Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So it turns out Marine Day is a real holiday...

I'd never really heard of Marine Day before. It was yesterday. According to the Wikipedia page, it was created in 1942 to commemorate an imperial boat trip in 1876. Maybe it was a wartime PR move to talk up the navy; now it's an excuse to go to the beach. Either way, the brevity of the Wikipedia entry (the Japanese version isn't much more substantial) led me to believe that it wasn't a very important holiday. After all, it's dwarfed by the entry for the U.S. Flag Day, and when's the last time I took a day off work to celebrate Flag Day? So I decided to go to work.

My reasoning wasn't entirely Wikipedia-based. Really. When I started work at RIKEN they gave me a lot of paperwork to read and agree to, and it devoted a significant amount of space to how we need to maximize our productivity by not working overly long hours. Work hours are from 9am to 5:20pm, with a 50-minute lunch break. If for some reason you intend to work 8 hours or more, instead of the standard 7.5, you should take a 60 minute break instead of 50. If you want to work overtime or on a weekend or otherwise outside of normal hours there's a special form to fill out and you have to get permission to work extra. At the time, I was thinking this looked more like American stereotypes of France than of Japan. Then I encountered the fine print on the last page saying that professional research staff were exempt from those rules; as long as we show up on a given day we will be deemed to have worked 7.5 hours (and taken a 50-minute break) regardless of how long we were actually there. Once I actually started working, I discovered that there is not a stampede to leave at 5:20 -- I usually get in around 9am and am one of the first people there, but I'm also among the first to leave at about 6pm. Given how excited some of my labmates were when a 24-hour convenience store opened nearby, I suspect that at least some of us are fairly nocturnal.

So getting back to the original story, I figured that everyone would be at work on Marine Day. The weather was even lousy; there's a big nasty typhoon that's supposed to hit Kansai tonight and it was already overcast and rainy on Monday morning. The place was absolutely deserted. Not only were the lights off, they'd actually turned off the air-conditioning in non-lab areas in order to save energy. It made me wonder what kind of Marine Day awesomeness I was missing out on. I found I was actually unable to really focus on everything because the silence was so distracting.

So now I know. When Respect-for-the-Aged Day comes along in September, you won't catch me trying to go to work.

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