Japan: Toyota's Just-In-Time System and the Akihabara Killings (Part 2)

(Note: the translation in this post was a collaborative effort by blogger and translator nofrills, blogger and GV author Taku Nakajima, user Saifis, and GV editor Chris Salzberg.)

In the first part of this two-part series, we translated the first half of a blog entry [ja] by blogger boiledema [ja], who presented a very personal perspective on the Akihabara massacre on June 8th. In the blog post, boiledema described conditions in the factory where Tomohiro Kato worked, information that he received from his father, who has worked for decades at the exact same factory. This information from his father conflicted in a number of ways with the reports in the mainstream news.

In this second half, boiledema elaborates further on Japan's temp worker industry, expresses his frustration at Kato's actions on June 8th, and provides further details about Toyota.

Toyota's Kanban System, Applied to Humans (Part 2)
(Japanese title: 人間までカンバン方式)

The half of the post starts with a passage that boiledema asked to be inserted in this translation, in order to emphasize the way the blogger feels about Kato's actions. This passage begins:


There were also various other [factors] in the background to this indiscriminate killing: [Kato's] personal history, his school life, stress accumulated outside his work at Kanto Auto, and beyond that his immature personality. Nobody else but Kato knows what was inside his mind.


But however isolated he was, and whatever was inside his mind, what he did was to take the lives of other people and treat them as if they were garbage. He himself is a disgusting scumbag, and not even human. This is a point that can't be overemphasized.



Also, this may be obvious, [but better to state it], temp workers in manufacturing are not a bunch of would-be criminals. If in my raising these issues, I have brought on a new sense of discrimination in the equating of temp workers in manufacturing with would-be criminals, then this was not my intent. If temp workers in factories start getting looks like: “your type might kill someone”, then the isolation will deepen even more. [To regard and treat them as would-be murderers] is to get the whole idea the wrong way around.


However, at the very least one could say that the environment at Kanto Auto was the last drop that caused the hatred on the surface to start overflowing.


Of course, as large as it was, it was only one of the drops. You usually don't expect it would break and let the hatred overflow.



Also, in recent years there are people in places like “Gaten-kei Rentai” [Phyical Laborer Union] who have made appeals about the instability of youth employment, including the miserable work environment of temp workers in manufacturing, taking actions to demand improvements, but in a low-profile way. Kato's high-profile rampage attracts more attention, and more and more people are talking and thinking about the temp workforce. But this feels like we're yielding to acts of terror, which frustrates me.

The post then continues:


[A few more things about Kanto Auto Works.] Like other companies, Kanto Auto Works started actively hiring temp workers about ten years ago, I believe. Until then, the factory had been using “term-employees”, contracted for a set period of time, which they then switched for temp workers.
What I heard from my father is that temp workers are cheaper in general than term employees, though there are differences in wages and working conditions [according to which agency is arranging the staffing.] Employment status is also uncertain [for temp workers], and you never know when you may lose your job.


My father once told me about a guy who is on a temp contract. He has a family to support, and his wage at the factory is not enough, so he works part-time as a construction worker at night. There are cases of highly talented people who have no alternative but to work for a temp agency just because there is no work in their home area, or because they have no academic background. For them there is no choice other than working as temps, accepting the low wages. My father felt frustration about this reality.


At the same time, he somewhat despises temp workers, who have no commitment to their job. I myself am one of the so-called “the lost generation” [those who had difficulty finding full-time jobs during the recession of the 1990s], and I now work at an office as a temp worker. I'm always urged by my father to become a regular, full-time employee. He says so because he knows first hand how temps are treated.



Apparently he didn't want to die in the black forest [see note] without anybody knowing about it. He wanted to show his existence. He wanted to leave a mark on this society. If this is the case, it's damn foolishness of him. [He must have had other choices,] but he chose this one.
[Note: black forest is a forest at the foot of Mount Fuji where many people commit suicide.]


They say that in poverty, there are five five layers of exclusion: exclusion from education, from the corporation, from family, from public welfare, and lastly, from one's own self.


If they look outside, not inside their own troubled selves, they may find a reason. But people who are driven to hopeless despair curse their own worthlessness, and drive themselves into a corner.
In so many cases, people faced with despair die alone, on their own.


If it had been possible to identify the despair as having been brought on by someone else but him, then he should have taken some other means to make his voice heard. This frustrates me so much, saddens me so much. It embitters me so much.
You are such a fool, Kato. Such an idiot.


Speaking of Toyota, I am reminded of my ex-colleague who used to work in Ginza as a “hostess” [as female bar workers are called in Japan], until March of this year. She had since quit that job and now works at an office as a temp worker. During her time working in Ginza, she had one valued customer — an executive at Toyota Motor Corporation.


This executive spend money like it grew on trees, apparently one day he bought her a dress, a Versace leopard-print patterned dress, really tacky but apparently it cost a fortune.


She wouldn't wear an animal print like that in Ginza, but apparently he was a VIP among VIPs, so she had no choice and she wore it.


[But I digress…] In recent years, the incomes of executives in large corporations has gone up, while the salary of the ordinary worker has gone down.


While temp workers are being brought into factories at “bargain” prices.


You could resort to an easy way to get your voice heard, but this just would be ridiculed by them. These guys would just pass by laughing.


One more thing, regarding the labour movement of temp workers that everybody has been getting excited about over the past few years. There is one extremely frustrating aspect [of this movement].


As I stated at the beginning of this post, Kanto Auto Works is planning to layoff all of its temp workers. This is the intention of the parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation.


That is, as there will be no “temp workers” there in the near future, there will be no more “temp workers problems”.
Of course the drop in domestic demand is also a cause, but perhaps they just thought to themselves, isn't it easier just to transfer everything abroad rather than deal with these whining local temp workers, pay higher costs, and get entangled with unions?


The temp workers will go away, but Japanese employment itself will also hollow out and transfer abroad.


I have silently supported the movement of “precariat workers” [whose jobs are poorly paid, insecure and unprotected]. And now, my dilemma is that people will be saying, “They made a lot of noise and guess what? They just made it worse! All the jobs have gone abroad!”

Another note was added to the translation by boiledema:


Another concern of mine is that, among people are skeptical of labor movements, talk about the problems of temp-workers on the occasion of this kind of unforgivable crime may provoke even more distrust. They may think to themselves, “These guys are elevating a felon just to publicize their own movement!”

The post then continues:


I pray for those who were killed. May their souls rest in peace.


This post of mine may seem to be very sympathetic to the perpetrator. Of course his act is totally unacceptable. I want to emphasize this.


Akihabara is not far from where I work. I'll pay a visit to offer incense sticks.

Saifis, nofrills, and Taku Nakajima contributed to the above translation. The author (Chris Salzberg) however takes full responsibility for the contents of this article.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.