While it is not uncommon for Japanese firms to let workers take leave to start a family or care for an ailing relative, a growing number of firms are instituting measures to assist employee efforts to pursue personal aspirations.

Companies are trying to fulfill workers' varied desires in the belief that performance will improve if they broaden their horizons outside the workplace.

In 2009, Kirin Brewery Co. began allowing workers who have at least five years of service behind them to take leave for up to three years for the sake of personal development, volunteering their services outside the company or living with spouses who have been transferred to distant assignments.