Tuesday, July 19, 2005

About me; about other salarymen

I kind of knew I was a salaryman, but I wasn't sure what it was. So I looked it up. Wikipedia says salaryman is a Japanese term (they point out helpfully that it is derived from the English word "salary" and the other English word "man") for a white collar worker, carrying "associations of long working hours, low prestige in the corporate hierarchy, absence of significant sources of income other than salary [I definitely have such an absence], wage slavery, and 過労死 (karōshi, or death from overwork)."

Back in 2000, the Christian Science Monitor published this review of the cool sounding Japanese manga Salaryman Kintaro. It said:
"A motorcycle gang roughneck, Kintaro takes pity one day on a hapless executive who has stumbled down the wrong alley. Upon saving the company president from hooligans, the grateful man offers Kintaro a plum white-collar job, usually reserved for those who spent their youth studying in the right juku, or cram school. With his unsophisticated Japanese and raffish good looks, Kintaro turns out to be more honest than most of his well-bred superiors.

Oh, and he's also a single dad.

Left with a young son when his wife died - allowing him maximum allure and freedom to flirt with other corporate co-eds - Kintaro manages to run three-legged races with his pixie-faced boy before big meetings. In Superman style, he changes from little-league dad to suit-and-tie clad salaryman in mid-sprint, an apparent nod to the increasing number of Japanese fathers who are participating in child-rearing.

In fact, in the comic series Kintaro is far gutsier and angrier than he appears on screen. Japanese comics, or manga, are more often oriented for an adult readership than for children. Through fictional characters, manga are sometimes a forum for tackling topics more bluntly than they ever are in the newspapers. Motomiya sees the TV and movie versions as watered-down adaptations. Advertisers don't want to air plots portraying true-to-life corruption, he complains, like those that reveal pervasive, unsavory business practices."
It's a film, and an anime too.

It is important for me to take a holiday for 19 days. Otherwise, I might suffer karoshi. In my early 30s, inertia (loyalty) has earned me long service leave. At the moment, I have only one suit, a blue pinstriped suit I had stitched by a team of tailors and tailor apprentices over a 24 hour period for $130 (extra pair of trousers included) in Udaipur, Rajhasthan many years ago. I am destined to buy a suit in Bali; I will be unable to help it despite having seen some truly terrible suits on returnees from the Island of the Gods.

Three Dollars
by Elliot Perlman is about a fellow Melbourne salaryman, for sure. Poignant scenes in a beautiful book are the cheese scene where de facto matrimonial bliss suffers trouble in paradise over the purchase of comparatively expensive Edam, and the suit scene, where the protagonist rips the suit which is the sine qua non for a job to pull him out of his condition of fighting with his wife over Edam, and puts it in for invisible mending he knows he won't be able to afford. Eddie, salaryman is the nightmare, Kintaro, salaryman the fantasy.


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