Thoughts · Tokyo everyday life

Unnecessary Jobs

Hey guys,

during the last week one of the underground lines I usually take had to shut down their service for an entire day. The reason was simply construction work, which I can observe a lot in Tokyo recently. (Probably because of the Olympics 2020.)

When I got to that shut down station the other day I couldn’t help but notice the very unnecessary jobs of Japan:

There were employees of the Tokyo Metro every few meters holding up a sign that said: “Sorry, this line is out of service for today.” And all I could think was: “Wouldn’t the signs alone suffice? Why do they need to stand here?”


Since that incident I’ve been keeping my eye out for similar jobs and those poor men are absolutely everywhere in Tokyo.

dsc_3602Especially in the morning, but in some places all day long and even at night, there are service workers guiding the traffic right next to the fully functioning traffic lights.

dsc_3603If there is a gateway behind the pavement, be prepared to see them standing there with a red stick telling the drivers when to drive through.


On my way to work has been a building under construction for a while now. In every weather there are standing a dozen people in uniform in front of it. They don’t hold a sign. They don’t guide your way. I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly their task is for the entire last week and came to the conclusion that apparently it is simply to be present.


My guess at the moment is that it probably looks good for the construction company and the company paying for the construction, too. It equally says “We are taking care of this” as “We spare no costs for this construction” – they even hired those guys.

Judging by their functunality these jobs are all pretty useless. But there is another perspective on them.

The thing that was hardly unnoticable was, that all these jobs were done by comparatively older men. I have so far never seen a woman doing that and neither a younger man. I do suspect that these men didn’t make it to a permanent position in their previous jobs or were fired from their save job when the Japanese economy crashed. And I fear, that some of these men actually had a fulfilling career and already retired some years ago, but can’t live from their pension these days.

Standing and holding a sign, standing and guiding traffic or just standing to show presence – all of this can practically be done by anyone. In Germany these jobs would probably be handled by very young people looking to earn easy money. But young people these days want and need to gain experience in order to advance and Japan seriously lacks young people.

If anything can depict accurately the demographic change of Japan, the complications of their job market and the Japanese commitment to their jobs, I think this would be it.


2 thoughts on “Unnecessary Jobs

  1. You are completely right about this kind of job. I had some courses on japanese sociology and economy in university and they told me exactly the same. You can find these jobs also inside companies, but there they are invisible to outsiders. Pension founds in Japan are crumbling from the sheer amount of retierees and the losses from the world finance crisis 2008/09. Therefor retiered people often choose these ‘useless’ jobs or work as caretakers or cleaners, to get along on their small pension.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Mona,
      thanks for your comment on this. It is hardly unnoticeable that Japan has a lot more workers in service jobs than what I was used to, but to actually think that those jobs are necessary because of social problems was kind of a shock.
      I have savely arrived in Germany again and hope you’ll keep on enjoying your stay in Japan! :3

      Liked by 1 person

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