Mitsubishi Discrimination (Home)

Mitsubishi Workplace

During the hiring process I was assured repeatedly that the company was preparing a comfortable working environment for me. Around June 1989, Mr. Urabe of the personnel department at Mitsubishi's Computer Works called up my contact in Japan to state so. That was the last time for the company to promise so. However, once I arrived at the Mitsubishi plant in September 1989, I didn't see any trace of effort having been put to make the workplace comfortable for me.

Japanese Environment at Mitsubishi

At the beginning I was put into Mitsubishi's System Architecture group. It was an elite group of about 10 engineers, including Dr. Shinya Fushimi, and its English language proficiency level seemed to be somewhat higher that the average for the company. Shinya Fushimi's English language abilities were excellent but unfortunately he spent most of his time in other sections. It was quite difficult to speak with my other colleagues in English later except for briefly with Dr. Omori, and graduate of Tokyo University like Shinya Fushimi and a student of Professor Kitsuregawa. Omori left Mitsubishi after a short stint there.

Group Meetings

It was customary in Mitsubishi for each section to hold weekly group meetings where we were informed about the activities of the group and other important matters. Group meetings, as to be expected, were held in Japanese language. For the first month or two, at the end of the meeting, somebody mostly Shinya Fushimi or Ono, the section head, summarized the meeting proceedings to me in English. However, soon that step was gradually getting ignored,

Japanese Software and Manual

As I have already mentioned that I had qualifications for a financial career but against my will Mitsubishi somehow forced me to come to their computer works promising that my skills would be used in developing financial systems. Well, there was no trace of that and instead I was assigned to work with Shinya Fushimi and very soon I was working on database SQL language. A few articles provided to me were in English but when it came to actually using the computers and reading the manuals it was a really a most uncomfortable experience for me.

All computer software including the operating system had Japanese language interface. Same was the story with manuals. On top of that most of the time I was sent to test SQL systems on an IBM computer kept outside the Mitsubishi's computer works. There I worked alone, struggling with what all those Kanjis (Chinese characters) meant with nobody to help me. During that time I had asked Shinya Fushimi about why was I hired with so much interest, and he told me that my recruitment was a major one for the company with top-level executives signing the papers to hire me. It seems like there was a purpose behind all that. Moreover, since I was repeatedly told that I was a pioneer, I assumed that the company didn't have much experience working with foreigners with no Japanese language skills and therefore it didn't know how uncomfortable it could be to be put into complete Japanese language.

Pressure to Learn Japanese Language

After a couple of months at work, tremendous pressure was being applied to force me to learn Japanese language as quickly as possible. Sawai, our department chief (director in the USA) would start speaking to me in Japanese in front of others and when I will get confused, he would look disappointed. Soon some of my colleagues started making faces when I couldn�t understand the spoken Japanese. When I tried to reason with them I was told, for example by Takatani, that foreigners can learn Japanese language in a year or so, Soon it was becoming obvious to them that I had no ability for Japanese language and I was even told "stupid." (By the way I passed the highest level (level 1) Japanese language proficiency exam for foreigners in slightly more than three years' period.)

If it was just the spoken language I could concentrate on that but equal pressure was exerted on me to learn written Japanese language. After about four months in job, Sawai called me once and asked me if I had mastered written Japanese language. I couldn�t believe it and thought that his unrealistic expectation was probably because of his inexperience of dealing with foreigners. Ono, my section head was more gentle and asked me to gradually introduce Japanese language sentences in my technical writings.

A Caucasian Male Joins the Section

Around beginning of 1990, about 4-5 months after I had joined Mitsubishi, Ono, my section head, announced that he, as a part of recruitment team, was going to the USA to recruit a few fresh graduates from top-notch universities there, to be brought to Japan for working. (A few were hired from UK too.) It seems like Mitsubishi had this experimental plan to hire a few technical persons, fresh graduates from USA and UK universities, and see how they adjust to working conditions in Mitsubishi, Japan. Later we were informed that one of the dozen or so fresh graduates � Bitar - was to join our System Architecture group. Hey all were on one-year contracts.

I was looking forward for Bitar's arrival. Given Mitsubishi�s complete inability to understand how difficult it was for a foreigner like me to work in a complete Japanese language environment, I wanted to see how Bitar adjusts to harsh working conditions at Mitsubishi's computer works. I thought that if we both complained together it will have more effect on Mitsubishi's management.

He came around September of 1990. However, my expectations were dashed. Not only was Bitar provided with English language operating system and English language manuals, he was provided about three months of intensive Japanese language training in the USA at company's cost, but also after arrival, he with other fresh graduates were sent to Berlitz language school for spoken Japanese language lessons for about 2-3 months. Moreover, he was given time at work to study Japanese language and absolutely no pressure was put on him to learn written Japanese language.

One other interesting thing happened. The management started saying that there was no difference in Bitar's and my contract. His contract was for a year renewable to two, but will last for 5 years; on the other hand, my contract was for life but I should be leaving in 5 years too.