My husband is a really hard worker. When I first knew him, he was a professional bicycle racer, away for four days in a row at races all over the country for two weeks every month, frequently accepting sudden offers to race as a substitute, or act as a pacemaker (leading the nine racers around the track for the initial four laps, breaking the wind for them) in addition to his usual race load. He never complained. He was a very strong athlete, with great endurance.
After marriage, he continued to race full-time, while planning and preparing a bicycle shop he would then run simultaneously while still racing, for many years. He never took a day off. You think I'm kidding, right? No, he NEVER took a regular day off. Sometimes he would schedule a vacation and fly to France to visit close friends by himself, and occasionally our family would drive up to the mountains for a one-night stay just to take a fast break before diving back into a crazy schedule again. But if he was home, he was usually in the bike shop. So I got used to being married to a workaholic, and ended up taking my son with me to go to church, visit family in the states and Japan, and ended up playing with him (and raising him) the most between the two of us.
Even after retiring from racing, my husband worked nonstop in our shop, never taking a day off, for many years. I don't remember the exact time when he finally allowed himself to take a weekly holiday, but I'd guess it was in his late forties. My son was already in high school by then.
Our shop suffered along with all the other small businesses in Japan after the 'bubble economy' burst in the early 1990's. So my husband began juggling a variety of part-time jobs and has continued doing so ever since. He got his "large vehicles" driver's license and worked as a long-distance freight truck driver for a time. He also worked the night shift at a delivery company, loading and unloading heavy boxes from delivery trucks till he couldn't feel the tips of his fingers anymore. Fearing for his health, he'd search for something else and changed employers. He spent ten years coaching university bicycle racers while developing their club activities. Many jobs were thankless and even payless, as employers made big promises that fell through AFTER the hard work had been done. It was very frustrating watching my hard-working hubby suffer for our sake.
Currently, he does maintenance work at a retirement facility/nursing home part-time, while juggling another job in the bicycle department of a home center (is this expression used in the states these days? It means a really large hardware/housewares store mixed with a nursery/gardening department). He is their star salesman, and can fix absolutely ANYthing broken on a customer's bike! After joining the home center's staff, he got the nickname "Kami-sama" (God) because the bike dept. revenue increased 30% and his reputation had no rival. He's happiest working in that environment, needless to say!
Despite there being laws against such practice, he is often scheduled by the retirement facility to work a day shift, followed by a night shift, or a night shift followed by a day shift, or the absolute worst: a day shift--night shift--day shift combo that really saps him of all energy. Because he is working two different part-time jobs, he tends to over schedule himself anyway, leading to severe exhaustion, more and more common after he entered his sixties.
I've explained all that to lead in to the theme of this post, which is Stress Diffusion. Before coming to Japan in 1982, I hadn't heard much about stress or the need to diffuse it, either. But it's a big deal in Japan! And perhaps you can guess why, if my husband is any kind of representative example. People tend to overwork themselves here in this country. At least before the economy collapsed (as I referred to previously), working really hard for your employer was fairly standard practice; people in my husband's generation are all relatively stoic, hard workers. Thus, having more than your fair share of stress is also a given. I'll expound on that in Part Two.