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Escaping the Salaryman Lifestyle

The salaryman, as its coined in Japan, is the epitome of conformity and corporate loyalty. Ride any Tokyo train from 6pm- 8pm (or even worse, 8 am), and you will see the same outfit millions of times over. And just as the outfits repeat, so do the mindsets:  lifetime employment of extreme loyalty to a company accompanied by many hours of unpaid overtime work. While certain individuals do break the mold, the overwhelming majority follow the same path. Many work extremely hard for the end of week goal of drunken obliteration because they can’t “turn off”. All of this because their energy is directed into their companies; their companies that reward based on how long they have been a member and the age of their body. Loyalty is profitable to the company: salary raises are expected in years and relatively unrelated to performance. The average salaryman is essentially a poor investor, banking all his energy and time into a deferred future of happiness.




It’s not just deferred money. It’s also deferred freedom. It’s deferred happiness. You don’t get obliterated drunk and throw up on yourself every Friday night when you’ve had an inspiring week. This is what a morning commute looks like:

Dedicating 5 (and sometimes 6) days of your week coping with the situation above, divesting all your energy only into different tasks for the company, and spending your day (sometimes two) off to recover: this is misery. If I could bear it and I was more gifted with a camera, I would create a collage of Tokyo’s morning faces. It’s the epitome of depression and people not taking responsibility for their own unhappiness.

And while this may sound like a negative, nihilistic, and pessimistic rant: I am writing this because I believe escape is a conscious choice.

My Experience

I am a foreigner in Japan who, despite years of resentment, has progressed to a state of gratitude for having spent a year in the corporate system (although my gratitude for years English Teaching has still not surfaced). I learned how business worked and helped set up companies. I learned how to utilize time management and budget my extremely limited salary to a point that I now live incredibly minimally: I learned the faults in being a “materialist/consumerist” and that my priority outside of my health was my savings account.

My year also taught me what I don’t like about working in a corporation: investing all of my unique and individualistic energy into earning someone else money and the “security” of a job. I justified it as “I am in Tokyo, I have to work or I’ll be poor and have to move back home”…It took 2.5 years in Japan (and an additional year of English Teaching in South Korea) to finally admit that this “worst case scenario” would be better than being miserable 74% of my days.

If my particular company had rewarded my 70 hour weeks with a bonus or a higher raise, then perhaps I would have kept in the trap longer: so, in essence, I am glad they were stingy and played me as they did.

My advice below is essentially a conglomeration of endless nights googling ways out and different perspectives (from follow your dreams, to be passionate about what you do…but what stuck with me most is : be your own man. Embrace the uncertainty of freedom)

My Escape Plan: 
  1. Save up an emergency fund. I took this advice to heart from multiple financial bloggers- and without it- I would still be slaving away in misery. It took me 1.5 years to save up my emergency fund. There was a deep lull for 6-8 months (my corporate job only paid the “Tokyo Minimum Wage” for most of my time there- 2,200 USD take-home pay a month), but I still saved money (about 200 USD a month). After one and half years, I had saved up 3 full months of basic living expenses to survive in Tokyo. I also sent home enough to allow 2 full months living in a cheaper location (my hometown or Thailand). In summary: enough for 5 months.
  2. Maintain a strict schedule once free and make every day dedicated to action towards your ideals, values, and goals.
  3. Persistence. I won’t give up. I have the mindset for success: I know I will achieve because I keep going, keep pushing, and I know the results are inevitable.

Many would claim that I still haven’t escaped because I am not financially free (yet). This is irrelevant; my mindset will never allow me to go back to the corporate totem pole of life. To me, escape is a permanent exit from a particular lifestyle (in my case, an escape from the salaryman/corporate/be someone else’s bitch life).

Inspirational Blog Posts That May Help You:

Feel free to add a comment or shoot me a message if you are in a similar situation.  Best of luck with your escape plan.

Current Book:

This is gold for any man who wants to take control of his life.

Current Music:


About lovetravelbass

Was a 20somethin male living and exploring ASIA. Now, a 30somethin male back in America.

6 responses to “Escaping the Salaryman Lifestyle

  1. Vinoth ⋅

    We are on the same page. I have same opinion about a job (like me current corp. job) and i don’t like anything there. I don’t know, a lot of people are passionate (or they are forced to do so) about the same job like the one i’m currently in. For me it’s a soul sucking job.

    I have a similar escape plan too. This time there’s no escape from “the escape plan”!

    • tim_c

      Hi Vinoth,

      How is the escape plan going? I’m 5 months in for working for myself- and while there has not been a treasure chest of money- I have created two businesses that have the potential for income and success. Saying that, I’d reiterate about saving up a substantial emergency fund: mine is starting to run very thin!

      Thanks for commenting!


  2. reconjohn

    Inspirational stuff man. Keep posting!

  3. shaunyabhayani ⋅

    Reading this (as a college student, soon to be employed) person.. I gotta say, I’m skeptical about what’s to come. We all know the dangers of corporate lifestyles – it’s the same controlling life everyday that so many people live because they’re too scared to break free and go something they actually are after.

    Very thought-provoking, inspirational, and helpful piece 🙂

    – Shaunya

  4. Pingback: Pushing 30 | Love. Travel. Bass.

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