09 July, 2017

What's this Japanese object?

I haven't posted a photo like this for a long time. Can you guess what this white Japanese household item is used for? The ordinary-sized coat hanger is included for size comparison. (If you live, or have lived in Japan, let's wait and see what guesses other people come up with.)

06 July, 2017

Moving from overwhelming to simple

Note the "overwhelming price" here. It was everywhere
in the store. I'm not sure that that's what they meant!
I was initially amused, though, by the thought of a
swimming melon!
I finished the most pressing items on my work's to-do-before-holidays list. At times the last couple of weeks have been a bit like this store I visited yesterday: overwhelming. I'm really happy to be walking away now for a couple of weeks.

Wall mural I spotted at a McDonalds restaurant.
Soon I'll be "Enjoying the simple things in life", like time with family, campfires, reading, etc.

I'm not sure how much I'll be posting here in the coming weeks. Especially as I won't have a computer and as the mobile app for Blogger has not been updated by the developer for a long time, it is getting harder and harder to post from my phone.

05 July, 2017

Today, very different to yesterday

Yesterday I spent looking at a computer screen. Today I've hardly been home. I met up with a friend and we went riding to my favourite ride-to park, then we rode another couple of kilometres further to a cafe for lunch. Later in the afternoon was self-maintenance, including a hair cut and then a video call with my life-long friend, Melina in Australia.

It was such a good counterbalance to yesterday and tomorrow. I've now got one more day of computer work, then I can walk away for 16 days and pretend I have no responsibilities beyond my immediate family.
The hydrangeas were still out at the park.
We had the edge of typhoon sweep through last night and this is a post-typhoon sky. All washed-clean. The air was
still humid and sticky, but the heat wasn't as intense as earlier in the week.
I love the moss! In the background is the dog-run.
Never enough hydrangea photos at this time of year!
We found some flowers that we don't know. Anyone?
Yummy lunch and non-stop conversation. I love investing time
with friends, especially here where you don't know how long you'll
have them for.

04 July, 2017

What's been going on in our house this week?

It's been head-down for me here as I try to get everything vital done in my various roles before we go away on our summer holidays on Friday.
This time last year we'd already begun
our epic camping tour. This year's holiday
will include less camping, but we will,
Lord willing, get three nights under
canvas at a lake up north.

I've been:

  • doing final checking of the Summer issue of Japan Harvest magazine
  • working on content for the new OMF Japan website (due for launch August 4)
  • working on acquiring and producing blog posts that will feed content onto the above website (and you know how addicted I am to blogging—it's been a bit difficult to focus on anything else)
  • learning new software: Wordpress.org in order to do the above
  • editing articles for my writing critique group, and for the Autumn issue of Japan Harvest
  • chasing up articles that are late for the Autumn issue
  • editing my own writing for several different sources
So yes, really all text- and computer-based. My dream is that one day I might be able to ease into going away, rather than work to the last minute and pack with my head only half on what's to come, but mostly on what's not quite finished!

David's been at school for part of most days. He's been doing things at his desk, while simultaneously providing access to the robotics room so that some scouts can tidying it up before the new school year, a service project, I'm told.

The boys are all very relaxed, going to bed late and getting up late. Sometimes hanging out with friends, but generally quietly doing things at home. Really very different to when they were younger. This morning both David and I left before anyone got up. I went to a coffee shop to work and David to school. It's very different, this stage of not having to have someone at home to supervise every moment.

Last night we enjoyed hanging out over a BBQ with nearby friends before we each leave town on our respective summer holidays. It's real bliss to have the freedom to do that on a Monday night!

We've also had a heat-wave come through these last couple of days. Up till now the temperatures have been in the mid to high 20s (Celsius) most of the time. But since the weekend it's been low to mid 30s, with high humidity. It was 32C in our bedroom last night when we went to go to bed. I bailed and we slept on our air mattress in the air conditioned lounge (we don't have functional air con in the bedrooms). That was after a bad sleep on Sunday night. The night started out at 30C and was down to only 28C by the morning.

These temperatures this early in the season are unusual, but it won't be long before it gets that hot and stays that hot until late August or mid September. It's a dilemma as to whether I dislike a Tokyo summer or winter more.

Now, though, it's raining. I'm guessing that the heat has broken for the time being.

02 July, 2017

Shaming cleans up our city?

Tomorrow is the first day of a new system of rubbish collection in our city. Up till last October all rubbish was put out at community rubbish stations. Some of these were really badly positioned (like on the road). And some got quite messy, like the one below.

I took this photo today while on our way to church. It used to have green, blue, and pink bins in it like the photo below, but these were removed in October. Alas someone or some people aren't following the rules.
Last October our city (Higashi Kurume) began a transition to all rubbish being collected from in front of your house. Tomorrow is the first day that all rubbish (except milk cartons and styrofoam) are collected from in front of your house.

My curious boys wondered about this: "Why?" I asked a Japanese friend and she didn't hesitate before saying, "Shame." 

She went on to explain that if you put out the wrong rubbish or if the crows get into it, it is clear whose responsibility it is to clean it up. They also might be hoping to reduce the amount of rubbish put out by people. Tokyo, like most big cities, has the nightmare of rubbish disposal with little space. She also wondered, out loud, if people might be inclined not to drink so much as a pile of beer cans outside your house is also potentially embarrassing.
This is what a community rubbish disposal centre used to look like. These colour-coded bins are all gone now.
I wonder if Australians would yield to such tactics? 

I did show her a video of our wheelie bins and she was intrigued. Those get smelly too, but at least household rubbish is generally not strewn along the road as can happen here. Yes, I know, Japan has the reputation for being clean and tidy and not without reason, it generally is. Shame is a big motivating factor in keeping your little corner of the city clean.

There are two other changes in rubbish collection. They've reorganised the schedule, David kindly created a nice little chart for the side of our fridge.

From October rubbish disposal will cost us too, we'll have to buy three types of pre-printed  bags to put our rubbish in.

01 July, 2017

Job changes

It's unusual for me to spend most of Saturday at the computer, but that's exactly what I've done today. Thankfully we're going out this evening for a BBQ with American/Canadian friends, so I'll get plenty of social interaction there. And some cultural appreciation, apparently, they've been wanting to invite us over for months now, keen to show us how they do BBQs.

One of the things I did this morning was send out our prayer letter. If you'd like a copy, please email me. But here are some snippets from it that talk a little bit about how our jobs are changing (yes, the first section is written in third person, as is most of the newsletter, so that our readers don't think it is just my letter).

Mobilisation in mission
This lady, Heather, is visiting Japan from the UK OMF office.
She has professional experience in website design and using
social media to promote companies. I was at a meeting with
her all day on Wednesday as we sorted out details on this
new website and blog.
One of the jobs of an OMF missionary is mobilisation. All of us are expected to mobilise people to pray for mission (hence our prayer letters and deputation on home assignments), but also to mobilise people to be more involved in mission in other ways, including going as missionaries. OMF Japan has an initiative at present called 200 by 2020. We’re praying for 200 missionaries in Japan by 2020 (a mixture of long-term and medium-term missionaries). That’s about 50 or so more than we currently have, so obviously there’s work to be done.
Wendy has taken on the role of OMF Japan mobilisation content manager. Which means that she’s been acquiring and editing content for the new OMF Japan website (to be launched in mid-August). A big part of the content of the website will be an OMF Japan blog that Wendy is developing, managing, and editing. We’re hoping to have fresh material up at least once a week. Stay tuned for the details. If you’re a Facebook friend of Wendy or David you should see links to the new blog appearing there soon.
Over the past decade or so Wendy’s also produced a small Japan prayer calendar that OMF missionaries have used to mobilise prayer within their own support base. This year it has become cost prohibitive, so Wendy is now developing one or two other publications that missionaries can use for mobilisation.
Our field leader in mobilisation, the wife of our former field director, has been on compassionate leave since early April, so we’ve struggled to keep going, but thankfully we have regained some momentum. 
It’s a lot of work on top of what Wendy’s already doing, pray for wisdom in use of time, especially during these 11 weeks when boys are on holidays (her office is our living area).

Leadership is Learning (CAJ corner by David)
I am always learning something, whether it is a new piece of technology, or a new batch of student names, and all the personalities that go with them. This coming year will be spent learning more about leadership.
My new role at CAJ includes a large percentage of helping others do their jobs well. To do that, I will need to understand my colleagues better: what are their goals, what are their desires, fears, strengths, and shortcomings. 
Leadership in God’s kingdom centres on serving, rather than commanding. I have learnt over the years that this involves listening and seeking to understand. In Jesus’ grace I hope to do that well for the people under my care this year. Thankfully, will have others to help me, including my predecessor in this role.
Pray for the school as there a number of job shuffles. Nearly 20 of us are doing something a little different next year!

30 June, 2017


"Shelter" is a prompt from velvetashes.com a group that provides encouragement for women serving overseas. I haven't written on their prompts for a long time. But this one had me thinking: 

Pause for a moment and let the word 'shelter' float around in your mind. What feelings, memories, images, fears or desires do you have?

My first thought was tent vs house. How a house is a much more adequate shelter than a tent. A tent is very convenient. It's flexible and portable. It's small. But it's also fragile and leaky. It's also cold in winter, as we discovered when we camped in the snow last year!

Houses are much more stable and secure. They provide really good protection from the weather, but they aren't portable. Both tents and houses require a lot of upkeep, but houses are more permanent. Houses can provide a lot more space than a tent. But they also isolate you from your environment more. 

I love camping out in nature in a tent because you are much closer to it. You're not tempted to cower inside and, after life in the city, it is wonderfully refreshing to get out in nature for a time. In our camping adventures last year I remember a couple of moments especially that I would have missed if I'd been comfortably ensconced in a house.
1. When camped next to Lake Biwa near Kyoto I got up to go to the toilet just as the sun was rising at about 4.30 one morning. It was incredible. I've never experienced a sunrise like it, probably because I'm almost never out and about in the countryside at that time. The air surrounding me was golden. It was made more special because I had a camera to capture it.

Not quite the photo I originally took with my iPhone, but you get
the idea

2. When we were camping in the snow last November it was hard. But again, coming back from the toilet the first morning I saw the most magnificent sight, with snow clinging to tree branches and the trees on the side of the road framing the sight of a snow-covered mountain glowing in the sun. I only had my iPhone, but I was able to capture that sight for future remembrance also.

Our house is the one with the green-blue roof.
Both these sights I saw only because I'd gotten out of my comfort zone of a house (just two days earlier at Lake Biwa we were up at dawn fighting off a lake forming underneath our tent in the middle of a downpour and the snow was no cakewalk either).

So where am I going with this theme, this post is threatening to "noodle" all over the place! 

Physical shelter
Shelter. It's a necessary thing, physically, and both houses and tents can give it. In fact they each have their place. We see that in the Bible where tents were necessary when the Israelites were moving from Egypt to Israel, there were no houses or hotels in the desert!

Tents are mentioned many times in Scripture, almost 400. There are some interesting tent-house incidents in the Bible.

King David got upset and wanted to build a temple for the Lord because he lived in a house, but the ark of the covenant was still only in a tent.

Uriah also refused to go into his house when David called him back from the war front for a few days. His words to his king: "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Samuel 11:11 NIV)

Both passages emphasising that houses are better, more privileged places than tents. Yes, that is true. Our camping is not because we have nowhere else to live, it is comparatively a joy only because we usually live in a convenient house.

Spiritual shelter
But the spiritual shelter that we get from our heavenly Father as Christians is something I value and have come to feel that it is also essential.

Shelter appears only 19 times in the ESV Bible. But a couple of those also have tents in it: 

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. Ps 27:5 
Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Ps 61:4

I love this:
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,  and princes will rule in justice.  Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,  a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place,   like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Is 32:1-2

It seems to refer to our future in heaven, I believe, which the following one also does:

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Rev 7:15

That's our future to look forward to, but what about now?

This reminds me of when I've had kids sick enough to end up in hospital. I ran into an acquaintance the other day who had their daughter and sick granddaughter with them. She was heading for hospital and I've heard since that she is very sick indeed, they've found a tumour. My heart goes out to them. Having very sick kids is the pits, and mine were not even that sick.

God doesn't promise that we will have no troubles in this world, but he does promise that we can trust in him and shelter metaphorically beneath his wings (Ps. 61:4)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust." (Psalm 91:1 & 2)

Now this post is a bit all over the place, I haven't had the time today to hone it nicely. It's been an encouraging little word/Bible study for me and I hope that my pondering of the concept of shelter is helpful to someone. 

What do you think about when contemplating the word "shelter"? I'd love to hear your thoughts too. 

29 June, 2017

Notes to special people

After a meeting yesterday about the new OMF Japan website, I'm up to my ears in work today. I could write you a detailed list of what I've spent the day on the computer doing, but I'm not sure that you'd find it that interesting. Mostly giving feedback on writing, or creating content for the new OMF Japan website, or creating guidelines for a new OMF Japan blog that I'm managing or writing emails. Oh, and I finished my parts of our prayer letter.

Instead, I will repost something I wrote a few years back.

The other day I stumbled upon a short list called "Notes to special people". I wrote short notes to seven special friends before we left for home assignment this time three years ago. My notes were to make sure they knew I'd appreciated their friendship in the recent months/years. I could hardly believe it when I realised that as of next month, only two of those women are still in Japan.

I post the below article as a reminder to myself  of all the wonderful people who have passed through my life. Alas they have passed through, but I've loved them while they were here. 

Bitter-sweet meal with friends

I did one of my favourite things today - went out for lunch with a bunch of women who happen to be missionaries with OMF here in Japan (in the greater Tokyo area). You can see by the photos here, that we like to get together, though, because we live spread apart over more than two hours, it isn't all that often.

It was, however, a bitter-sweet occasion this time. It was a farewell to one who warmly welcomed us to Tokyo six years ago and let us live in her house while we found one of our own. Who, with her husband, babysat our kids many times. Who is the only other OMF teacher on staff at CAJ. In short - one who we'll miss deeply.

Kathi and her husband have been like adopted aunt and uncle to our kids. But God has lead them back to the US to work in mobilisation there.

That wasn't the only sadness in my heart as I looked around at lunch. I realised that out of the 12 ladies there, besides Kathi, one other lady is going to prematurely retire later in the year due to ill health and two others will be leaving for home assignment in June and one of those for a two year home assignment. That means one-third of the friends I had lunch with today will simply not be there next time we have lunch. And maybe they'll never be there again.

Being a missionary is not just about frequent changes for oneself, it is about those around you frequently changing too. And not just us, our kids too. Most classes at CAJ have children leaving every year, sometimes for only a year and then they return, sometimes never to return. A higher rate of change than most national schools endure.

Yet I read an interesting short article in the magazine Just Between Us (Fall 2010) recently. A ministry wife wrote "It seems that God blesses me with friends for a season...The pain of loss does not diminish the joy of sharing your life with someone, no matter how long or short the season. I urge you to risk loving."

It is true. In the situation we find ourselves, it is easy to think - 'I'm not going to risk any more deep friendships, because I'll only lose any new friend sooner or later.' But this is harmful thinking and will deprive us of needed encouragement and help. 

It also helps us to value those friendships which last the distance. Both figuratively and literally. Friendships in which it "just seems like we've never been apart" when we get back together. And I can think of several of those. I'm thankful!

Originally posted here on 15 April, 2011.

28 June, 2017

What's your image of Japan?

Japan's worldwide image is one that includes technology, robots, sushi, and simple beauty. I find it hard at times to mesh that image with what I know of everyday life in Japan.

These three images go a little way towards showing my view. I captured them on one recent trip to my local grocery store.

First a car that's obviously been here a long time. But this is not just an abandoned car. It is parked in a rented space and it's been intentionally covered. So it's not an image of poverty. Cars depreciate quickly in Japan and also cost a lot to keep on the road. Every two years you have to have a mechanic do an expensive inspection in order to keep your car registered. Cars also cost a lot to throw away. 

So, why is the car here? Only the owner knows.

The Japan I know also makes do with what they have. This scooter owner has made a smaller lid fit this box, rather than buy a new box, presumably after the old lid broke. Yes, Japan is still a wealthy country compared to many, but there are many, especially the older generation, who will modify what they have, rather than buy new things. 

The idea that Japan is a technologically advanced country across the board is quite false. I don't know anyone who has a robot clean their house or centralised climate control at home. Almost no one has what many westerners would call standard technology: a dishwasher or a dryer. Most people shop with cash, not cards and fax machines were standard in households until recently.

I'd love to hear what other stereotypes have you heard about Japan. I'd be happy to look at them in future posts.

27 June, 2017

Some keys to living overseas

Free photo from pixabay.com
There are lots of things that are challenging when you move (or even travel) to other countries. Some are more obvious than others. For example, eating breakfast can be a challenge or being able to get around in a country where you don't speak or read the language are pretty obvious.

Here are a three less obvious challenges I've been reminded of in recent weeks.

Not knowing or understanding
The total sum of what we understand about Japan is much less than Australia, it always will be. Additionally, on a daily basis there is a lot less that we understand about what's going on than we do in Australia. I can't read all the signs, I don't get all the jokes. I'm pretty ignorant in many ways, compared to the average Japanese citizen, about life in Japan. That's something you need to become at peace with in order to live here long-term (although possibly I'm too relaxed about it).

We also need to have a trusting attitude, rather than second guessing everything, thinking that we know better. Some cynicism is good, but too much is unhelpful for being able to live here long-term. Not trusting produces increased stress. In order to survive here, I have to be fairly trusting, especially seeing as I don't have all the information that I might otherwise have had access to in Australia.

For example, I often don't understand everything the doctor says to me. That would be totally unacceptable to me in Australia, but here I do my best and get the essence of the important stuff: diagnosis and treatment. That works in a relatively simple medical situation. I may not know exactly what medicine I've been prescribed, but that's (generally) okay.

Not black or white
I read this recently in a blog post about resilience
Sue Takamoto wrote of a transformation that takes place in successfully adapted missionaries—“a move from black and white, egocentric thinking to an ability to become more flexible and open.”
This is so true. Things that are done differently here to my home country aren't wrong because they're different. They might be strange or mysterious to me. They might even be less efficient or inconvenient to me, but a willingness to accept them anyway is needed to stay sane if you're living here. 

For example, if I got upset because I had to wait an hour for a simple medical test result because there was no appointment system, that wouldn't help my stress levels. I'm not hankering after the medical treatment I might have had in Australia, because here is where I live. And of course that ties in with trust and not-knowing. I trust my doctor here, even though I don't understand everything he says.

Over the years I've seen foreigners struggle with these three things while in Japan. Because we've adjusted to living here long-term, probably people who've spent their whole lives in one country struggle to understand us now too.

26 June, 2017

The gift of being able to be present

People come and go in our lives; celebrations happen, then are over;
time moves relentlessly onwards. It is good to sit, sometimes, and ponder.
Being able to be present at key events in loved-ones lives is a gift I no
longer overlook.
Yesterday I attended a memorial service for the Japanese missionary, Mr I, from our mission who died in April. At the time his funeral was held in Nagoya, only two days after he passed away. Yesterday they held a memorial service in Tokyo where and when many others could attend. I'd never met the man personally, only been at a meeting where he spoke, but I was asked to go as the pianist for the performance of "For the Cause" that OMF missionaries had been invited to perform.

OMF is an interesting mission in that many of the countries we work in also send missionaries to other places. That is the case in Japan. We have both a "home" office and a "field" office in the same building. Mr I and his family had been serving in another East Asian country, but battled his cancer in Japan. The OMFers who performed were from a variety of homesides, some sent to Japan, others sent from Japan.

What particularly struck me were the missionaries who came from overseas to this memorial service. They didn't come far, not as far as the Scottish pastor who flew over when our field director died, but they came. These were colleagues of Mr I, people who'd served with him overseas.

I was struck because there are a number of funerals I haven't been able to attend because of distance. During the 17 ½ years David and I have been in Japan four of our OMF Japan colleagues have died (if my count is right). All were cancer-related. That's not counting relatives and friends who have died. Often distance or finances or schedules prevent us from being present. It isn't easy. Funerals and memorial services have a place in the grieving process and when you can't go to one, there is no space to remember that person in community with others who knew them. Life moves on at a rapid space as if nothing happened, as if the world wasn't the poorer for the passing away of someone. 

It's a source of grief for missionaries as we miss many key events in the lives of those we care for, including funerals, but also births, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc. As our circles are widened, by serving with people from many different nations, we "acquire" more people we care about and more events that we cannot be a part of.

So, I'm simply grateful that I could, in a small way, help others grieve yesterday. And in a similar way to how weddings I've attended after I myself was a married woman made me reminisce about my own wedding, this memorial service made me reflective about all the funerals that I've missed over the years. Being able to be present is easily overlooked as a gift to be treasured.

24 June, 2017

Today's picnic

Part of our picnic mat. In Japan picnic mats are almost always plastic.
Today we dropped our youngest son off at an English summer camp for middle schoolers run by some local missionaries. It is the the third of the series of camps where our eldest son is a leader (US = counsellor). The camp is held at a campsite owned by SEND International and is towards the western tip of Tokyo. It's close to where we did our first two camping trips way back in 2011. There are 80 campers there until Thursday. We're praying for those tired leaders and cooks and maintenance staff!

This pink area is Tokyo "prefecture". We live at the purple arrow, we drove out
to the red arrow today.
Our son was due at camp at 2pm, so we decided to leave early and have a picnic at Tama River. It's the river that comes from Tama Dam, part of Tokyo's water supply. A gorgeous place that's not all that far from us (though it does take between 1 ½ to 2 hours to get there). The river runs very close to the campsite.
Alas, I forgot my "big" camera. But the iPhone isn't too bad. We went for a stroll after lunch, stopping at
promising spots to climb on rocks.

Middle son, foiling my attempt at taking his photo. He
has many good memories of this part of Tokyo, having
been to a few camps there himself.

As well as climbing, skipping rocks was a popular pastime for a bit.

On the way home we treated ourselves to afternoon tea at a coffee shop. It's nice to just have one boy at home for a bit, much less expensive. We're thinking it's be a little holiday-like here at home this week.

22 June, 2017

Sleep deprived nation

Japan is a sleep deprived nation. If you live here and travel around on trains, there's no need to look at a study to know that. Morning or night, people fall asleep in all sorts of public places. I don't normally like to take photos of people sleeping in public, but in the last week I've had two opportunities to do so without embarrassing anyone.

People often stop their cars or trucks (especially work vehicles) and sleep in them, often with the engines running. This gentleman was in a work vehicle, stopped next to a local park with a cloth over his face. The time was 6pm.

This lady, I presume, was having a cat-nap. It was at a local food court at 10.30 on Monday morning.

Many people, especially men, come home very late from work (8 is early). School children also often are doing cram classes or sports training late into the evening. It isn't unusual to see kids on the trains after 9pm. Indeed it seems that many pre-school kids are kept up late too. Having a 7/7.30 bedtime for our young boys seemed extraordinarily early to my Japanese friends. So exhaustion seems pervasive in the whole lifestyle here. It's no surprise people are sleeping any time they get the chance.

Napping in public is actually a sign of diligence in Japan, this article says. Indeed it seems to be quite the acceptable thing, as long as you don't sprawl. It's not uncommon to see people asleep on the train falling to one side or other. That isn't so acceptable.

But apparently lost sleep is costing Japanese economy billions. I'm not sure how they figured this out. But this article says:
[the researchers] tapped into government and large company data sets on sleep duration to estimate defined costs. It also predicted the future economic effects if the trend continued. Absenteeism (people not showing up for work), employees not working (people taking breaks), and presenteeism (people being present but working at a sub-optimal level) were the reasons traced for the unproductivity.
It is a significant problem, obviously, and not just for economic reasons. This Japan Times article gives an example of someone who ended up with clinical depression due to overwork. Death by overwork is recognised by society and if it can be proven then employer is in trouble.

But why is this such an ingrained part of the culture, you may ask? Well, people have written whole books on this, so this little blog post is barely going to touch the surface. 

One theory is that the culture has been formed by the rice-growing past. Growing rice is not only requires constant attention, but it also requires collective work, hence we've got a hard-working culture where it's hard to change individual habits. It is frowned upon to leave many workplaces exactly when your shift is over, in fact, leaving before the boss is a no-no in an office environment. I've never worked in a Japanese office, but this is what I've heard and read. (One article about the "rice theory": rice paddies and culture).

In any case. It's difficult to change culture, and that seems especially the case in Japan. So, though the government is trying to make changes, I'm not sure that we'll be seeing less public sleeping any time soon.