Karoushi (also "karooshi" or "karoshi") is a somewhat-recently invented Japanese word for "death from overwork." It doesn't necessarily imply the means of death, but it's generally considered to be when a salaryman dies of a heart attack on the job. Depending on the cause of death (and often the deceased's work ethic, i.e., 12+ hour workdays), the victim's family is financially compensated by the corporation.

"Karoushi" is also a personal favorite word to scream repeatedly at work when my boss is wondering what's on my monitor.

Pronounced Kah-Rohh-shee

Each year about five hundred families file for workman's compensation under karoshi. Some wives even file lawsuits against employers of the demised alleging they worked their beloved husbands to death. Is the tale of the work-a-holic salaryman still true or is it simply a relic us westerners simply can't forget from the Japanese post-WW2 industrialization?

Well, the answer is not easy. Working overtime is a common practice in Japan. One government report described Japanese salarymen as "corporate servants" instead of "corporate employees". Many young salarymen on a management career track will work long hours of unpaid over-time. However, Office Ladies are not considered career material so they usually work the standard 8 hour day.

Does this mean that the evening rush-hour is between 8 and 10 pm? No. Train schedules and station queuing in central Tokyo suggest that evening traffic peaks between 6-7 pm. Although this data is dubious since many salarymen are out entertaining clients at night. Saturday trains used to run at the same frequency as week trains, but that has changed since the government reduced the maximum work week from 6.0 days to 5.0 days.

Karoshi is a word that does not exist in the English language. The fact that it does exist in Japanese does not mean that most Japanese salarymen work until they drop. In fact, according to the US bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of American non-agricultural workforce works more than 49 hrs a week and 8% work more than 60 hrs per week. Do we need a word that defines "work-to-death" as well?


Karoushi (かろうし) is a relatively new colloquialism created from three kanji meaning to die from overworking (stress related heart failure or otherwise). The first character, ka, means to exceed or overdo. The second character, rou (long O), is used for laboring or toiling (and also used in the words for trouble, pain, and work-related injury or death: roudousaigai). The third, shi is used for death.

According to Japan's Ministry of Health 143 people died from karoushi in the year ending March of 2002 (up nearly 70% over the previous year). The great majority were men, most in their 40s and 50s (only 10 were women); Many of the karoushi were stress related (fatique, heart failure), while 31 were suicides.

Numbers from Asahi Shimbun http://mytown.asahi.com/usa/news02.asp?c=14&kiji=138

Karoshi - the goal is to die

Karoshi is a puzzle/ platform freeware game created by (Jesse Venbrux for) Armour Games in which you control a salaryman, helping him to find a way to kill himself in each level.

I found Karoshi: Suicide Salaryman on one of my frequent visits to newgrounds.com and it was my introduction to the series. I have recently clocked Super Karoshi save for the secret level at the end of the game, which I think you aren't supposed to clock anyway... (believing that makes me feel good; please don't bust my bubble if you know otherwise)

Below is the list (because who doesn't love lists?) of all 5 Karoshi PC games in order from oldest to newest:

  • karoshi
  • karoshi 2.0
  • karoshi Factory
  • karoshi: Suicide Salaryman
  • Super Karoshi

The last two can be played on your browser while the others are download-able. More recently you've also got the option to get the new 'Mr.Karoshi' title on your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad or your Android.

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