Real-life Examples Of Power Harassment In Japan

Harassment in schools and workplaces has now become a global social problem. In Japan, the problems caused by the harassment are particularly prominent, with “power harassment” having the greatest impact. In this article, I will introduce specific examples of power harassment in Japan, how to deal with it, and other types of harassment.

What Is Power Harassment?

The term “Power Harassment” was initially coined in Japan. It is precisely defined as “an act of inflicting mental or physical pain or aggravating the work environment on a person working in the workplace. And it usually happens beyond the proper scope of work, against the background of superiority in the workplace, such as job position or human relations. Therefore, it generally refers to harassment by a person in a high position against a subordinate.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of consultations regarding office bullying increases every year.

Bar chart showing the number of consultations about office bullying in Japan

In 2012, power harassment was the most frequent consultations, and it continues to increase. And the thing is more severe as the graph results show what actions people took when they were subjected to power harassment.

Bar Chart showing how people dealt with power harassment in Japan

Surprisingly, almost half of the people did not take any action or even talk to anyone about it. The current situation seems to be that many people do not know what to do even if they face power harassment situation.

Power harassment prevention act in Japan

In Japan, power harassment has become a serious problem throughout the country. In May 2019, a law called the “Power Harassment Prevention Law” was passed. Specifically, the law requires companies to take the following measures. Companies that do not comply with this law will be subject to corrective guidance from the government.

  • Clarification, dissemination and enlightenment of internal policies by companies (owners) to prevent power harassment
  • Consultation system for complaints, etc.
  • Care for affected workers and prevention of recurrence

Common Power Harassment Cases

a man receiving harassment

Here are some example cases of power harassment.

Excessive order

  1. My boss ordered me to organize tons of documents that I would never be able to finish within my working hours. And I was told not to leave until I finished.
  2. I was forced to take up the playground space in the morning on my day off because my boss’s child was having a field day.
  3. I was a new employee and didn’t know what to do. But a senior employee told me to finish my work by tomorrow, and he left without any help.

Insufficient order

  1. I was not given any work that I could use my experience for. Instead, I was ordered to do simple tasks endlessly.
  2. My boss didn’t give me any work at all. I was just waiting for the time to pass all day long.
  3. I was hired as a sales representative. But even after the training period was over, I was not allowed to go outside. I was sitting in front of the phone every day.

Disconnection from human relationship

  1. When I commented that it was not in line with my boss’s intentions. I was removed from the project team and ordered to organize documents and small stuff in a different room.
  2. A supervisor, with whom I had a deteriorating relationship, told other employees to “Stay away from him.”, and they began to ignore me in a group.
  3. Emails and necessary information that should be shared with everyone were never sent to me.

Physical aggression

  1. While I was reporting about work, I was relentlessly hit on the head with a document file.
  2. During a meeting, he grabbed my chest and poked me.
  3. Whenever I expressed my opinion, he kicked my desk to stop me from speaking.

Mental aggression

  1. I was scolded every day in front of other colleagues, with offensive words such as “Stupid” or “That’s why you’re no good”.
  2. Every time I gave my opinion, I was treated as if I were a fool.
  3. Repeatedly pointing out for hours on the same mistake I made.

Privacy invasion

  1. When I applied for paid leave, I was told that I had to report who I was going with and where I was going.
  2. My boss checked my phone on the desk without my permission.
  3. Persistently trying to ask me for private information, such as my family environment or whether I have a partner.

How To Deal With Power Harassment?

A lady huncing over in front of PC

There is no clear line of demarcation for power harassment. And it is difficult to know what cases fall under the category of power harassment. And still, many people do not know how to deal with it. The two primary keys are “Is it reasonable?” and “Is it within the scope of work?”.

On top of that, what action should we take if we are actually experiencing power harassment?

  • Collect evidence
    It’s important to gather evidence. Because if we don’t have it when the time comes, we’ll have to cry ourselves to sleep.
  • Report to the company’s counseling service or HR
    If it is someone in the same department, they may also take the side of the perpetrator. So, it may be better to have someone who is further up the ladder than the boss. Or someone from another department can be a better option.
  • Consult a third-party organization
    If there is no one to help us within the company, we can’t do it on our own. So we have to ask for help from a third party.
  • Consult a lawyer
    If the refusal is severe, we may need to consider taking legal action.
  • Consider job change or resignation
    The last resort is to leave the workplace. It’s frustrating to feel like we’re succumbing to power harassment. But we might be better off trying to find a new place to live instead of being consumed by that kind of workplace.

Power harassment from subordinates to superiors

Incidentally, power harassment is generally associated with superiors against subordinates. But recently, power harassment has become such a big problem that some employees have taken advantage of it to threaten their bosses. In other words, it is power harassment from associates to bosses. Some people ridicule their elders in Japan by calling them “Rougai” excessively, so the problem is becoming even more complicated.

Other Types of Power Harassment in Japan

five people pointing their fingers at sth

In Japan, it is popular to create a coined word by attaching some other word to the word “harassment”. And if you look it up on the internet, you will find nearly 100 different terms, including the word harassment. Here are seven excerpts from them.

Sexual Harassment

The most famous form of harassment is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment continues to become a bigger problem, and it is still difficult for victims to find the courage to speak up.

Maternity/Paternity Harassment

Maternity harassment is against pregnant women. Some people receive unkind words from their colleagues or boss such as, “Taking parental leave at this busy time is annoying”.

Moral Harassment

Moral harassment refers to psychological violence or harassment that hurts a person’s feelings through words or attitude. In Japan, it is also known as “adult bullying”.

Logical Harassment

Logical harassment is the act of cornering another person in argument. Merely stating an opinion does not constitute logical harassment. But imposing a view without taking into consideration the feelings of others and causing them more stress than necessary constitutes logical harassment.

Smell Harassment

It occurs when a person makes others uncomfortable by making an odd smell. There is no malicious intent in some cases, so it may not appropriate to call it harassment out loud. But many people seem to have trouble with it.

Alcohol Harassment

Many company employees are forced to participate in drink parties, known as “Nomikai” in Japan. Forcing someone who cannot drink alcohol to drink is also considered alcohol harassment.

Noodle Harassment

This may be a unique style of harassment only in Japan. Noodle dishes such as ramen and udon are very popular. Japanese people basically make a noise when slurping the noodles, which people from overseas sometimes find a little disgusting. Some people argue that this noise causes “noodle harassment” and we should eat without making any noise when we have noodles with foreigners.

Personally, I think it’s too much as making sound is traditional Japanese culture.


There are many kinds of harassment in Japan, but some are designed to create a buzz. So, it is probably best not to overreact.


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