Notes from Toyota-Land: An American Engineer in Japan

Darius Mehri, Author, Robert Perrucci, Foreword by
Darius Mehri, Author, Robert Perrucci, Foreword by ILR Press $26.95 (231p) ISBN 978-0-8014-4289-6
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Mehri documents his three years working in Japan as a computer simulation engineer for a subsidiary of Toyota in this book, which is neither a satisfying social critique nor a thorough introduction to Japanese work culture; instead, Mehri provides some of both, but readers looking for either will be left wanting. The author draws on a diary he kept during his time abroad to re-create moments and experiences in and out of the office, and describes interactions with his own colleagues as well as observations of the blue-collar labor force on the manufacturing floor. Mehri argues that the dominant culture at the company is a ""culture of rules,"" consisting of rules written on signs and in memoranda, unwritten rules that employees pick up instinctively and rules regarding language and manners ""that are learned culturally, simply by being Japanese or living in Japan."" Mehri explores the peculiarities of Japanese corporate life, recalling the trouble he unintentionally caused when he asked about a coffee machine for the workplace. At times, the Dilbert-esque bureaucracy at Toyota seems similar to that common among large American corporations. The author recounts his experiences off the clock, too, discussing meals he shared with co-workers and friends in yakitori places and neighborhood bars. While some of Mehri's recollections are not engaging and some parts of the book could be more fleshed out, the narrative has moments of genuine insight.
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