The previous chapter explored the connection between salaryman masculinity and a publicly privileged discourse of regulated (hetero-) sexuality pivoted on the male employee as husband, father and sustainer of the family unit. Yet, while this discourse undeniably played (and continues to play) a role in the shaping of salaryman masculinity, coexisting with it have been other, less visible currents that are also influential in the engagements between individual male employees and the expectations of the discourse. Among these less apparent strands of corporate culture is the realm of friendship – particularly same-sex friendship – and its intersections with other expectations of corporate masculinity. On the one hand, the discourse of salaryman masculinity and its role as a cornerstone of Japanese industrial success through the decades of high economic growth was situated within a matrix of discourses privileging homosocial same-sex ‘bonding’ within the company and with (male) clients, often at the expense of cross-sex relationships such as the husband-wife relationship.1 One such example would be the senpai-kôhai (‘senior’ and ‘junior’) hierarchy-based relationship. Similarly, group-based interaction such as company-centred occasions like bônenkai (end of year – literally, ‘forget the year’ – parties) or shinnenkai (new year parties), or work-related golf sessions with colleagues or clients, would also fall within the orbit of publicly sanctioned – indeed, sanctified – forms of same-sex interaction, that, particularly during the ‘Japan Inc.’ era, were often considered integral aspects of corporate and organizational culture. On the other hand, however, same-sex relationships may also possess the potential to disrupt established rules and assumptions of salaryman masculinity. For instance, the incident discussed in Chapter 4, where one of my informants – Miura Tôru of Northern Energy – was publicly reprimanded by his manager for his inability to distinguish between his pre-shakaijin notions of friendship and acceptable rules of conduct in the workplace, is a good example of the slippery nature of negotiating same-sex relationships. Thus, as with sexuality there is a constant tension. This tension is between the channelling of same-sex relationships into configurations accepted (and indeed, sanctioned) by official corporate ideology and the dominant discourse in the workplace, and the potential for ‘unregulated’ friendships to challenge and undermine these configurations. This chapter explores how some of these issues intersected with my informants’

engagements with salaryman masculinity during the years of focus in this book – the post-Bubble late 1990s. As the informants’ voices will highlight, these were years when, in common with the issues discussed in previous chapters, expectations about friendship and collegiality within the workplace were also especially subject to competing pulls. The first part of the chapter sets out the theoretical and conceptual framework within which the informants’ narratives may be situated. The second part will then draw upon their actual ‘voices’ to explore the ways in which friendship and homosociality intersected with their engagements with the dominant expectations of salaryman masculinity.