Sarariiman” and the Performance of Masculinities at Work: An Analysis of Interactions at Business Meetings at a Multinational Corporation in Japan

  • Junko Saito
Part of the Communicating in Professions and Organizations book series (PSPOD)


This chapter empirically analyzes interactions at six business meetings at a multinational corporation in Japan, focusing on how four sarariiman —“salaried men”—perform masculinities during the meetings. The analysis shows that their use of male-associated first-person pronouns and other contextual features, including speech styles and conversational topics related to gender ideologies, allows male employees to display different types of masculinities. The chapter also demonstrates that the male employees’ denigration of female co-workers contributes to their establishment of homosociality. The chapter concludes that sarariiman’s masculinities are not solely realized by men’s language forms; rather, men’s language and various related features, such as types of interactional styles and particular pragmatic meanings of speech styles, jointly serve as resources for sarariiman’s performance of masculinities.



This project was funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (24652088) from the MEXT, Japan. I would like to express my appreciation to the participants who agreed to join this project and kindly allowed me to record their meetings. I also appreciate Janet S. Shibamoto-Smith and Haruko M. Cook for their careful and insightful comments/suggestions on an earlier version of this chapter, as well as Laurie Durand for her thorough editorial assistance. Any errors and misinterpretations are entirely my own.


  1. Ashikari, Mikiko. 2003. Urban Middle-Class Japanese Women and Their White Faces: Gender, Ideology, and Representation. Ethos 31 (1): 3–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burdelski, Matthew. 2013. Socializing Children to Honorifics in Japanese: Identity and Stance in Interaction. Multilingua 32 (2): 247–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cameron, Deborah. 1998. Performing Gender Identity: Young Men’s Talk and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity. In Language and Gender: A Reader, ed. Jennifer Coates, 270–284. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  4. Cameron, Deborah, and Don Kulick. 2003. Language and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Charlebois, Justin. 2014. Japanese Femininities. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Connell, R.W. 1995. Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cook, Haruko M. 1996. The Use of Addressee Honorifics in Japanese Elementary School Classrooms. In Japanese/Korean Linguistics, ed. Noriko Akatsuka, Shoichi Iwasaki, and Susan Strauss, vol. 5, 67–81. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2008. Style Shifts in Japanese Academic Consultations. In Style Shifting in Japanese, ed. Kimberly Jones and Tsuyoshi Ono, 9–38. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 2011. Are Honorifics Polite? Uses of Referent Honorifics in a Japanese Committee Meeting. Journal of Pragmatics 43: 3655–3672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dasgupta, Romit. 2013. Re-reading the Salaryman in Japan: Crafting Masculinities. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Enyo, Yumiko. 2015. Contexts and Meanings of Japanese Speech Styles: A Case of Hierarchical Identity Construction Among Japanese College Students. Pragmatics 25 (3): 345–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fukuda, Chie. 2005. Children’s Use of the Masu Form in Play Scenes. Journal of Pragmatics 37: 1037–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Geyer, Naomi. 2008. Interpersonal Functions of Style Shift: The Use of Plain and Masu Forms in Faculty Meetings. In Style Shifting in Japanese, ed. Kimberly Jones and Tsuyoshi Ono, 39–70. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. ———. 2013. Discernment and Variation: The Action-Oriented Use of Japanese Addressee Honorifics. Multilingua 32 (2): 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gurūpu Jamashii, ed. 1998. Kyōshi to Gakushūsha no tame no Nihongo Bunkee Jiten [A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar for Teachers and Learners]. Tōkyō: Kuroshio Shuppan.Google Scholar
  16. Kiesling, Scott Fabius. 2001. ‘Now I Gotta Watch What I Say’: Shifting Constructions of Masculinity in Discourse. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 11 (2): 250–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. ———. 2007. Men, Masculinities, and Language. Language and Linguistics Compass 1: 653–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Maynard, Senko. 1997. Japanese Communication: Language and Thought in Context. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  19. Miller, Laura. 2004. Those Naughty Teenage Girls: Japanese Kogals, Slang, and Media Assessments. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 14 (2): 225–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Miyazaki, Ayumi. 2004. Japanese Junior High School Girls’ and Boys’ First-Person Pronoun Use and Their Social World. In Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People, ed. Shigeko Okamoto and Janet S. Shibamoto Smith, 256–274. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Nakamura, Momoko. 2010. Women’s and Men’s Languages as Heterosexual Resource: Power and Intimacy in Japanese Spam E-mail. In Femininity, Feminism and Gendered Discourse, ed. Janet Holmes and Meredith Marra, 125–144. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  22. Nemoto, Kumiko. 2010. Sexual Harassment and Gendered Organizational Culture in Japanese Firms. In Gender and Sexuality in the Workplace, ed. Christine L. Williams and Kirsten Dellinger, 203–225. Bingler: Emerald.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Occhi, Debra J., Cindi L. SturtzSreetharan, and Janet S. Shibamoto-Smith. 2010. Finding Mr. Right: New Looks at Gendered Modernity in Japanese Televised Romances. Japanese Studies 30 (3): 409–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Okamoto, Shigeko, and Shie Sato. 1992. Less Feminine Speech Among Young Japanese Females. In Locating Power: Proceedings of the Second Berkeley Women and Language Conference, ed. Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz, and Birch Moonwomon, 478–488. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group.Google Scholar
  25. Ōta, Makie. 2011. Usain Boruto no “I” wa Naze “Ore” to Yakusareru no ka: Supōtsu Hōsō no Yakuwarigo [Why Is Usain Bolt’s “I” translated as “Ore”: Role Language in Sports Broadcasting]. In Yakuwarigo Kenkyū no Tenkai [The Expansion of Research on Role Language], ed. Satoshi Kinsui, 93–125. Tōkyō: Kuroshio Shuppan.Google Scholar
  26. Saito, Junko. 2010. Subordinates’ Use of Japanese Plain Forms: An Examination of Superior-Subordinate Interactions in the Workplace. Journal of Pragmatics 42: 3271–3282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. ———. 2013. Gender and Facework: Linguistic Practices by Japanese Male Superiors in the Workplace. Gender and Language 7 (2): 233–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 1992. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Shibamoto Smith, Janet S. 2003. Gendered Structures in Japanese. In Gender Across Languages: The Linguistic Representation of Women and Men, Vol. 3, ed. Marlis Hellinger, 201–225. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. ———. 2004. Language and Gender in the (Hetero)romance: Reading the Ideal Hero/ine Through Lovers’ Dialogue in Japanese Romance Fiction. In Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People, ed. Shigeko Okamoto and Janet S. Shibamoto Smith, 113–130. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. SturtzSreetharan, Cindi L. 2004a. Japanese Men’s Linguistic Stereotypes and Realities: Conversations from the Kansai and Kanto Regions. In Japanese Language, Gender, and Ideology: Cultural Models and Real People, ed. Shigeko Okamoto and Janet S. Shibamoto Smith, 275–289. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. ———. 2004b. Students, Sarariiman (pl.), and Seniors: Japanese Men’s Use of ‘Manly’ Speech Register. Language in Society 33: 81–107.Google Scholar
  33. ———. 2006a. ‘I Read the Nikkei, Too’: Crafting Positions of Authority and Masculinity in a Japanese Conversation. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 16 (2): 173–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. ———. 2006b. Gentlemanly Gender? Japanese Men’s Use of Clause-Final Politeness in Casual Conversations. Journal of SocioLinguistics 10 (1): 70–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. ———. 2009. Ore and Omae: Japanese Men’s Uses of First- and Second-Person Pronouns. Pragmatics 19 (2): 253–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Takano, Shoji. 2005. Re-examining Linguistic Power: Strategic Uses of Directives by Professional Japanese Women in Positions of Authority. Journal of Pragmatics 37: 633–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Teshigawara, Mihoko, and Satoshi Kinsui. 2011. Modern Japanese ‘Role Language’ (Yakuwarigo): Fictionalised Orality in Japanese Literature and Popular Culture. Sociolinguistic Studies 5 (1): 37–58.Google Scholar
  38. Tsujimura, Natsuko. 1996. An Introduction to Japanese Linguistics. Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junko Saito
    • 1
  1. 1.Temple University JapanTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations