New York Times (August 16) carries an article reporting Sonny’s case of establishing “the boredom Room” to accommodate ‘regular' employees whom they want to get rid of under the title, “Layoffs taboo, Japan workers are sent to the Boredom Room.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/business/global/layoffs-illegal-japan-workers-are-sent-to-the-boredom-room.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Ahead of this article, the Asahi, a leading Japanese newspaper ran a campaign recently against the prevailing practices of Japanese big companies such as Panasonic, Sonny, Toshiba, Sharp, NEC, Ricoh, Fuji Zerox, IBM Japan and Asahi Life Insurance installing so-called “追い出し部屋 - Oidashibeya (chase-out room by its literal translation)” to streamline workforces under the titles of “Career Challenge Program,” “Career Development (Design) Room,” and “New Business Exploitation Room.”

As the firing and layoffs of regular employees for the employers’ one-sided reasons or convenience is strictly restricted by law, big companies have worked out the idea of setting up “chase-out room,” where they pen employees whom they no longer want to keep and wait them voluntarily leave the company.

‘Oidashibeya’ is not necessarily “boredom room” where occupants are not given job assignment. They are more often given never-achievable, heavy work quota on the contrary, and demanded by the managers to achieve it, or resign the company.

I don’t know whether such cruel labor conditions and irregular working system exist in any of English speaking countries or not. But I’m curious to know what is the right English counterpart to the word, ‘Oidashibeya’– chase (or force)-out room aside “Boredom Room,” which reflects only an aspect of the cruelty of ‘Oidashibeya.’


I was surprised to see an inhuman description of reassignment unit which I’d never fancied when I was in office in this article. It says: “The United Auto Workers and automakers had created, under union contracts, places where idled workers were essentially warehoused.”

  • I thought those were the employees who were consigned to window seats: 窓際族. Have things changed?
    – Robusto
    Aug 18, 2013 at 1:37
  • Robusto-san. I’m glad to have your mention on “madogiwa zoku.” Actually the article refers to“madogiwa zoku- the window-seat-tribe” as unneeded workers who are left with little to do besides gaze out of the window. “Madogiwa zoku” which was current in 1990 through early 2000, were mostly middle managers in middle and older age. They still had their desks and chair at the window side of their office. ‘Oidashibeya’ is far worse and drastically cruel to the derelict employees regardless their age. You can cling to the chair of ‘Madogiwa zoku.’ Aug 18, 2013 at 5:08
  • Cont. as long as you don’t much care about your face and your pride as a businessman. But you cannot survive in ‘Oidashibeya’ which is something like a disguised sweatshop. Aug 18, 2013 at 5:09
  • 2
    ‘Boredom room’ sounds more like an 窓際 to me than an 追い出し部屋. I would perhaps translate the latter as something like the ‘Sisyphos room’ or, shunning the awkward use of ‘room’ altogether, say that such employees are “transferred to the Sisyphean department”. Aug 18, 2013 at 5:22
  • Janus Bahs Jacquet. The cruel conditions of ‘Oidashibeya’ where the derelict employees are imposed unachievable assignment and quota can be exactly compared to Sisyphus’ fate. I happened to know Sisyphus’s name only by Albert Camiu’s short essay, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus.’ Most of Japanese (or Asians) may not know who’s Sisyphus. Do you think Sisyphus’ name passes as an unreasonable and cruel treatment without explanation among Anglophones? Aug 19, 2013 at 1:05

2 Answers 2


The New York City Department of Education has a similar institution, reassignment centers, where teachers accused of misconduct are sent while their cases are resolved. Teachers refer to them as the Rubber Room:-

Allegedly intended to serve as temporary holding facilities for teachers accused of various kinds of misconduct who are awaiting an official hearing, these reassignment centers have become known amongst the "exiled" teachers subculture as "rubber rooms", so named after the padded cells of psychiatric hospitals.

I'd suggest that if you called your Boredom Room the Rubber Room, most people would understand what you meant.

  • 1
    +1 (+2 if I could!). Very good find. Something that is both very close in meaning and sounds perfectly idiomatic (even if you haven’t heard of these rubber rooms beforehand, which I hadn’t). Aug 18, 2013 at 5:46
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    I'm suprised teachers refer to the reassignment centers via rubber room, because that term is so closely and commonly associated with psychiatric facilities. Aug 18, 2013 at 5:55
  • @jwpat7: I'm not surprised; I suspect it is an inside jape at the administrators. Aug 18, 2013 at 6:01
  • 1
    On second thought; if the phrase is to be used without explanation, perhaps Rubber-wall Room is a tad better Aug 18, 2013 at 6:03
  • 3
    I'd never heard the term Rubber Room. Out of context (or even, in some cases, with insufficient context) it could be thought to refer to something else entirely, bearing in mind the slang meaning of rubber to refer to a condom.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 18, 2013 at 12:33

I do not know the Japanese language nor am I an expert on English usage. But the context of the use of the word in Japan suggests to me that it is a waiting room for employees whose jobs are no more "safe".

Borrowing from the spy novel lingo where "safe houses" are frequently used for keeping witnesses out of harm's way under the Witness Protection Programme, maybe we could call this holding area an "unsafe house".

Also, considering that these unwanted employees are on their way out though through coercive prodding, an alternative descriptor could be "exit room".

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