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The article “Paradise lost: Japan longs for simpler times in trying days” in the March 8 issue made me think twice about what we work for. Indeed, we work to live, not live to work. I know this principle well. However, as long as a disparity between haves and have-nots remains, people in need are forced to focus on working, so they don’t have leeway to take long, paid vacations. For younger employees, fierce competition at their workplace keeps them from taking a break, whether they would like to or not.

Devoting ourselves to working for a company has long been considered a virtue, worth of respect. To this day, diligent workers still have difficulty escaping this tradition. However, working too much has negative effects in our lives, such as anxiety, stress and other disorders. In the worst-case scenarios it can lead to suicide or karōshi (death from overwork).

It’s time to change our mindset so that we relax more without worrying about the conventional corporate ladder. And we need to create a new value. Both the government and businesses should establish an employee-friendly work environment like Paradise, where people have the flexibility to juggle work and free time. The media, including The Japan Times, can help change the status quo by reporting on this issue repeatedly and comprehensibly. If public opinion becomes strong and loud enough, the authorities will have to take measures to narrow the income gap.

The point is, we want to enjoy ourselves for however long our limited time on Earth lasts. Everyone, even John Milton, the author of “Paradise Lost,” would agree with this.

MIEKO OKABE
YOKOHAMA

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.