At a certain company, workers take their lunch break every day from 12 to 1 p.m. But just 10 minutes before noon, a small contingent of workers get up and leave the room. A few minutes later the fragrance of miso soup wafts in from the kitchen. Employees take turns making the soup for the benefit of those employees who bring a bentō lunch box for their midday meal. When the clock strikes 12, those eating out get up and leave, while the lunch box bunch march off to the kitchen to enjoy their bentō and hot, freshly made soup.

This was a custom at this company for over three decades, making it a textbook case of rōshi kankō, or a workplace practice established not by law, rules or contracts but rather out of a tacit understanding between management and labor. Officially, the workers are still on duty yet they are engaged in tasks that don't count as work. Since this custom lasted over 30 years without any particular complaint from management, it is natural to see it as a tacit understanding.

On Jan. 26, 1968, the Tokyo High Court recognized an established workplace practice at Japan Railways that had gone on for about 13 years. Workers there bathed in the company bath at 4 p.m. and left work at 4:30.