“入社式” is a difficult word to translate. This is a ceremony that is held at the beginning of the fiscal (and therefore corporate) new year, welcoming all new employees who start on that date – except it isn’t exactly a “welcome” in the Western sense, because you are there to serve the company for all eternity and it is meant to commemorate more the gravity of the contract between the new employee and employer. If the company is large and boasts an illustrious history, it can even seem like a rite of initiation into something momentous that will eventually mold you in the company’s image. Come to think of it, there is no specific date on which such a large number of people start work at the same time in the West (or is there? September maybe?), but anyway, this initiation ceremony, which falls everywhere in Japan on April 1st, is a Big Deal.
The articles above describe the induction ceremony at the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. Started in 2008 on the 50th anniversary year of the Uni, the year’s fresh crop of employees are asked to sharpen a pencil with a penknife. Most have never sharpened a pencil by hand before. Senior managers and future colleagues look on, advising the neophytes, “don’t move the blade, move the pencil beneath it”.
This ceremony is intended to nurture a love of pencils and writing instruments that will accompany and occupy them all throughout their working life. After sharpening the pencil, they practice writing the company name, “三菱鉛筆 (Mitsubishi Pencil)”, and finish by writing down their hopes and aspirations for the future, or (more recently) writing a letter to one’s own self five years from now.
As a Mitsubishi executive says, “A pencil cannot be of service unless it is sharpened. In the same spirit, I encourage you to be diligent in sharpening yourself, even after this first day.”
Take that, Staedtler! ;)