If you’ve ever wondered why any photograph or video you see of Tokyo seems to include a thousand or so people dressed in identical black and white business suits like some kind of Matrix clone army, look no further for the answer: You may have Japan’s long-running and bizarre job hunting ritual known as “Shushoku Katsudo” to thank.
Shushoku Katsudo used to start in the third year of a student’s stint in college, but the grueling practice was thought to interfere with education, so new regulations have restricted Shushoku Katsudo (or Shukatsu) to students’ senior years – which has actually counter-intuitively made the hunt even more brutal and competitive.
Like many things in Japan, strict social rules – even unspoken ones – funnel everyone into behaving in a sort of creepy hive-mind during the Shukatsu period. Where in their first years of college, students experience a brief and much-needed period of being able to express their individuality, all that ends when Shukatsu starts – as students don near-identical black and white business suits (sold specifically as Shukatsu uniforms) and engage in a nonsensical song-and-dance of job seminars and group interviews.
Competition is uncannily fierce because many large companies hire only once a year, en masse – during the Shukatsu period’s culmination in April. Japanese resumes are also remarkably bare bones, consisting of a simple list of the places you went to school (starting from freakin’ elementary school) and whatever licenses and certifications you’ve acquired in your studies. Traditionally, there are no places to list part time work and individual accomplishments, meaning most Shukatsu participants are judged almost solely based on what schools they went to – although we sincerely hope there are no hiring managers out there discriminating against people based on their elementary school alma mater.
The ridiculousness of Shukatsu is hard for even the Japanese to put into words, outside of extremely common group griping among students over beers, so we’ve included this brilliant animation that captures the almost opera-esque drama and craziness of it all: