Work and Lifecourse in Japan

By Samuel Coleman; Theodore F. Cook Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Shiranai Station: Not a Destination But a Journey

PAUL H. NOGUCHI


Introduction

One occupational culture that demands a keenly mechanical, segmented time orientation is the railroad industry. With Cottrell ( 1939) I find that railroad workers have an unique linkage with the passage of time. In this chapter I look at how workers on the Japanese National Railways (JNR or Kokutetsu) cope with the timing of their career options. Wilensky's definition is useful here: "A career is a succession of related jobs, arranged in a hierarchy of prestige, through which persons move in an ordered (more-or-less predictable) sequence" ( 1968:323). I approach this with what Klerman and Levinson label the "career perspective" -- the subject's "evolving occupational role, goals, and identity" ( 1969:412). This perspective examines changes in the individual's career direction, including discontinuities as well as continuities. In order to understand promotions, the major punctuation points, one must place them in the context of an evolving career. Promotion represents both an opportunity for growth and a threat to early aspirations and identity elements that must be limited or abandoned because of the requirements of a new position.

Many workers employed by the Japanese National Railways claim that trains symbolize life's journey and the transiency of human existence. This prompts the investigator to hypothesize that there is a close relationship between life line and career line for JNR employees. To explore this relationship, I ask how a worker deals with certainty and uncertainty as he moves up the occupational lad-

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