Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Mystery Trip

I’ve often said that my work situation is a fortunate one: I work for a Japanese company, but one that has offices in several corners of the world and a decent number of non-Japanese employees, so I’m not subject to a lot of the same pressures and inefficient bureaucracy that plague a lot of Japanese workplaces. I rarely work overtime, I’m never pressured to go out drinking after work, and while I enjoy spending time with my co-workers I’m able to keep my work and personal life healthily separate.

But there are still some workplace customs that remain decidedly alien to me. Like the annual shain ryoko.

Shain ryoko roughly translates to “employee trip.” Granted, plenty of companies outside Japan sponsor team-building vacations, but in a Japanese office these are taken a little more seriously. How seriously depends on the company–in my case it seems that plenty of people aren’t planning to go, but a lot of people probably will. It’s a discounted airfare and hotel, and it’s a chance to bond with your co-workers.

How they go about organizing it, though, is kind of hilarious. Here’s the conversation I had today.

Coworker 1: So, Lindsay, do you want to go on the company trip?

Me: Uh…when is it?

Coworker 1: Next March.

Me: (laughing) Next March? That’s six months from now. When in March?

Coworker 1: It hasn’t been decided yet.

Me: What’s the destination?

Coworker 1: It hasn’t been decided yet.

Me: How much does it cost, and how long is it for?

Coworker: Well, probably around 40,000 yen and probably for two days and two nights…

Me: Wait–so I’m supposed to tell you yes or no before I even know where we’re going, how much it costs, what the exact date is, and how long it’s going to last?

Coworker 1: (looking a bit embarrassed) Yes, I know, it’s kind of ridiculous…

Me: Do we at least have SOME idea of where we might be going?

Coworker 1: Well, I heard it might be Singapore, and it might be Guam.

Me: Singapore or GUAM? That’s like, chicken soup or saag paneer, Toy Story 3 or Irreversible…what kind of choices are those?

Coworker 1: Well, they should decide soon. So, are you in? You can change your mind up to one month before the trip.

Me: Oh. Well, that’s something, at least.

(I ponder this for all of a minute and then tell him yes, put my name down. What the hell. I probably should attempt to bond with the co-workers I don’t know so well, and I’ve never been to Singapore. If it’s Guam, though, I’m out–been there, done that.)

Coworker 1 (after a brief phone conversation): All right, your name is down. They’ll start taking 6000 yen out of your paycheck every month from next month.

Me: Wait, what?

Coworker 1: That’s how you pay for it–they just take a little out of your paycheck every month.

Me: So I’ve just signed up to have money withdrawn from my paycheck every month?

Coworker: Yeah. But don’t worry, you’ll get it all back if you cancel up to a month before the trip.

So it looks like I’m paying in installments for a trip that as yet has no definite destination, date, length of time, or cost. Hooray!

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4 comments on “Mystery Trip

  1. toranosuke
    September 3, 2012

    Huh. I never knew that shain ryoko was so mysterious. Also never knew that it could be to such destinations as Singapore or Guam – I always assumed it was more like a trip to the company retreat in Nagano.

    Kind of nice, in a way, though, that they take a bit out of your paycheck every month, so that you never have to feel like you’ve just laid-out yon-man-en in one go. Right?

  2. gradland
    September 3, 2012

    Definitely, it’s nice to have the opportunity to go somewhere cheaply, especially if it’s overseas. And I’m happy to have them withdraw money each month as long as I can get it back if I cancel. I just find the fact that I’m supposed to commit to everything before I know any real details pretty funny. And the fact that I thought “Put my name down” just meant “put my name down,” whereas it actually meant that I was making a financial commitment, is just one of those typical miscommunications that I’ve learned to not dwell on too much.

  3. mapico
    September 4, 2012

    Hi again 🙂 I left a comment on another post a couple of months ago, who is Japanese taking PhD in Denmark.
    I think for JP people, the destination of trips doesn’t matter as much as it does to you. They pay for potential good company and opportunities to expand networks, that may explain why they don’t have any detailed plans yet because simply going for a trip with co-workers is a main (and I guess very important) purpose! Back in my undergraduate time, I often did that as well with my friends. We just agreed with going somewhere and the possible dates but not where to go or other details. But for us, what was important is to make sure we all would have fun TOGETHER no matter where we travel. Of course, it’s not always the case though, as you may know.
    Well, hope you’ll have a good trip if you’ve finally decided to join them 🙂

  4. gradland
    September 4, 2012

    Mapico, very true. I think what’s strange to me is that a) none of the co-workers on my team are planning to go on the trip, meaning that if I do go, I’ll be going with a group of people that I’ve mostly never met before and don’t work closely with, and b) the custom of group travel in general is just a little alien to me (when I travel I usually travel alone or MAYBE with a partner / one or two friends, but never in a large group). Of course it’s fine if people want to bond with their co-workers and see that as more important than the destination, date, or cost of the trip–it’s just hard for me to imagine saying “yes” to anything like this when I know so few details about it. (And as of today it seems that a lot of the other people in the office agree–apparently in the past the location, exact date, and exact cost of the company trip had all been decided before people were asked to commit.)

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2012 by in Japan and tagged , , , .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

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