I have long heard that Japan had a problem with bullying, emotional and physical, in the workplace, but until today I had never actually seen it. I was having a late lunch at a sushi bar near the university and I was the only customer in the shop, sitting at the counter and ordering sushi piece by piece direct from the Chef. Was enjoying it, chatting with the guy and enjoying sushi as fresh as it gets.
Then in walks the Senior Sushi Chef, calls the guy over to him and punches him in the shoulder and complains about something. It was a full on punch to, to which the first guys response was, "sorry". The head chef then back hand slaps him across the face and says something I didn't catch, to which guy one bows slightly and say sorry again, for which he received another back hand slap. This hitting and bowing repeats four or five times at which point the boss storms out.
No other staff member says anything throughout the little incident, and once it was over the guy on the receiving end simply returned to making my lunch, with the impression of his bosses hand still visible across his face. Two other customers had walked in halfway through the exchange, and were doing a very good job of being awkwardly silent, which seems to be the appropriate Japanese response to this sort of thing.
Me, I was shocked, and slightly angry. Random violence is something I think I understand reasonably well after living as I have in NZ, but the idea of someone just standing there and bowing to a guy busy taking swing after swing at him is not something I can understand.