I just stopped by Yoshinoya, the beef bowl chain, for a late lunch.
The manager was a young Japanese man in his late twenties, maybe.
The two men and the woman doing the cooking, washing the dishes and preparing the trays were all special needs individuals.
The two servers were Chinese women. The older one, who has been working at this particular outlet for a while now, had her name in just the one in kanji: Yang, with the hand radical, pronounced Yō in the Japanese. The younger one, however, had both her last name and furigana for the Chinese pronunciation next to it. Her name was Ms. Chang, with the bow radical, pronounced Chō in the Japanese. On her name tag, next to the single kanji, in parentheses, was the katakana "Chan".
Rather than passing as a Japanese--which she could have since Chō is a common family name--she instead was given the liberty to assert her nationality.
"It's not 'Chō' its 'Chang'--get used to it."
is not a message many of the old school would have ever imagined being said on these shores. Especially not in the service industries.
All in all, a snapshot of the meaning of full employment in downtown Tokyo, spring 2007.