New Japan breeds slacker generation

TOKYO, May 15, 2006 (AFP) – “A salaryman can never have high hopes,” Takao Kimijima says on a Tokyo street as he finishes a puff on his cigarette outside his non-smoking building. The soft-spoken 30-year-old is not among the needy but a dark-suited corporate researcher who earns five million yen (45,000 dollars) a year, slightly above average for full-time Japanese salaried workers.

But Kimijima is a closet sympathizer for Japan’s new breed of slackers: young people who feel at ease picking and choosing their lifestyles, a no-no for their workaholic fathers who were derided abroad as corporate animals.

Kimijima says he has “no intention to work at the expense of my private life”.

“I don’t know if it was good or bad but Japan used to have lifetime employment and a seniority-based pay system on the assumption that its economy would keep expanding,” he says.

“We are no longer living in such an era. Only a limited number of people are able to reap fruit while a vast majority can’t expect their income to rise or even be stable,” Kimijima says.

Nearby, a 34-year-old motorcyclist for a transport courier service sits on the ground in front of a convenience store drinki