what? Too bad. Deal with it and get over it. I was not asking for money (reimbursement for my out-of-pocket expenses related to a workplace accident - an X-ray of my hand in this case). In fact, I don’t like talking about money at all because I think it is obscenely rude, like talking about a person’s weight, or some cosmetic blemish.
As long as possible I tried ignoring my boss’s advice to go see the lady in Personnel about arranging an Employees Health Insurance reimbursement. Then one day, unexpectedly, his secretary told me that the lady was waiting and I had better go see her now. I hummed and hawed and finally said that I hadn’t any expectation that I would go to see her at all. The End. She just looked at me and said,“Why not?”
So my hand was forced. I figured that I should go see the lady in Personnel just to shut everyone up and get their noses out of my hand. I went downstairs to the Personnel office, stuck my head in the door, waved and said “Hi,” and then made to leave. But I was detained.
Now, I don’t speak Japanese well enough to have a great conversation. And the Personnel lady’s English was the same. So it was a mistake to send me to see her without a translating go-between. I tried explaining that I was not interested in any compensation, that it was my boss, not me, who was making a big deal out of it, that my previous experience in Japan led me to expect no social welfare safety net at all in a situation like this and that, in any event, no such fuss was made about my leg that was terribly injured in a similar workplace accident two years ago, so I thought these efforts to invoke my Employees Health Insurance in this case lacked any credibility at all. Why bother trying to reimburse me for the cost of treating my hand now, when two years ago no such effort was made?
Our mutual misunderstandings led to a bigger mess. She was on the phone with my boss almost immediately, and in 15-minutes he had me in his office trying to explain how I had upset her so much. Together we went to make apologies and mend fences. The next day I bought and gave her some apology cookies that cost more than the cost of the X-ray that the whole business was meant to reimbursed me for in the first place. So in the end I was out even more money, despite their crazy efforts to force money on me.
My advice is, don’t ever get sick or injured in Japan - not on your own time and certainly not at work. Being forced to receive assistance is more trouble than it’s worth.