Japan has a culture of long working hours, in fact, some of the longest working hours in the world. In recent years, there have been multiple high-profile cases of people in Japan working themselves to death, which has pushed this issue into the spotlight.

Karoshi, which can be translated literally as “overwork death”, is the word used in Japan to define sudden occupational-related mortality. The primary medical causes of karoshi deaths include heart attack and stroke due to mental and physical stress, as well as starvation.

In 2013, a 31-year-old journalist died of heart failure, after having reportedly worked 159 hours of overtime in one month. In 2014 a 27-year-old trainee at a casting company also died of heart failure, after having worked up to 122.5 hours of overtime month. Both cases were officially attributed to karoshi.

In 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare released a White Paper stating that an agreement had been reached on the maximum hours of overtime work to be set at 45 hours per month and 360 hours per year.

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