The pressure placed on graduating students to immediately find work is so overwhelming that some have started to take action


An animation video that accurately and sarcastically depicted the reality of Japanese graduates looking for work shocked both students and prospective employers. In the 7-minute feature, the details of how Japanese students prepare and start looking for work are realistically shown. Wearing a plain black suit, re-dyeing their hair to black and giving loud make-up and accessories a miss, as well as obeying strict behavioural procedures, were shown to be the requirements to successfully getting a job.

The director of this animation, Maho Yoshida, was a student at Tokyo University of Arts at the time of creation and was actually looking for a job, just like the main character of the animation does. She did especially well to reflect the reality of the Japanese recruitment process, revealing some of the sensitive issues that graduating students confront, precisely because she experienced it all first-hand.

What is most interesting, is that despite there being quite a few characters appearing in the animation, none of them say a word! There is just this orchestral music being played that consists of a tragic fast tempo and a slow, quiet part that repeatedly adjusts to the progressions in the story. The fact that Yoshida succeeds in expressing a complex emotional dilemma experienced by her main character without using any words, has been highly praised all around. Her animation video ‘Recruit Rhapsody’ was nominated for the list of Annecy International Film Festival in France.

You might feel there is something seriously wrong with the process of Japanese recruitment once you watch this video. The main character is lost and uncertain of the kind of job she wants and what she should do to get hired in the first place. She starts getting involved in the process of job hunting because her friends are doing it. It is not only the main character, but the rest of the characters too, that do not really know what they are actually doing or why they are doing it. There is an automated, mechanical element to all the chaos the job hunters experience, and this chaos is appropriately reflected in their perfectly trained fake smile.

Even if they are not sure of what kind of career they would like to pursue, graduating students feel obligated to get involved in the recruitment process because Japanese graduates must start work immediately from April no matter which company employs you. Therefore, it is a little bit like the end of the world if you cannot find a job by that time. Most of the graduates who cannot get a job offer by the deadline, cannot help but think of themselves as failures and incompetent.

Hiring graduates during a fixed period and training them all at once is a kind of tradition in Japanese industries. The most objectionable part is that since graduates do not have to have any prior experience or skill to be hired — this being provided by employers during the necessary training — there is enormous pressure to become the ‘ideal’ candidate in both enthusiasm and loyalty. But how can you become so enthusiastic and loyal when you do not really yet know what it is you want to do?

The fake smiles in the animation therefore express perfectly this inconsistency and the discomfort that graduating students feel. Conformity can be found almost everywhere in Japanese culture, but conformity in the process of job hunting is becoming a serious issue. Many graduating students become depressed and some even commit suicide. Just imagine what it may feel like if all your friends get job offers and begin working from April, while you still have nothing. Yoshida says that she forgot almost everything about her graduate job hunting, adding further : ‘I still don’t know what I could learn from [the] Japanese recruiting process’.

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