More than one-quarter of the Japanese workers taking part in a survey admitted that the thought of killing their boss had crossed their mind on at least one occasion, underlining the stresses that employees here are often under. 

Fully 27 percent of the 1,006 men and women aged between 20 and 69 who responded to the recent survey by Shirabee confessed to having had homicidal thoughts towards a superior – with younger people in particular expressing sympathy for the frustrations and anger that are apparently bubbling just beneath the surface in many Japanese companies. 

“I would never kill anyone, but I can understand why so many people are driven to the brink by the way they are treated by their companies”, said Mayao Shibata, a translator from Tokyo. 

“I worked part-time in a high-end bistro in central Tokyo for a while and the manager was himself a frustrated 30-something employee who simply did not like me because I was at a good university and going places”, she told The Telegraph. “He made my life miserable; nothing I ever did was good enough. 

“If he treated a man like that, then I can imagine things could get violent”, she added. 

“I think that part of the problem in both Japanese companies and society in general is that there is too much respect for seniority that is based on age rather than ability”, she said. “It is difficult for younger people with good new ideas to get their suggestions across or to move up in a company, but there is still too much importance attached to seniority for no good reason”.

Makoto Watanabe, a senior lecturer in communications at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, agrees – and admits that he has been pushed close to the edge himself. 

“Too many old people refuse to retire because their entire identities and lives are wrapped up in their jobs and they will ‘be’ nothing if they leave, so they are blocking younger people coming through”, he said. 

Japan has also witnessed a proliferation of what are known as “black companies,” he said, which pay poorly, fail to provide health or insurance coverage and force staff to put in hours that are well beyond the legal limits. Stories of staff who are not paid if they leave are legendary, yet there is still a large pool of semi-skilled young people looking for employment. 

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“These people are really being abused”, said Mr Watanabe. “They are paid badly, work in dangerous environments and have bad bosses, so in many ways it is a surprise that only 27 percent of people say they want to kill their boss”.

In March, police in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, arrested a 21-year-old part time worker at a bedroom furnishing warehouse on suspicion of setting fire to the building. It took firefighters 31 hours to bring the blaze under control, although there were no casualties. 

Satoru Sunaga admitted to arson and said he had started the fire “to relieve stress”, Fuji TV reported.