Pointless paperwork

Japan may have the second largest economy in the world, but many foreigners here believe a big reason for this is that it is propped up by unnecessary things. For example, they are building a new part of the school here and there is a man whose sole job is to stand by the entrance to the building site (which has a gate across it and signs saying not to enter), making sure no-one goes in. At supermarkets whose car parks exit onto a road, there will be a man in uniform (sometimes two or even three) with a lit red baton, stopping cars and making sure the exiting car can go onto the road without running over pedestrians or crashing into oncoming vehicles.

Packaging is another area rife with pointless waste. You buy a packet of tea? First it will be wrapped in a paper bag, put inside another, more beautiful, bag, which is then taped at the top. If it’s raining, a third bag will be used to cover the second bag, leaving only the handle sticking out of the top. At the supermarket, you may have deliberately bought loose vegetables, but the cashier will put them into a small bag, as she will also do with all fish and meat purchases.

The reason for this post, however, is to talk about the sheer volume of stuff that is printed at school. Rather than using an intranet, or a big noticeboard, or, heaven forbid, actually making an announcement in the morning, every single bit of information is printed out and placed on the desk of all the teachers. Occasionally, I suspect this is quite useful, but mainly it’s utterly inane. An example of this is today’s notice is below. It shows the percentage of kids in each year who have a) unaceptably long fingernails (手のつめ) and b) forgot to bring a handkerchief (ハンカチ).

I kid you not:

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