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Japan is in the midst of en masse hiring season, when a wave of college graduates join companies in formal ceremonies after sweating through the job-interview gantlet.

While this year’s ritual has a different look, with COVID-19 forcing many companies to scale back or go online, the goal has long been the same: to kick off what was often a lifetime devoted to one company. In exchange for long hours, personal sacrifices and a prescribed career path, employees would receive job security, a salary and status that rise with age, and the honor of contributing to corporate glory.

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