“Kinkenrikko” Hard work and frugality
There’s a shop in my neighborhood that does laundry and ironing, that I have been using for more than twenty five years now. Over time the master and I have become friends, and I do need to emphasize “over time”. Ishibashi-san works such long hours it was hard to get the opportunity to talk with him.
You see, there was something about his smile and tone of voice when he welcomed people into his shop, that led me to want to know him better. But he was always busy ironing clothing, and I didn’t want to interrupt his work flow. So I had to create a strategy that would induce him to take a few minutes to talk.
I bought two cans of ice cold beer on a hot summer evening, and dropped by his shop just before closing to pick up a shirt I had left with him.
“Would it be bad manners?” I asked, “If I offered you a can of ice cold beer?”
“Well no, it wouldn’t be,” he said, “If you wouldn’t mind me opening up a package of squid, for the both of us to snack on.”
And thus the conversation began!
“We only work six days a week now, but for about thirty years after World War II my wife and I worked seven days a week, usually at least fourteen hours a day. We got up 4AM every morning, had a simple breakfast if we had enough food, and worked until late at night. Our time off consisted of one five day vacation a year. We were happy to have the work, because the work allowed us to have a constant source of food and shelter, and the work made it possible for us to afford having two children.
“When you spend so much time working, you don’t have the time to worry about the future. The more free time people have, the more selfish and self indulgent they tend to become. I must say, I look at young people today and I’m not surprised that Japan is having so many problems. My parents taught me the importance of “kinkenrikko” and I must say I find hard work and frugality to be two of the pillars of a happy life. When people had less they complained less. When people lived within their means, they were much less afraid of losing what they had. Nowadays so many people are frantic and worried, and few people have the time to truly nurture their family.
“The trouble these days is that people build a lifestyle they can’t easily support. If they lost their high paying job and had to work in a laundry like mine, they would feel their life had collapsed. Their children would be devastated if they weren’t able to buy the next generation of game console. People have lost touch with the essentials, and they’ve lost touch with the value of hard work. Hard work is the glue that keeps your life together.
“One more important point is this,” he said. “I think any job where you sit all day, weakens your spirit.
“I sit when I eat and lay down when I sleep, but other than that I stand and move all day. Standing and moving, makes you strong and builds your resilience to adversity. When you stand, you use your whole self, and thus you feel more in control of your life. My father worked until he was 73 and I’m already 79 and still going strong. I want to die standing up, rather than live my life sitting down. Easier is not better!