Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Japanese Man Died of Overwork

We've all heard of the stressful life of the Japanese Salaryman but this story takes it to the extreme.


Officials say Japanese man died of overwork
Toyota car engineer regularly worked 80 hours of overtime per month

A Japanese labor bureau has ruled that one of Toyota's top car engineers died from working too many hours, the latest in a string of such findings in a nation where extraordinarily long hours for some employees has long been the norm.

He was only 45 years old when he died in 2006. He was the lead engineer in developing a hybrid version of Toyota's blockbuster Camry line. One of the side effects in the effort to stop global warming I guess, overworked Japanese engineers dying from heart attacks.

It's an interesting ruling because I have never heard of anything like this in America. It would never happen in American courts I think because it would be ruled virtually impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the workers death was caused by overwork rather then some other cause.

Even if he didn't smoke and he was realatively healthy, it would seem that there is no way to prove that he didn't die for some other reason. It's not like every single worker that works 80 hours of overtime keels over and dies. Maybe he was unable to handle stress as well as others. Just another reason it seems amazing that a court would give this ruling.

I'm surprised that this type of case would pass muster in a country such as Japan that is much less letigious then the United States.

Here is another interesting article about this story from the Washington Post.


  1. Hi tornadoes28 - I seem to recall that the criteria for determining a death as being due to overwork are codified in Japan - it's some combination of overtime hours worked and consecutive weeks/months without a day off. It's prima facie evidence, and even the existence of a prior medical condition may not be enough to refute it. Otherwise corporates would endlessly raise the same points that you (very validly) raised.

  2. Thank you Chris.
    That is interesting. I did not know that. Thank you.

  3. Actually, having dug out my old law books, I was wrong - the codified element I remembered refers to the amount of overtime legally permissable each year - 360 hours. Anything over that, where the worker dies from either a stroke or heart attack, is very strong evidence of death from overwork.

    This poor guy was racking up an annualized thousand hours of overwork..

  4. It's a not uncommon occurrence here, but scary none the less.

  5. Anonymous12:50 AM

    Ohhh boy...Sounds pretty common, unfortunately...All I have to do is see how much my husband takes on to know that there's just too much work to be done every day. I love your blog, btw! I lived 12 years in Los Angeles and am now living in Osaka. I'd like to link to you if I can get my own blog up and running here. Haven't had a blogspot in awhile, but there's no time like the present! ^^

  6. @Chris
    Thank you for the additional info. That is still an interesting law. Why not just make it illegal to work more then the 360 hours?

    I agree. Japan is famous for this worldwide.

    Thanks for the comment. What made you move from LA to Osaka?

  7. Here is another interesting article about this story from the Washington Post.


  8. Sorry I'm late to the party. Great topic!

    At my company management is aware of the negative impact of overwork. Its a bad thing for the workers and the company. I understand things are much better than they used to be (here and across the country) but there is still a long way to go. There is respect and admiration for the guy who goes home at midnight each night, people don't know their families and every now and then somebody flips out badly.

    I don't believe people who work excessively make good decisions or do good work. The fact that the society has a word for dying from overwork is already enough to say that more needs to be done here.


  9. Thank you David. Cultural change takes along time. It is cultural to work late because it is supposed to show your dedication to your job.