01 September 2022
In Japan, "salarymen" means ordinary office workers. These white-collar workers are seen as hard-working, but rather, well, ordinary.
However, two so-called "salarymen" are now among Japan's biggest TikTok stars.
The leader and a general manager at the small Japanese company Daikyo Security have been recognized as trend-setters by the online video-sharing site TikTok.
The creator of the account is chief executive Daisuke Sakurai.
On the company's TikTok page you can watch Sakurai and general manager Tomohiko Kojima do funny dances or eat noodles. In another video, workers cook up a tasty egg dish.
The videos all show the happy but simple life of ordinary working men and women. And these people do not seem to take themselves too seriously.
The content might make people laugh. But Sakurai is serious about strengthening the company's image and getting new people to work at the company. He believes those goals must be met for the company's survival.
Before TikTok, the number of people seeking jobs at Daikyo Security was zero. After TikTok, the company gets many requests for employment, including people who want to work on the videos.
Sakurai has his eyes on global workers. He wants to draw workers from places like Vietnam and Indonesia. And he is permitting them to use English instead of Japanese.
Founded in 1967, the company has 85 employees. Most of them do what is called "three K" work in Japan, Sakurai says. That stands for "kitsui, kitanai, kiken," meaning, "hard, dirty, and dangerous."
Such work includes security at building sites. The guards direct traffic and make sure trucks and equipment move safely without accident or injury. The job does not require very special skills. But the positions are hard to fill. Many people do not want to stand outdoors for hours and hours. And, there are many security companies competing for employees.
Japan's population is aging quickly. As a result, every industry is suffering a labor shortage.
So, why not turn to social media, the place where young people hang out? Sakurai started posting on Twitter and Instagram. But it was when he went on TikTok that things went viral.
In one popular video, Kojima slaps pieces of thin colorful plastic, called gel sheets, onto his boss's face over his eyes. Each sheet has the eyes of a comic book character. The subtitles in English ask: "What is the character?".
The videos have a clear message: These company workers do not take themselves too seriously. This may go against the image of a serious work environment where lower-level employees and more powerful ones do not joke around together. Well, at Daikyo Security, a worker gets to slap gel sheets on the company chief.
The videos are also helping the company connect with a much larger audience.
A recent video features gel sheets with several nations' flags on them to the sounds of World's Smallest Violin, a pop song by American group AJR. That video led to thousands of comments and millions of views.
When they showed a flag from Mongolia, viewers from Mongolia showed their appreciation in the comments. Others requested their favorite flags, such as Lithuania or Lebanon.
It is a sign TikTok has helped Daikyo Security overcome language and cultural barriers by making people laugh.
"What makes my job worthwhile is that it's about people," Kojima said, "...not things."
I'm Anna Matteo.
Yuri Kageyama reported this story from Tokyo for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
white-collar – adj. of, relating to, or constituting the class of salaried employees whose duties do not call for the wearing of work clothes or protective clothing
manager – n. a person whose work or profession is management
trend-setter – n. one that sets a trend : someone or something that starts or helps to popularize a new fashion, style, movement, etc.
noodle – n. a thin often flat strip of fresh or dried dough (as of flour and egg) that is usually boiled
slap – v. to strike sharply with or as if with the open hand
character – n. a person in a story or play
appreciation – n. awareness or understanding of worth or value