Ever consider going having a meal with friends or watching a movie on your way to work? While many of us can’t help reaching for the snooze button in the morning, there is a growing number of people who are waking up hours earlier and having a social life before they go to work.

The movement is called Extreme Shussha (extreme going to work) and as of this summer it has been getting increasingly popular in Japan. The rules are simple: Don’t be late for work; don’t bother anyone; and don’t fall asleep when you get there. Beyond that you can do whatever your heart desires.

The Japan Extreme Shussha Association

Extreme shussha began a few years ago with Souta Amaya. A regular employee, Mr. Amaya was experiencing problems dealing with his boss. It got so bad that he dreaded going to work but his anxiety would also keep him up all night.

One day, unable to sleep, Amaya left for work extra early and began to take little detours here and there on his way. Surprisingly, these stops cleared up his stress considerably and he found himself feeling well at ease by the time he arrived at work. Over time, and trying new and different activities, even his problems with his boss seemed to vanish.

From there he and Takahiko Shiina (both pictured above) had established the Japan Extreme Shussha Association which works to spread awareness of extreme shussha. Here Shiina does some extreme shussha by enjoying some fish and a trip to a hot spring before going to work.

Bowling before work

The concept of extreme shussha isn’t totally new of course. It follows the old axiom “early to bed, early to rise” and another Japanese trend known as asakatsu (active morning). The difference is that extreme shussha should not involve anything related to working or studying. Instead participants are encouraged to go sightseeing or play a game of tetherball.

One example mentioned by Tomoyuki Miyazaki is a group of young singles saying kampai (cheers) while clinking their coffees at a 5:00am gokan (dating party). Then for the customary after-party they would partake in some bowling. Then, in the also common after-after-party, it’s down to the karaoke room. When all is said and done, it’s time to go to work!

Extreme shussha proponents might say that with the absence of alcohol women can feel safer from lecherous types who try to get them in bed. Of course without alcohol the overall healthiness and lifestyles of the participants are improved as well. It is this last point that is piquing the interest of Japanese businesses.

Apple picking at 6:00am good for business?

Extreme shussha advocates insist that engaging in leisure activities before works raises the overall energy of workers and creates a type of shussa’s high (pun on “runner’s high”) that results in increased focus and participation in company matters.

Members of the business community are beginning to get behind this theory. A few of them spoke out at a symposium at the Apple Store in Ginza, Tokyo this month. Kazuaki Miyamoto, Executive Vice President of HDE agreed that extreme shussha can lead to more productive thinking from staff.

“[With extreme shussha] there is a sense that in knowledge-based work, which requires using your mind rather than following a manual, performance is heightened.”

Tanita Healthcare Online President Shogo Tanita added that any improvement in the staff’s social life is beneficial to the company as a whole.

“In order to have innovation, it is important to have a network of people beyond your company to interact with. Many people don’t get out at night, so extreme shussha expands the choices and chances to meet people.”

Katsumasa Asahi of Yahoo! Japan envisions the benefits of extreme shussha beyond individual companies and creating new “early morning business” opportunities for the country as a whole.

“I think it’s nice to see more and more shops open early. I’d like to enjoy some live music or a film in the morning. If getting enough people together is a problem then it could work on a sign-up basis.”

These people don’t seem to be alone either as there are already small signs showing a move towards early business.

Time Market Development

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is currently testing the Jikan Ichiba Kaihatsu Project (Time Market Development Project) until March of next year. The city has opened several facilities from earlier in the morning including the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and sport centers.

We are still far from knowing whether extreme shussha will become the new way work is done in Japan or not. But if it is successful, then Japan is well on its way to becoming the Earth’s overenthusiastic morning-person that annoys its hungover peers with clichéd motivational phrases.

Source: Blogos – Tomoyuki Miyazaki, Japan Extreme Shussha Association, Wikipedia, Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – Takahiko Shiina
Souta Amaya: Twitter
Takahiko Shiina: Twitter