January 22, 2015 Juju Kurihara Culture, Vocabulary Tags: 2 Comments

The other day, I was talking to some Japanese friends about working in a Japanese company. To tell the truth, I have never worked as an employee in Japan. My parents were never be a sarariiman and I myself haven´t worked as a full-time employee. But the friends were full-time employees before they became freelancers and they experienced real Japanese working environment.

In Japanese companies, Hourensou (ほうれんそう) is one of the most important thing to accomplish. Do you know what Hourensou is? 


horenso-1No, not what you think right now. It´s not spinach (ほうれん草). It´s the first letters of ;

Hou : houkoku (報告/ report)

Ren : renraku  (連絡/ communication)

Sou : soudan (相談/ discussion or ask for an advice)


When this friend of mine was working in the company, he was often told off by his boss for not doing hourensou properly. Many Japanese companies think hourensou is the way to improve team work. What Japanese often call, kyouchousei (協調性/ Cooperativeness). 

Lack of kyouchousei is a real damage as one individual in Japan. While many schools put "individuality" as a school principle, the teachers note "lack of kyouchousei" in the school report card as soon as they see a student who doesn´t follow others.  



The word hourensou was born in 1986 by the former president of SMBC Friend Securities. Back then Japan was in the bubble economy and Japanese enterprises was having some sort of problems in their system internaly. In the 90s, after the bubble economy had collapsed, all the problems, which were behind the bubble came out. 

To make the company transparent, get rid of the pus from the bubble economy and strengthen the bond between the employees was the idea of Tomiji Yamazaki. It was a mind-blowing idea. 

With the recent IT development, people are now expected to do hourensou more than before. Sure, how could you say, you couldn´t see the group email because you were on the street when you have a smart phone?   





To be a good employee, you need to understand hourensou. If not, you´ll be constantly told off by your boss. I think I´d be one of the bad one. 

You must report your progress of the work and the result (houkoku), you must pass the actual information without your opinion (renraku) and you must ask for an advice when you can´t decide (soudan). 

But of course, you cannot just do it. There are some techniques to do hourensou, otherwise your boss thinks you are not sensible enough and again, you will get told off. 



last10_11. You should consider the situation of others. They may be in a meeting. (Do I have to know all the schedule of my colleagues and bosses?)

2. Tell the point first and then the reason. (This, I can understand.)

3. Make it clear the difference between the fact and the assumption. (Yes, I guess. The boss doesn´t want to listen to a gossip.)

4.You should let your boss knows quickly when you make a mistake. (It´s better the damage is smaller.)




There are many books and seminars to learn hourensou in Japan. I don´t think they are saying anything radical. But somehow I feel like a little immature. It reminds me my father who made me write down all the information every time I go out. To where, with whom, from what time to what time, the phone number of the person etc… 

It´s hard for me to imagine a grow-up reporting every step of the day to his boss, like a diary of a primary school child. And the bosses who have several juniors will receive phone calls and email just to report them he or she delivered a catalogue or has just left the station. Do they really need it to manage the progress of the project? I´m not convinced. 



masahiro yamada


Then this man appeared. Masahiro Yamada, the president of Mirai Kogyo (未来工業) in Gifu prefecture. He prohibits his employee to do hourensou. He says, "It´s a waste of time and money". He even has got rid of all the computer from the office. This seems to be a little extreme but a representative of Area Innovation Alliance where positively introduces video conferences, SNS and cloud services to their management thinks the same.

At some point, hourensou has become the main work for both the bosses and the employees. The report is done by cc:mail. Knowing that the boss will not check all, the report becomes just a pile of copy and paste. 



stop horenso


There is a book, "By stopping hourensou, work only 7 hours and 15 minutes a day and the work becomes interesting" by Akio Yamada. I think this is possible. 

I´m not saying hourensou is absolutely a waste of time. But if it becomes the main purpose of the daily work, I don´t think it´s productive and I imagine that is boring. 

Is hourensou important in your office? Do you think it´s essential for your work scene? I like to hear your opinion. 




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  1. Erin Grace 8 years Reply

    This explains so much! When I worked for a Japanese company, my boss was constantly breathing down my neck for progress updates, even on a several-times-daily basis! I didn’t understand it and thought it reflected a lack of trust in my abilities. Between that and the gossipy atmosphere of the company, I wound up quitting after just three months.

    Having worked in the professional world for over seven years now, in both Japanese and American companies, I feel like both could benefit from one another’s lessons. Japanese companies need less hourensou, but American companies need more; often I find that projects fail in America because people aren’t strictly required to talk to their boss throughout the process and become afraid to report problems to the boss early, which only lets the damage fester and grow until it’s finally revealed.

    I used to manage a team, and I had my team leads fill out a hourensou-type report. I only asked for the specific information I wanted (with space for them to add anything important that wasn’t covered elsewhere) and I only had it turned in once a week. I think this was a good approach, because my team leads didn’t have to waste time every day filling out a long report, but at the same time I still got good information on each team so that I could stay on top of problems. Other teams I worked on in American companies had nothing of the sort, and it was easy to drift out of contact with your boss, particularly if you worked from home. Japan and America need to blend approaches!

    • Bryan David 4 years

      For a good salad you need both “hourensou” and “retasu bii”

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