Karoshi is the name given to death caused by to much work. There is a national Japanese karoshi hotline, a karoshi self-help book and a law that funnels money to the widow and children of a salaryman who works himself into an early karoshi for the good of his company.
For decades, the Japanese government has been trying, and largely failing, to set limits on work and on overtime. The problem of karoshi became prevalent enough to warrant its own word in the boom years of the late 1970s, as the number of Japanese men working more than 60 hours a week soared. Thirty years later, overtime rules remain so nebulous and so weakly enforced that the United Nations’ International Labor Organization has described Japan as a country with no legal limits on the practice. The consequences show up not only in claims for death and disability from overwork but in suicides attributed to “fatigue from work.”