At a dimly lit ceremony hall in Osaka this week, a Buddhist monk sat at the front of a large room chanting, surrounded by 300 lanterns. The chants, however, were not Buddhist scriptures. They were the regrets and remorse of individuals who had been unable to take their paid-time-off.
According to new legislation that was passed this year in May, Japanese firms are required to give paid-time-off and workers must take at least 5 days. But the sad reality is that much of this time goes unused as Japan struggles to bring themselves up-to-date with more contemporary ideas of work-life balance.
So ad agency Ningen sponsored a unique event to raise awareness around the issue. They reached out to the public for submissions, which ranged from the humorous to the heartbreaking, and printed them on lanterns. One lantern read, “paid time off is just an urban legend.” Another read, “I belatedly celebrated my child’s birthday by 7 months.” And yet another read, “Sorry to bother you while you’re off but…”
Takuro Sayama, the Jodoshu Buddhist monk that conducted the ceremony, explained that in Buddhist teachings there is a land known as “the world of asuras” (修羅界) where people are compelled to fight forever. He hopes his prayers reach those in that world.