There’s no need to care about our staff, because they’re foreigners, says Japanese maid service

Vague phrasing and fuzzy logic leads to swift backlash.

Nichiigakkan has a number of companies under its corporate umbrella, and one of them is Sunny Maid Service, which provides housekeeping services in Japan. But while Nichiigakkan is headquartered in Tokyo, all of Sunny’s maids are Filipino.

On its website Sunny extolls the virtues of its Filipino employees, describing them as cheerful and energetic, and even boasts that their housekeeping skills are “accredited by the Philippine government.” That’s all quite complimentary, but Sunny was recently criticized for taking things too far when it said that yet another advantage to having a Filipino housekeeper is because customers wouldn’t have to “care” about them in the same way they would a Japanese housekeeper.

▼ A claim that simultaneously hurts the heart and the head.

Before we add any more logs to the fire that Sunny has been roasted on, let’s take a look at the specific phrase the company used: kizukai. Translated literally, kizukai means “to use energy,” but it’s a mental or emotional energy that’s being described, and generally in the sense of making accommodations for someone else, often in a preemptive sense. For example, let’s say you and a friend just finished eating lunch, and you’re thinking about ordering a slice of cake for dessert. But then you remember that your friend is on a diet, so you decide not to order the cake, to avoid making your friend feel bad or giving them any extra temptation to have to fight off. That’s an example of kizukai.

In part of its advertising, Sunny said that one of the merits of its Filipino housekeepers is:

“Because they are foreigners, they won’t drag you into prying conversations, and you don’t have to worry about them seeing your mail or other documents you have in the house. With a Japanese housekeeper, you can’t help feeling conscious of them and worrying, but with our staff, there’s no need for kizukai.”

Sunny was quickly criticized by many who saw the statement, and perhaps much of the problem stems from the quick transition from things the customer wants (i.e. to avoid prying conversations or having their mail/documents looked at by a housekeeper) to the use of kizukai. Again, although there’s often a tiring nuance to kizukai, it still usually



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