In general, most Japanese people are known as hard workers. While work, by definition, is something we do to make a living, the great majority of salarymen in Japan seem to consider their work to be the whole purpose of life itself. In a way, they have a rather complicated relationship with work which would probably make them all admit that they both love and hate their jobs.
Given that, perhaps it was this fear of losing oneself in work that urged two particular individuals, Sota Amaya and Shiina-neko (this is definitely a nickname but Sota Amaya could be a pseudonym too) to establish such a unique organization called Japan Extreme Going to Work Association.
Their mission is to promote the idea of finding the extraordinary out of the ordinary by encouraging people to commit themselves to the most unusual, extreme, and often tiring activities — all before going to work. They believe that such activities would distract people from harsh reality (i.e. that they have to go to work), help them relax and eventually boost morale – it’s two hours of summer vacation on a weekday morning, they say.
You might choose sightseeing, swimming in the sea or mountain climbing. A morning picnic in front of Tokyo Tower? An a.m. wander around backstreet shrines in Ginza? You’re free to do anything as long as it’s extreme enough to make you feel that you are out of touch with reality, but NOT to the point where you forget about work. At the end of the day (or maybe I should say, at the beginning of the day), you still have to get to work on time. This is ironically the most “unusual” part of this activity because no matter what you do and how you spend the couple of hours before going to work, the ultimate goal is to get to work as usual as if nothing unusual happened.
This group of people below decided to go mountain climbing before work. Their ultimate goal was not to reach the top of the mountain but to arrive at their office on time. In this kind of situation, mountain climbing is no longer a leisure activity but proof of their willingness to show just how “tough” they can be.
A few weeks ago, there was even a competition to decide the most extreme commuter in Japan. The winner of this competition boasted of his adventure to Japan’s longest stone stairway in Misato Town, Kumamoto, which consisted of 23 kilometers of bike riding from home to the site, climbing 3,333 stone steps and 30 kilometers of bike commuting to work. Sound extreme enough? Maybe.
The whole idea of extreme commuting reminds me of one TV commercial I saw a few months ago. The depiction of a working mother in this Ajinomoto’s food commercial shows yet another group of overlooked extreme commuters in Japan who never get to boast about their early morning “activities.”