‘Black Corporation’ Watami Changes Name, Keeps Bad Reputation

Watami rebrands but is it enough

The Watami Group is a huge Japanese business conglomerate most known for its chain of Watami izakaya restaurants, which extend throughout Japan and Asia. However, starting as early as 2008, when a Japanese person hears the name Watami, Asahi Super Dry and karaage may not be the first thing that comes to mind anymore. Watami has become infamous as a black corporation, with numerous reports of extreme overworking of employees and other inappropriate working conditions. As a result, their corporate image and their profits has really been suffering.

It stands to reason that when Watami’s founder recently announced that the company was changing its internal slogan and renaming a huge portion of its stores, many eyebrows were raised. While the obvious ploy to disassociate the restaurants with the black company image may fool some unknowing consumers, netizens on 2ch were not impressed.


Watami Revokes Administrative Ideology Of “24 Hours A Day, Work To The Death,” But No Substantial Change?

At the Watami Group’s 30th anniversary celebration held on May 12, founder Watanabe Miki announced that he was revoking the phrase “24 Hours a Day, 365 Days a Year, Work to the Death,” which is found in a pamphlet aimed at employees that presents a collection of the company’s ideologies.

Ever since the words “24 Hours a Day, 365 Days a Year, Work to the Death,” were included in an article published in Shukan Bunshun in June 2013 after the weekly newspaper obtained an original copy of Watami’s “collection of ideologies,” the phrase has become representative of Watami’s black labor policies.

Work is “Life Itself”?

In 2008, two women who had just started working at Watami two months before committed suicide due to being overworked. After long work hour conditions including overtime exceeding 100 hours have repeatedly come to light, Watami has faced relentless criticism as a black company, and was even awarded the “black company first prize” in 2013.

In a survey carried out by Shukan Bunshun in 2013, 80.6% of readers responded “yes” to the question, “Do you think Watami is a black company?”

With the recent revocation, it seems the company has given consideration to these criticisms. According to a May 12 article in Alterna Magazine, the “24 Hours…” portion of the ideology pamphlet will be changed to “Work is Life Itself.” In copies of the pamphlet that have already been distributed to employees, they will deal with the issue by affixing a sticker over the phrase in question.

Although the Alterna article was removed from their site as of 6:00 PM on May 14, the editorial department has stated that “The revocation of the phrase is a fact,” and that they “plan to re-upload the article by the end of the day” as soon as they can verify a number of facts, such as the number of people in attendance at the anniversary party.

However, there is already strong criticism on the internet regarding the revised statement of “Work is Life Itself,” with many saying, “The substance hasn’t changed.”

Work is a part of life, and a means of living, but it isn’t life itself. As long as Watami maintains its way of thinking which forces people to equate working at Watami with living, there won’t be anything but the concept of “work until death.”

”It’s an appropriate expression, isn’t it? Unless you die, you can’t escape from your work… It’s the same thing.”
”Wanting people to just think about work even outside of work hours, nothing has changed about your mentality.”

Watami Changes its Name to “GOHAN”, “Ginmasa”

Against the backdrop of this “revocation drama,” it seems Watami wants to somehow improve its company image. With the economic recovery, the cost of hourly wages for part-time workers in the domestic food-service market continue to rise, and the food service industry has found itself scrambling for workers.

Even companies that until now have secured workers through part-time jobs have one after another made those jobs full-time employment, and are now earnestly working to secure exceptional and talented people.

Meanwhile, Watami’s image as a “black company” has worsened, and they are having trouble securing talented workers. At an accounting information session, the company reported that the number of newly graduated employees entering the company in April was about 120, which was half of their goal.

In the accounting period of March 2014, the company was in the red with a net loss of about 4.9 billion yen. This figure was augmented by the extraordinary loss (about 2.1 billion yen) that accompanied the closure of about ten percent (60 stores) of the total number of stores owned by the company. It seems that with the current shortage of workers, closing a fraction of stores was the only way to maintain an appropriate work environment.

Belatedly, they decided to make about 100 part-time jobs in a limited area into full-time employment. They say that they will continue to improve the working environment by reconsidering business hours and strengthening mental health support efforts.

What’s more, the 90% of Watami-owned businesses that have “Watami” in their name, such as the Watami and Wataminka chains, will be reduced to around 50-60%, and the rest of the businesses will have their names changed to things like “GOHAN” and “Ginmasa.”

What Do Those Who “Entered the Company After Being Moved by the Ideology” Think?

The accounting documents say “we will accelerate the change towards working conditions that can receive more support from customers,” they are also probably aiming to dilute the association with Watami’s image as a black company. Through these means, will they really be able to increase new employees and part-time workers?

On Watanabe Miki’s facebook page, which reported on the anniversary party, you can find a positive post from someone who seem to be an employee. “I entered the company after I was moved by the company ideology… I was able to return to the start. I was proud to think that I could enter Watami and share in a wonderful time. I am truly thankful. Tomorrow, I will continue to work hard for the advancement of humanity.”

In the food-service industry, where the worker shortage is becoming more obvious, the improvement of the work environment has become a life or death problem. But the cutting and pasting of a single part of the ideology probably won’t fool workers any longer.

Comments from 2ch.net:


Renaming fraud?


I guess it’s like an alias?


It’s a company that seems like a swindler, huh?

ボ ラギノール(西日本)@\(^o^)/:

I wonder if this is like when a Soapland that’s been exposed changes it’s name?

名無しさん@涙目です。(家)@\(^o^)/ [in response to above]:

It’s too accurate, they blew their overtime pay.


You see this in discriminatory language and in fashion terminology, too. No matter how many times you change the words, you won’t change the discrimination, and unfashionable stuff will still be unfashionable w


If you try to hide it at this late hour, you just seem misinformed…


It’s a criminal way of thinking, isn’t it w Do they really think changing their name will keep them from being found out? As long as there’s the internet, they will be black into eternity w


Will “GOHAN” and “Ginmasa” now become synonymous with black?


I see, I get it


Let’s spread the information about the change so that they don’t accidentally get away with it.


I can’t trust bastards who change their name or use an alias.


A signboard disguise? If I didn’t know this, I’d be fooled by it.

バーニングハンマー(庭)@\(^o^)/ :

They’re really smart. I might even forget this later!

16文キック(大阪府)@\(^o^)/ :

The cost of surpressing the black stigma is huuuuge.


Beware of the hidden Watami system!


At least they’re self-aware that they’re hated.


Their name was getting spread around so they changed the name www what a cheap shot!


Won’t this have the opposite affect?

トペ スイシーダ(愛知県)@\(^o^)/:

We have to be sure to spread this around w
This is a Watami establishment w

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