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In photos: Tea for CEOs in Japan

Here’s an amazing photo set from Jeremy Sutton Hibbert showing how tea is served to CEOs behind closed doors in company board rooms. While tea serving is an important tradition in Japan, this practice in business raises some interesting questions about the roles of women in the office, and what kind of expectations are placed on them.

I mean, has anyone ever seen a man serving tea? In a company that doesn’t have a secretary specifically paid to perform this kind of role, I wonder if some female employees aren’t asked to do stuff like this on top of their regular duties? Are male counter-parts exempt?

I’d love to hear from our readers on this. Drop over to Jeremy’s site to view the full photo set.


Posted by 3yen in Culture | 2 Comments »


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2 Responses to “In photos: Tea for CEOs in Japan”

  1. fuzzy Says:

    It’s cultural. It has been like this for a long time and it probably wont change anytime soon. You don’t see many, or any women in CEO roles in traditional Japanese companies since they are expected to be at home and raise the family. Getting office work like this is typical for women until they get married and start a family. Men simply join the ranks and stay at the company their entire lives, doing multiple things and gaining seniority, not necessarily skillset.

    Things are changing, of course. But as with all things “change” in Japan, it takes a very long time and there is still a lot of old ideas that are maintained.

  2. wormgear Says:

    Images like these are often questionable or alarming to western audiences, even though extremely commonplace in Japan. It’s not a secret, either, as tea-serving practices such as these can be seen on any Japanese TV drama involving professionally-employed people. There’s no reason to keep it a secret!

    I should mention before continuing that I’m not just assuming or talking out of my butt here. Many friends of mine are Japanese people; some have worked in Japanese offices. Many of them are women, one of them is my wife. I’ve discussed this kind of thing with them.

    I think it’s important to consider that SOME women (and men) apply for, and are hired to take the job of 一般職 (ippanshoku) which means general office worker. In a position like this, it’s typical for the employee to wear a uniform (as seen in the photos) and to perform all kinds of tasks around the office, one of which will certainly include serving tea! Consider the fact that in many cases this may be the employee’s first job and they will be expected to pay their dues just like anyone else. The employee understands this before taking the job and knows that it gos with the territory. It just so happens that the majority of ippanshoku jobs are filled by females and therefore it appears to be the case that women are subject to discrimination, being forced to serve tea.

    At other times, there may be an urgent need to get some tea served right away and whoever is not too busy at the time will be asked to do it; yes– even males! Some of the folks consuming the tea will certainly be females, even though it’s certainly true that females in managerial and executive level positions are outnumbered.

    What articles like these don’t show us is that this is not something that females only must endure. I think it’s a relatively unknown fact that junior/entry -level MALE staff will be expected to perform other tasks, such as cleaning (bathrooms, work-areas), trash removal, and other labour that goes with the maintenance of an office. Why hired expensive cleaning services when there are capable, young men around who are willing to do it, right?

    Before western, hard-core feminists start getting all up-in-arms about this, let’s see how this works in Japan and let them do their own thing! ^_^

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