The Change of a Lifetime: Employment Patterns among Japan's Managerial Elite

The Change of a Lifetime: Employment Patterns among Japan's Managerial Elite

The Change of a Lifetime: Employment Patterns among Japan's Managerial Elite

The Change of a Lifetime: Employment Patterns among Japan's Managerial Elite

Excerpt

THE SUMMER OF 1979 found Ken'ichi Takahashi thoroughly unhappy with his job. There seemed to be no justifiable reason for Takahashi's discontent. He was doing as well as anyone with his background could be expected to do. In fact, having graduated from a university generally acknowledged to be somewhat less than topnotch, Takahashi had been lucky to move into a job with a well-known and respected steel-producing firm. His classmates, most of whom had ended up in somewhat less prestigious organizations, had looked upon Takahashi with mild envy. For the rest of their lives, as each of them diligently climbed the corporate ladder, Takahashi would be a little ahead of most of his schoolmates.

At the time, this had been more than enough to make Takahashi excited with his job, pleased that he had thrown in his lot with a firm that could support him in every way throughout the remainder of his career. He had worked hard, those first years, spending day after day in the tedious tasks given to "beginners" at the firm and night after night drinking beer and sake with his co-workers. Like most of them, Takahashi had spent the first two decades in the company moving slowly and predictably from one promotional level to the next, changing the title that preceded the name on his business cards with appropriate pride and pleasure. At thirty he had married one of the company secretaries, and the marriage had been welcomed in the firm with a generous bonus and great congratulations. Takahashi was a company man.

In 1976 Takahashi had been transferred from the Tokyo office to a branch of their firm in Kumamoto. He and his wife considered it providential that the transfer had come just as their oldest child and only son was ready to move from elementary school into junior high school. Of . . .

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