Sometimes Japanese people stick to a schedule, and sometimes they don’t, he says.

Japan is a punctual society. This is, after all, the country where rail operators will give you an official excuse slip you can show to your boss if you’re late to work after a train delay, not to mention issue apologies if a train departs early, since that might mess up your commuting timetable as well.

But Spanish-born resident of Japan and Twitter user @758adrian thinks that Japanese temporal fidelity is a half-truth, and is getting tired of being chided by Japanese people with more-punctual-than-though attitudes.

In a recent tweet, he voiced his frustration, saying:

“Because I’m Spanish, if I’m even a minute or two late to something, Japanese people often say ‘Well, that’s the Spanish style for you’ or ‘Latin people don’t show up on time.’ Japanese people like to think they’re the best in the world at following a schedule, but all they really stick to is the starting time. If a meeting is scheduled to end at 5:30 and it goes until 7 o’clock, to me that’s worse than showing up five minutes late.”

@758adrian’s observations about Japanese business culture aren’t off. Walking through the door of your office right as you’re supposed to be starting work has a good chance of making you the office pariah, since traditional values hold that you should punch in at least a few minutes before the start of your shift. On the other hand, often having to stay past the scheduled quitting time for the day is thought to simply be an inevitable part of just about any adult job, as pointed out in Japanese-language comments from other Twitter users prompted by @758adrian’s tweet.

“Come to work five minutes late, and you’ll get chewed out, but no one has anything to say about sticking to quitting time. Japanese people are weird.”

“Japan: The country where people say you left work early if you left on time.”

“I think some people stick around the office after quitting time just so it looks like they’re working hard, which makes other people feel pressured to stay too.”

Still, a few other commenters voiced their opinion that showing up late and finishing late are separate problems, and that “We weren’t going to finish on time anyway” isn’t a valid excuse for making everyone who did arrive on time sit around and wait for you.

▼ “Your tardiness has given me ample time to contemplate the pros and cons of slapping you versus using a closed fist.”

Really, it’s the “make everyone else wait” part that speaks more to Japanese cultural values than anything else in the scenarios @758adrian is presenting. In Japan, the individual’s responsibility to the group is something to be taken very seriously, and if one member of a five-person meeting doesn’t show up on time, that means the remaining four people are having their time wasted. This even comes into play on the back end, since the small group (the members of the meeting) has a responsibility to the large group (the company as a whole), so if the meeting members think there’re still things that need to be discussed for the sake of the company, they’ll keep going past the originally scheduled ending time.

Switching to a purely practical viewpoint, it’s also worth noting that it’s easy to set an arbitrary starting time for a conversation (which is essentially what a meeting is), but much more difficult to peg the exact time everyone will finish what they have to say. So as frustrating as Japan’s flexibility dichotomy on starting/ending times may be, it’s probably still a good idea to show up on time. After all, even if the meeting that was supposed to end at 5:30 is likely to run until 7, if you roll in five minutes late, no one is getting out until 7:05.

Source: Twitter/@758adrian via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso

Following Casey on Twitter is not a valid excuse for being late to work.