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    What Japanese Kids Want To Be When They Grow Up And What They End Up Becoming

    Children. So young! So full of promise! The world is their oyster and they haven't been crushed by life's merciless sky fist… at least not yet. Still though, it's fun to hear a child's hopes and dreams before they turn into something boring like "I want to go to college and get a stable job and income to support my family." For me, personally, I wanted nothing more than to be a garbage picker-upper. I would patrol the highways in my government issues orange jump suit (didn't realize these people were prisoners / convicts when I was a kid), picking up garbage with a stick with a grabber on the end. I would probably grab somebody's butt with it and everyone would laugh a jolly laugh. What a life it would be!

    A group of four trash pickers in a field

    Then I grew up, and everything became sad. Now I'm working at Tofugu (speaking of trash and garbage). Ugh, my boss at Tofugu is so horrible I might as well be a prisoner! I can tell you one thing. Don't drop the soap around here. You'll totally have to clean it up yourself so nobody slips and hurts themselves.

    What Japanese Kids Want To Become

    All that aside, Daiichi Life Insurance Company in Japan ran an interesting survey recently, finding out what these kids' aspirations were. Some of the top responses made sense to me, others less so. Here, why don't you take a look yourself?


    1. Soccer Player
    2. Scholar or PhD / Doctorate
    3. Police Officer / Detective*
    4. Baseball Player
    5. TV or Anime Character
    6. Astronaut
    7. Food Related Worker*
    8. Train, Bus, or Car Driver*
    9. Doctor
    10. Fireman 10.Paramedic*
    11. Carpenter*


    1. Food Related Worker
    2. Nurse
    3. Kindergarten Teacher
    4. Doctor
    5. Flower Show Worker
    6. School Teacher / Cram School Teacher*
    7. Animal Handler / Pet Shop Worker / Animal Trainer
    8. Piano Teacher / Pianist
    9. Police Officer / Detective*
    10. Designer

    * Tied with the previous item on the list.

    There's some fun ones in there. Of course, you have the TV or Anime Character kids, who want nothing more than to "Catch 'em All" or some other BS like that. Then of course you have the girls wanting to become food related workers right from the start (I guess they start molding them early in Japan). One interesting one was the piano teacher. I wonder how many of these girls were even learning piano at the time. Lastly, I thought it was cool how some girls wanted to become police officers / detectives too, just like the boys (even if it was farther down the list). You go, girls.

    There was also some interesting insight into this survey from the source, too. For example, the top spots for both girls and boys (soccer player / food shop owner/worker) has been the top spot for 16 years in a row now. For #2 on the boys' list, it's the first time in 21 years that "Police Officer / Detective" has been ranked this high. Last year, nurse was #5 for girls, but an increase in popularity for nursing has apparently shot it up to #2 this year. Doctor has also risen from 12th last year to 4th this year. Was there some kind of popular doctor / nurse drama or show in Japan over the last year? I seem to recollect at least one, though Daiichi Life Insurance seems to think it was in response to the giant Tohoku Earthquake. These kids just want to help out! That's super sweet of them, I think.

    The most interesting thing to me is that a lot of these occupations are the kinds of things that American kids (and other countries too, I imagine) would want to get into as well. Besides a few exceptions (piano teacher, scholar, and flower show worker being a few), it seems that kids will be kids. What about you, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    Where College Kids Want To Be

    Japanese students getting ready to graduate
    Source: Jason Bache

    Fast forward a bunch of years. Now these kids are in college, and they're about to graduate. Real life is about to start! While I couldn't find surveys on what they want to be now that they're in college (I think it really starts to vary a lot more when people get older), I did find a survey (from a now-defunct site) that figured out where students would like to work, divided by both gender and type of college degree. That'll have to do. Here are the results:

    B.A. Students (Male)

    1. 三菱商事 Mitsubishi Corporation
    2. 住友商事 Sumitomo Corporation
    3. 三菱東京UFJ銀行 The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.
    4. 伊藤忠商事 ITOCHU Corporation
    5. 東京海上日動火災保険 Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.
    6. 丸紅 Marubeni Corporation
    7. みずほフィナンシャルグループ Mizuho Financial Group, Inc.
    8. 三井住友銀行 Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
    9. 三菱UFJ信託銀行 Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation.
    10. 三井物産 MITSUI & CO., LTD.

    B.A. Students (Female)

    1. 東京海上日動火災保険 Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.
    2. 三菱東京UFJ銀行 The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.
    3. 住友商事 Sumitomo Corporation
    4. 三菱UFJ信託銀行 Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation.
    5. 三井住友銀行 Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
    6. みずほフィナンシャルグループ Mizuho Financial Group, Inc.
    7. ジェイティービー(JTB)グループ JTB Group Organization
    8. 丸紅 Marubeni Corporation
    9. オリエンタルランド Oriental Land Co., Ltd.
    10. 三井住友銀行 Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

    B.S. Students (Male)

    1. 東日本旅客鉄道(JR東日本)East Japan Railway Company
    2. 日立製作所 Hitachi, Ltd.
    3. 住友商事 Sumitomo Corporation
    4. NTTデータ NTT DATA Corporation
    5. 東芝 Toshiba Corporation
    6. ロッテグループ Lotte Group Organization
    7. 三菱商事 Mitsubishi Corporation
    8. 丸紅 Marubeni Corporation
    9. 東海旅客鉄道(JR東海)Central Japan Railway Company
    10. 伊藤忠商事 ITOCHU Corporation

    B.S. Students (Female)

    1. ロッテグループ Lotte Group Organization
    2. カゴメ Kagome Co.,Ltd
    3. サントリーホールディングス Suntory Holdings Limited.
    4. 明治グループ(明治・Meiji Seika ファルマ)Meiji Holdings Limited.
    5. 森永製菓 Morinaga & Co.,Ltd
    6. ミツカングループ本社 Mizkan Group Corporation.
    7. 日清製粉グループ Nisshin Seifun Group Inc.
    8. 味の素 Ajinomoto Co., Inc.
    9. 資生堂 Shiseido
    10. 森永乳業 Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Inc.

    See any familiar companies? I bet you see some. Do all of them make sense to you, in terms of how they're ranked?

    One thing that I thought was funny was how the B.S. Students (Male) seemed to still be into trains. Remember how boys wanted to be train conductors? Well, apparently they still like trains, because both #1 and #9 have to do with trains in some way or another. While it doesn't say what they want to do with trains, the connection is still there no matter what, and I got a little chuckle out of it. Choo choo!

    Another thing I noticed was that at least in the B.S. category, women seemed to favor more food related companies. If you remember back to the earlier "what I want to be when I grow up" list, girls really wanted to be working at a food shop. So, during that time growing up they were still interested in food, and still hoped to get into a food related business, even if it's not opening your own restaurant or something along those lines.

    Dying For Your Job

    Skeleton hopeful looking for a job in Japan
    Source: Travis

    Growing up, graduating, then finding a job isn't all fun and games, though. In a third survey (now removed), I learned about the 早死にする職業ランキング, i.e. the ranking of occupations that will kill you the fastest. These jobs will cut the years off your life (or perhaps even simply just drive you to suicide). There were a few things they talked about that could influence your longevity.

    1. If you can decide what to do by yourself.
    2. If you don't overwork or over drink/eat after work (as a part of work, with clients, etc).
    3. If you work on a fixed shift.

    So for example, being a salesman in a big advertising agency (#1 on the list) will cause you to have to work crazy hard for your boss, make you overwork a ton, and then lastly send you out late into the evenings to drink and eat the nights away with clients. While all this drinking and eating doesn't sound so bad at first, it really does grate on you. This required near-alcoholism (or maybe not even "near") isn't going to be good on your long term health. Not to mention how little sleep you'll be getting most nights. In the long run, this is going to be very bad for you. So, because of this difficult work schedule, it's thought that being a salesman at a big advertising agency will bring on our friend The Reaper the fastest.

    You already know number one, but here's the top ten ranking for occupations that will make you die young, according to the survey:

    1. 大手広告代理店の営業: Salesman at a big advertising agency
    2. IT企業の下請けSE: SE (System Engineer) subcontractor for an IT company
    3. チェーン飲食店店長: Manager of a chain restaurant
    4. 若手官僚: Young bureaucrat
    5. 病棟勤務の看護師: Nurse working at a hospital
    6. タクシー運転手: Taxi driver
    7. LCCの客室乗務員: Cabin attendant of LCC (low-cost carrier)
    8. 自衛官: Japanese Self Defense Force member
    9. 公立学校の教員: Teacher of a public school
    10. トラック運転手: Long-haul truck driver There was also some explanation as to why some of these jobs were considered killers of your long life. For example, with the system engineer subcontractor (#2), the manager of a chain restaurant (#3), and Japanese Self Defense Force member (#8), you're overworked and have no self-decision. I think you can see how this would shorten your life string.

    On the other hand, if you're a young bureaucrat (perhaps they don't live long enough to become middle-aged or old bureaucrats?) you have no self-decision because of your age. Then, you're overworking yourself to prove yourself. It's said that 3 of every 20 young bureaucrats killed themselves within ten years of starting their jobs. They do, however, make a very good salary for how young they are, so… money > life & happiness, right?

    Lastly, nurses (#5), taxi drivers (#6), cabin attendants of a LCC (#7), and teachers at public schools (#9) are all overworked, have irregular shifts, and have no self-decision. Don't worry, though. If you go teach English in Japan, it's not anywhere as bad as the regular teachers have it. In fact, some would say it's quite an easy job, though you will probably have a problem with "no self-decision." So you probably won't have to worry about JET cutting a decade off your life, I'm pretty sure.

    Still, looking back to survey number one, you can once again see some connections. Some of those kids' dreams have come true! Sadly, those dreams will kill them off earlier rather than later. Taxi driver (driving a car!), long haul truck driver (driving a truck, beep beep!), nurse, manager at a chain restaurant, and teacher were all mentioned in one way or another on the survey that listed the children's life aspirations. Someone should tell these kids that maybe these jobs aren't what they're cut out to be. Apparently, the kids who wanted to be Ultraman when they grew up had the right idea. Who knew?

    The actors of Ultraman living their dream job in Japan
    They called my dreams stupid… but now they’re all dead. DEAD! AHAHAHA!

    So there you have it. We went through the Japanese child's mind, seeing what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then, we jumped to the Japanese college graduate and saw where they wanted to work most. Lastly, we took a look at the Japanese jobs that will kill you the fastest, and saw how many children followed their dreams… even if it meant an earlier death for them (dun dun dunnnnn!).

    Whatever the results of these three surveys are, though, every person and every job is going to be different. There are a lot of broad assumptions being made in surveys like these, so it's best to take it all with a grain of salt. Still, it gives you a little insight into the hopes and dreams of kids as well as work society in Japan, so I think it's interesting nonetheless.