Pope Francis warned Japan on Monday over a culture of “excessive” competitiveness in schooling and the workplace as well as an obsession with consumerism.
“In order to succeed one can end up doing bad things, like trampling on others on the way up,” he said in a video conference with students in Tokyo.
He said he saw “several problems” in Japanese society, such as “excessive competition, competitiveness, consumption, consumption, consumption, consumption and more consumption”.
“It can harm you and take away your strength,” he said, blaming an “excessive meritocracy” as well.
The Japanese education system is built around highly competitive and rigorous testing, with students put under intense pressure to succeed — pressures that continue once they graduate and enter the workplace.
It also has a punishing work culture, with long working hours being blamed for hundreds of deaths due to strokes, heart attacks and suicides every year.
The Argentine pontiff told the students of Sophia University that Japan was nonetheless “a great country, which I admire… and of course I’d love to visit”.
“The Japanese are a people I love very much,” he said, adding that they were “a working people, with a great capacity for religion, a people that have suffered a lot”.
© Agence France-Presse