Japan Word of the Day #54 – Madogiwa


Today’s Word is: Madogiwa (窓際)

Madogiwa is a term that describes middle-aged to elderly Japanese salarymen who is virtually given a sinecure position. The literal translation of the word means “by the window.”
In late 1970’s, a local newspaper in Hokkaido posted an article titled “Madogiwa ojisan (old men by the window),” showing several photos of middle-aged salarymen who basically are just killing time by reading newspaper and daydreaming next to their office windows. Since then, the term madogiwa started being used as a word to describe such demographic.

At the time, Japan was enjoying its continuing economic boom, and labor union had been pressuring corporates to give their employees lifetime employment. They had to keep employees till their retirement age even if there aren’t any jobs in the companies that are suitable for these old men to handle.

However, number of Madogiwa employees decreased dramatically after Japan’s economic bubble collapsed in 1990. Corporates started prioritizing performance and results over number of years of one’s contribution. Groups of salarymen that fell into madogiwa category were forced to quit their companies unless they were useful.

Image source: Color of Thoughts 

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