In most countries when you think of a construction worker you think of a hardhat, steel boots and safety equipment.

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In the land of paradox, where rules abound and business culture is all about adhering to the norms and coloring within the lines, the attire of the Japanese construction worker continues to confuse me.

Japanese construction worker

Construction pants? Well yes, but they are these huge, flowing baggy things that look perfect for getting caught in an auger and ripping off a limb. Called a Tobi trouser.

Tobi trousers or tobi pants are a type of baggy pants used as a common uniform of tobi shokunin, construction workers in Japan who work on high places (such as scaffolding and skyscrapers).[1] The pants are baggy to a point below the knees, abruptly narrowing at the calves so as to be put into the footwear: high boots or jikatabi (tabi-style boots), often brightly colored.[2]

According to a spokesperson for Toraichi, a major manufacturer of worker’s clothes of this style, the style was developed from knickerbockers. The regular knickerbocker-style pants are called nikka zubon ("zubon" means "trousers," and "nikka" or "nikka-bokka" is a gairaigotransformation of the word "knickerbockers"). The excessively widened ones are calledchocho zubon.[1] This style has also entered popular fashion,[3] as evidenced by the emergence of toramani ("Toraichi maniacs"), die-hard fans of Toraichi trousers.[1]

Construction boots? No. Usually soft boots with the big toe separate to allow for slip on footwear (i.e. flip flops). Definitely not steel toe. He happens to be wearing running shoes. Called the Jikatabi. I personally like this commentary on the boot “Though slowly being replaced by steel-toed, rigid-sole shoes in some industries, many workers prefer them for the softness of their soles”.

Hard hat? Infrequently. The bandana seems to be a team favorite.

One could say that construction mirrors culture – where tradition is tantamount, despite the changing world around them. Or perhaps, the right term is “to spite the changing world around them”. The paradox that is Japan.


Study after study suggest that memories are heavily linked to the senses; sight, smell and sound. According to this study it is because of where memories are stored:

Sights, sounds and smells can all evoke emotionally charged memories. A new study in rats suggests why: The same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible, at least in part, for storing emotional memories.

Spring has sprung in Tokyo and as in so many other four season cities around the world, that means construction. As I walked to the subway the other day I passed a construction site with a large safety wall blocking my view. It was early so the crews were just starting up … and in this case one of the crew was starting up a Stihl saw. I could not see it, but I instantly recognized the sound.

The ‘almost flooded’ coughing as the single stroke engine caught, followed by the high pitch whine as the operator revved the engine. It has been more than two decades since I put myself through university on summer construction sites – driving heavy equipment, lugging blocks and spending hour and hours bent over a Stihl saw with a diamond blade. At that moment, the memories felt like they were from yesterday.



The last time I was in 50C+ heat was in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It was take your breath-away hot.

Last weekend the “feels like” temperature crossed the 50C boundary with the thermometer reading 45C and 45% humidity. This is what it looks like, earlier in the morning (I think the UV index is “instant burn”)

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Across the street they are building a high-rise. In the middle of the day, in peak heat, they were working away.

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I hope they are staying hydrated.



I have been meaning to blog about construction in Tokyo and last weeks “event” prompted me to write.

Construction in Japan is very different than in Canada and probably everywhere else in the world. When we first moved here I noticed a few things; security guards with glowing light sticks at every construction site, well constructed enclosures around each site and crazy levels of cleanliness.

It seems that Japanese construction starts with the enclosure. When a building is set to be demolished the building is scaffolded and enclosed so you cannot see anything. The building comes down piece by piece and parts of the scaffolding remain.


The above photo from my iPhone has 2 interesting elements to it. The first is the wet pavement. As every single vehicle leaves the site, a group of workmen hose down the truck so that it comes out as clean as if it went into a carwash. They then clean and sweep the street (multiple times a day).

The other interesting element is the LED screen on the left.

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A decibel meter to measure site noise. I have yet to hear a lot of noise out of one of these sites. They could use a few of these at some of the vacation resorts I have been too.

But it doesn’t always go right. Near our home the “demolition screen” went up a week ago and they started tearing down a building. One of the boys sent me a text that there had been an accident …. demolitions are tricky stuff. After getting home I grabbed my camera and had a look.

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Whoops. That is a big wall.

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There were a lot of guys with brooms (smile). Luckily, no one was hurt.