Kikuko Tsumura: There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job


Burned out from her previous job, our nameless narrator wants “a very uneventful job….Ideally there would be events of some kind from time to time, but nothing too sudden.”

Here are the jobs the ever-obliging recruitment agent Mrs Masakado comes up with: 

The Surveillance Job (incredibly boring and likely to make you a slave of Amazon)

The Bus Advertising (beware the supranormal power of advertising)

The Cracker Packet Job (can biscuit packets solve all your problems?)

The Postering Job (loneliness as a business opportunity) 

The Easy Job In The Hut In The Big Forest (why did the last person run away because of “mental fatigue”?)

There’s always a catch: whether she likes it or not, our heroine can’t help getting sucked into other people’s lives. And she just can’t help wanting to do the job well. There’s no such thing as an easy job for someone who can’t help being a human being, even if she’d like to be a robot. When we find out in the last section what her previous job was, it isn’t a surprise.

This is a picture of the loneliness our consumer culture only exacerbates: the solitary writer she’s watching in the first job seems to come to life only when he’s ordering things online or receiving parcels, and the cult in The Postering Job sucks in lonely people with free events to sign them up for paid ones. As she moves on through the jobs, without realising it she’s getting to grips with that loneliness, and with her own. 

And at the same time this is a very funny picture of the love-hate relationship we have with our work, the absurdities and obsessions of any workplace that we don’t even notice after a while, the quiet heroes, and the loud nuisances and flat-out weirdos we have to negotiate. The narrator is a beguilingly wry and straightforward presence, like the child who saw that the emperor had no clothes.  

There are some intriguing books coming out of Japan about work culture and loneliness – another one worth following up is Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, which we’ve written about in a previous post.

4 thoughts on “Kikuko Tsumura: There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job

  1. Interesting that you should mention Convenience Store Woman the end as it immediately came to mind as I was reading your piece! I can’t recall if you’ve read Hiromi Kawakami? If not, you might find her work of interest. Also Elisa Shua Dusapin’s Winter in Sokcho, which is set in South Korea but taps into similar themes.

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