People are saying this is Japanese workplace culture gone mad.

When lunchtime rolls around in offices throughout Japan, thoughts turn to the ubiquitous bento boxed lunch. If you’re lucky, somebody from home may have made one for you and packed it in your bag, but for many workers the only way to satisfy a craving for a boxed meal is to go out and purchase one from a local store nearby.

That’s what a 64-year-old employee of Kobe City Waterworks Bureau did recently, ducking out of the office occasionally to order lunch from a local bento store. While his actions might seem innocent enough, his employers say these trips took place during work hours, and so they’ve decided to punish him for it with a pay cut, issuing a formal public apology on his behalf.

According to the Bureau, the lunch-ordering fiasco began when another official looked out an office window and saw the worker leave the building and head towards a nearby bento store. These trips to the store, which took three minutes each time, were said to have occurred a total of 26 times between September 2017 and March 2018. After calculating the time spent away from the office, the City decided to dock the worker half a day’s pay as punishment, with an official formal apology also issued to atone for the scandal.

City representatives bowed deeply at the televised press conference, with one of them saying “It’s immensely regrettable that such a scandal took place, and we wish to express our sincere apologies.”

Since the news was reported, many people across the country have expressed outrage over the strict handling of the incident. While it’s true that city officials and civil servants are held to a high standard in Japanese society, and their conduct is expected to be impeccable, many believe the city has taken the matter so far that it impinges on worker’s rights and borders on inhumane treatment.

“Are people not even allowed to go to the toilet now? This is like workplace slavery or something.”
“They still permit smoke breaks so why is this so unforgivable?”
“What about all the politicians who sleep in parliament? They ought to be fired, then.”
“The punishment is totally absurd – 26 times over a six-month period means he only left the office once a week.”
“I can’t believe someone was there timing his trips every time instead of doing their own work.”
“Absolutely ridiculous – arranging this formal apology with the press would’ve wasted more time than the three minutes he spent buying his lunch every now and then.”

According to the man’s superiors, the reason he gave for leaving the office to buy his lunch was because he wanted “a change of pace”. In Japanese workplace culture, though, where people usually eat lunch at their desks, stay back until the boss leaves at the end of the day, and work at the expense of their health rather than take a sick day, wanting “a change of pace” can be viewed as an unprofessional, inconsiderate act.

While change might seem a long way off for Japanese workers, people can at least take inspiration from some of these local trailblazers, who are slowly chipping away at the staid system to create a better future for us all.

Source: Yahoo News via My Game News Flash
Featured image: Pakutaso