One of my favorite Japanese words is 勤勉 kinben (pronounced keen-ben), which means industrious, diligent, and studious. Just as America has always had the Protestant Work Ethic to serve as a model for what hardworking people should aspire to, Japan values diligence and hard work as excellent traits for a person to adopt. Doing an hour or two of overtime each day is probably the norm at most Japanese companies, where employees show their やる気 yaruki (hardworking spirit) to their colleagues and boss in a unit that everyone can easily recognize, time. The pinnacle of the kinben concept of hard work is the 徹夜 tetsuya, which means working all night in order to get the important project finished, and if an employee pulls an all-nighter to get his work done on time, he’ll probably gain a lot of respect from his boss and coworkers. This Japanese tradition of working and studying hard has rubbed off on my son, and as he prepares to take the last tests of his high school career, he can often be seen cracking the books until 1 am or later, something that would have been unthinkable for me until I got to university.
A Japanese proverb: “Diligent hard work is the mother of success in life.”