a painting of a salaryman in deep apology, or dogeza

Japanese businessmen are called salarymen in Japan and for years they’ve been the butt of jokes. Younger generations ridicule their corporate obedience and lack of independence. And they’re an easy target because they don’t fight back. They just quietly take the abuse.


a 90-degree angle apology, teeth clenched to show remorse

And so it’s not easy being a salaryman, or their female counterpart, the OL (office lady). They work long hours, are constantly forced to apologize for mistakes that may or may not be their own, and fairly often end up passed out on the streets of Tokyo after rounds of drinking with their boss and coworkers. And yet they are the quiet force behind Japan – laborers carrying the world’s third largest economy on their shoulders.

Hiroaki Ito is a salaryman himself and in his spare time has dedicated the last 5 years to painting the trials and tribulations of Japan’s workforce. One of his signature motifs is the apologizing salaryman and women, with several of his paintings depicting the various levels of apology all the way to the most extreme: the dogeza (hands and knees on the ground, head lowered to the floor).


in this striking composition, a salaryman is about to lose his dinner after what is assumed to be a long night of drinking

Hiroaki Ito’s realistic paintings that capture the plight of the salaryman are currently on display in New York at hpgrp gallery. They’re part of the group exhibition “Tengai 3.0” on view through November 19, 2016.


On the left, a salaryman is enduring being yelled at. The right shows a powerful 90-degree apology


On the left: the most extreme form of apology. On the right, a salaryman sits perhaps contemplating a lost business deal



Titled “Fighting Man” this is a rare composition of a salaryman filled with confidence