Salaryman Blues

Karōshi, literally meaning death from overwork, is a major problem in Japan. It is a problem mainly faced by the salaryman, a corporate employee who works for the same company since they leave college. They can be expected to work for over 110 hours a week and then in their free time they must entertain clients and network. Having almost no independence or autonomy, they can be subjected to bullying and exploitation by their managers -- that is, until they drop down dead, by heart attacks, strokes or suicide, the tragic casualty of a destructive culture.

These images by Yusuke Sakai (Japan) give a visual commentary to this lifestyle. Originally invoking the imagery of drunk businessmen passed out from the exhausting and demanding corporate world, they quickly veer towards a more tragic reading. Men left abandoned and alone in huge industrial landscapes, their only identity the suit and briefcase which they still clutch in desperation.

There are times when he is glued to the desk all day long, and he suddenly just loses the train of thought and the mind wanders.“Before long, my consciousness has left the office, and I notice that I'm looking at myself lying on the ground in a place I don't know. It's like I'm looking at a different person,” said Yusuke Sakai.


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