The land of the rising sun is well-known for its sushi, cherry blossoms, technological gadgets, but also for practising Inemuri (sleeping while being present). Inemuri is not limited to the workplace; it is practiced in public transportation, schools, restaurants, and even at work. In Japan, this micro nap, which could get you fired in most countries, is seen as a subtle sign of diligence, and your boss may even encourage it. In a country where a man’s worth is determined by his professional status, the pursuit of excellence begins in kindergarten and never ends, and it is not uncommon for a man to work 200 hours per month just to keep his job.
Burnouts, also known as “karoshi” in Japanese (“dying by work”), are regular in Japan. Tokyo residents sleep 36 minutes less sleep than New Yorkers and 54 minutes less sleep than Europeans. A typical Japanese night lasts only 6 hours. Practicing the Inemuri, or even feigning it by closing one’s eyes, indicates that a person has worked hard but still has the strength and moral virtue to keep himself.
The “Inemuri” is socially regulated, despite its acceptance. It must be done in public, and the person must be able to return to work as soon as possible. It is not practicable for young people at work. They must first demonstrate that they are capable of working long hours. The older the employee, the more responsibilities he has, and the greater his right to practice Inemuri. Both sexes can practice it, but women are more likely to be chastised, especially if they sleep in an unsuitable position.
The codes of work are inextricably linked to our societal mentalities and how they define success. In most countries, both physical and mental energy are required to achieve success. Sleeping at work is associated with laziness, inefficiency, and unprofessionalism. The tiniest signs of fatigue are concealed with an anti-dark circle, vitamin cocktails, and coffee. There is no room for error, at least not in public, and an employee is considered good if he appears invincible. In Japan, on the other hand, it is acceptable to show his tiredness and fall asleep on his computer. It demonstrates how hard you work. This mantra can even be found in everyday language: two colleagues will say goodbye with the phrase “Otsukaresama despite,” which translates as “You look tired, Sir.” This unusual form of politeness is used to greet someone and show his respect.
FOMO and Inemuri
Inemuri is similar to the 21st-century phenomenon known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” If you miss a party to see your family or attend another, you will suffer from FOMO, or the inability to be everywhere at once. Today, there are so many things to do and opportunities to pursue that it’s impossible to go through life without missing out on something. This is where Inemuri enters the picture: being present while sleeping. As a result, the present appears more real in Japan.