Within an hour's drive from Nissan's Oppama assembly plant here, the company maintains five dormitories for more than 2,000 male workers, and a smaller facility for 16 women. These low-rise, simple accomodations are available to unmarried Nissan workers for up to 10 years, or until they are 28 years old, but it is such a good deal that many hate to leave.
One of these men is Hideoyoshi Miamoto, 27, a tall, dark native of Hokkaido who is a vehicle tester at Oppama. Miamoto has already spent nine years--three years more than the average stay--in one of the Nissan dormitories, and is senior enough there to have his own room, although it is designed to sleep two.
He pays 4,270 yen a month ($18.76) for the privilege, and told me that the equivalent in a private apartment would cost at least 30,000 yen a month (about $132). Miamoto has his own TV, and has installed a refrigerator and desk.
This complex has several buildings, each housing about 200 persons, around a central structure containing a large community dining room where three meals a day are available, including dinner for 150 yen (65 cents). The central facility also has TV rooms, game rooms, and communal bath facilities.
Miamoto, a serious young man who came to an interview at the Nissan plant formally dressed in suit and tie, and with all his personal records neatly available in his attache case, said with a smile, "I've got to do something to get myself married off. Staying a bachelor doesn't have all the advantages."
As a married man, he would be eligible for Nissan's home-ownership scheme. He now earns 258,000 yen a month ($1,134), or 3.1 million yen a year ($13,620). (As a tester, he's not eligible for the night shift, which brings a handsome premium).
Wouldn't he like to earn the 55 percent premium for night work? "I don't need to work at night," he says. "I have my own car, I can get along without the night shift." He is saving more than 15 percent of his salary--40,000 yen a month ($176)--and already has accumulated about 6.5 million yen ($28,570) in his account at the company. "It's easy to save when you live alone," he observes.
Miamoto has already figured out that if he borrowed 15 million yen ($66,000) from the company to buy a house, he would be expected to pay back 58,000 yen ($255 a month).
He says he "gets a kick" out of dormitory life. According to the dormitory manager, who affectionately refers to the tenants as "boys," most of the younger workers look up to Miamoto, who is a member of the committee for his own building.
About half of the 1,100 "boys" living in Miamoto's dorm own cars (that privilege is allowed after two years' residence), and like young men in the States, they can be seen busily washing and polishing them in the parking spaces adjacent to their rooms.
Miamoto drives his own Nissan Stanza (the equivalent of a Datsun 7l0), a new car when he bought it, to and from the plant daily. Although his room is located only about 15 miles from Oppama, the bumper-to-bumper traffic in this congested industrial region makes it a 50- to 60-minute trip during rush hour.
Miamoto, who took the Nissan employment test after reading a company pamphlet while still in high school, confesses that he has limited ambitions. "I want to continue to work for Nissan," he said, "and I hope to have my own home and build a happy family."