My precarious future and minimum expectations of my future

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

Some people say that college days are summer vacation in life. Now, we, college students, have enough time to do various thing: such as study, part-time job, volunteer activity, finding lover, enjoying a club activity, and travel. However, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future: How will be my future? What kind of job will I take? Can I get married? Is my anxiety related to the social situation in Japan?

I believe that there are very strong relations between young people’s uneasiness about their future and current precarious situations in Japanese society. In the bubble economy period, young people could more easily get jobs and decide their future course, because the national economic condition was better. Yet now, owing to deregulation, privatization and the bursting of the bubble (Allison 2013), the circumstances are completely different.

I was born in 1994, after the bubble, and am now 21 years old, but I have not decided what I want to do in the future, especially my occupation. Actually I wanted to advance the science course since I entered this university, so I do not know particularly what kind of job can we, the students of this faculty or this university, take. Even though we have much greater choice of occupation than before, the employment situation is not good. It makes us young people keenly realize the importance of deciding our lifetime occupation. Maybe I will take a stable straight road because I want to realize secure position, although it gets much more difficult.

For me, marriage is a more difficult problem because I had never thought about it deeply. Meanwhile, some of my old friends, who are just my age, have already gotten married, and what is more, had children. Most of them are high school graduates and are now working. I sometimes worry which is happier or better for Japanese society. However, I vaguely suppose that I will be married before I am about 30 years old and have children before I am about 35 years old. There is no ground, but I think I am an ordinary man, and this is the present average (Japanese Cabinet Office 2012). I like children and am interested in child raising, so however busy my job will be, I will be ready to help my wife in child raising. Although I can have expectation like this, precarious situation in Japanese society makes the realization of my expectation harder. In “muen shakai“, the relationless society, it is difficult even to find a spouse and to do child raising normally.

In conclusion, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future but I had never thought about it concretely. Thanks to this occasion, I have my expectations for my future. However, it is very precarious and it is inevitably minimized by the social situation. I believe this tendency is not only for me but also for all present young people in greater or lesser degrees. As Allison (2013) described, there are still many problems in Japanese society. These are the negative harvest of Japanese history since 1945, when Japan became the defeated nation of WW2. Most of the problems are now old-fashioned for current society and get maladies. We have to improve them for both Japanese future and our bright future.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Japanese Cabinet Office (2012) Japanese child-child raising white paper





The need for social relationships

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Saori Tsushima

In the future, I want to work at my hometown because I want to support my family by their side. And I wish I could work at an organization like JICA or an NGO/NPO group and take part in supporting developing countries. But I’m going to prioritize returning to my hometown and earning a handsome salary first. To tell the truth, I am frightened by job hunting because if I fail in job hunting I couldn’t support my family because it is said that to get an ideal job is so difficult for new graduates in these latter days in Japan.

Many people are worrying about the difficulties of job searching, not only people who graduated in earlier years but also new graduates. It seems that the appeal of a strong personality has been focused on since many years ago. But too much personality appeal and projecting too much are bad things for company bosses in recent Japan because bosses want submissive subordinates. The style of Japanese society must have fatigued stress for new graduates and people who want jobs. Many people have to sink their individuality to get a job. This is one of the serious problems in Japan I think.

Ibasho is my parent’ home for me because I have trust in my family. We always don’t keep secrets and council everything each other. I can stay as I am at my home and have a peace of mind. And I think we should create Ibasho.

Our parents’ home is of course inherent or innate comfortable place for us. If we feel we don’t have Ibasho it is important to create there for not only my own self but also my family and friends, people who are total strangers. These days many elderly people died alone (Kodokushi) and it is increased year by year. Now to create Ibasho is needed.

It is needed to have a relationship with many people for elderly people, to meet people to prevent from dementia and to making their heart happy. It is needed to relax and rest, to put workers at ease. They are so tired everyday from working hard that they need a place to relax. Us students also need to meet many people, and to meet people who have the same dream or object and stimulate each other’s interests. This is a good treasure for the future. Competing is also important for students because it will further improve our ability and heart. It is needed to meet many people for children. They need to study how to encounter people. Communication ability is important to live for example at school and company, workplace, society. Ibasho is different by the people’s age, gender, personality.

Balancing work and family for a fulfilling life

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Naho Onishi

My life plan is this: after graduation, I want to get a job that is related to traveling. I will work 2, 3 years and save money. Then I desire to get married by the time I am thirty and have a child. I will keep working after taking care of my baby.

In this plan, I worry about working when I have a child. Now, women are encouraged to take childcare leave. However, in fact, when they come back to the work place, they feel “ibashoganai“. They are often assigned to other work place and section after childcare leave. Moreover, they are not entrusted with important jobs. Even if they can return their work place, their child is very young. So, child care is very hard. If their child catch a disease, mother must absent from work, and care for child. They feel difficult to manage her work and family life.

Recently, I heard the word “paternity leave.” For mothers, the father’s help is very happy, and they can take care of their baby together. However, fathers worry about after child care leave too. Especially men, they work a lot more time than women. They think that “if I can not return to my work place, what can I do?” While they can receive child care leave, their payment is lower then their regular wage. And they think that “if I can not go to work, my co-workers will feel trouble because they must cover my work.” They are concerned about family finances and situation after they take child care leave, and they can not take leave willingly. So, the rate of men who take paternity leave is very low. If they feel “ibasho” after child care leave, this rate may become higher.

I want to feel “ibasho” in my office in the future. The time that I spend in jobs may be the longest in my life. It is about three times as long as school days. Of course, my home is my most important “ibasho“. But, work place is different from home in terms of roles. Work has responsibility as a member of society. It is important to feel this job is worth doing. And co-worker give us a good incentive to work harder. It is same with studying too. I think both family life and work are the key to a fulfilling life.

Both the company and the public should create more comfortable society and “ibasho“. Mutual cooperation is the key to stable and peace society.

Why do people prefer whiter skin?

By Ye Tiantian

I chose this topic because I myself am a part of the skin whitening market, as I have been consuming skin lightening products since I don’t even remember when. But for all that time, I never asked myself the question of why do I want to whiten my skin? Well, go to any drug store or large mall and ask those purchasing the skin whitening products this question, I am pretty sure that most, if not all, of them will tell you, because they want to be beautiful. But why is white beautiful? That’s the point.

Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s research introduced the skin whitening markets in different regions and among different consuming groups. Glenn used the word “colorism” to explain the growing and even illegal skin whitening markets in African nations which is related to colonialism and the so-called “white privilege”. I don’t know much about the skin whitening market of Africa, African America, India, Southeast Asia or Latin America. Actually, I didn’t even know that there exist such huge skin whitening markets outside Asia until I had read Glenn’s research, since I had always assumed that it is the traditional Asian aesthetic that lead to the practice of using those products. But I do know the whitening market of East Asia or more specifically China.

It is true that I cannot represent all of the consumers in the skin whitening market, but I am pretty sure that I and most of the people I know buying those products are not trying to make ourselves look like white people. We don’t want to be white, we want to be what in Chinese we called “白里透红”, white with rosy touches, like the skin of a newborn baby—an Asian baby, not necessarily a white baby.

As we have discussed before, race is a socially constructed category. It is not like only white people have the biological gene to have white skin. Compare the skin color of a newborn Asian baby with a white person, they are not that different. I cannot tell you for sure that it has nothing to do with white privilege that people like me buy skin whitening products. But at least, I believe this is not the whole story behind the growing skin whitening market in at least China.

If it is all about the white privilege, how can we explain that the practice of skin whitening in China could date back to Qin Dynasty (221-206BC)? Women in China at that time already learnt to make their face white using lead powders, changing their diets and consuming certain kinds of herbals. If you know a little bit about Chinese history, you will know that China used to be one of the most powerful nations of the world; it was even more powerful than Western European nations. If it was only about white supremacy, as it was believed for the African market, it won’t make any sense because there was no such thing as white supremacy in ancient China.

There is one explanation which I highly doubt, but might be true, that the first ruling class of China as a nation, though not united, is white Indo-Europeans. Thus, white skin is linked with the ruling class. But this cannot be entirely proved and for most time of the Chinese history, the rulers were not white people.

My guess is that Chinese want to be white because whiter skin (not pure white skin like white people) is linked with higher social classes inside the Chinese society. From the Qin dynasty, there is this a social ranking in which scholars and officers were always on the top of the social class. What’s the characteristic of scholars or officers? They work indoors, not outdoors. Thus, they are not exposed to sunshine as other farmers, workers, merchants are, and as a result they must have skin more like that  of newborn babies. We even have a word for it in Chinese, “白面书生”. Thus, in the traditional stereotype of Chinese society, whiter skin is linked with higher social class.

This is even true for contemporary Chinese society. We may be educated to treat all kinds of jobs equally and be taught that there is no such thing as better jobs and worse jobs. But the unconscious bias of our mind still to some extent controls our behaviors. And from my observation, there must be such bias and sometimes even conscious ones.

Sometimes, this kind of discrimination is even institutionalized. In the Chinese hukou system, people possessing a rural hukou receive a lower standard of social welfare compared with people with an urban hukou. Those people with rural hukou are normally those working as agriculture farmers or construction workers and other labor intensive jobs. People working in the offices normally have higher social status compared with people working outdoors in construction sites or agricultural fields. A typical image of a successful person working a decent job would be like this, while “migrant workers” or farmers are usually associated with this kind of image and are usually considered as poor, not well-educated and with bad manners.

So my argument is that the preference of white skin may be linked with power and privilege, but it doesn’t need to be privilege of other races and ethnic groups. While white privilege might be an explanation for the skin whitening market in some parts of the world, some times it could because of the privilege of social classes inside the same race and ethnic group. Being whiter doesn’t need to be imitating white people.

Cultural Citizenship: ‘Jun Japa’ at Japanese Universities

by Rena Shoji

What makes a “pure Japanese”? Is it Japanese lineage or nationality? I will examine the term Jun Japa, which is frequently used in Japanese universities. It often draws a border between those with/without experiences abroad within the Japanese community. Specifically, returnees who have Japanese parents and hold Japanese nationality will be analyzed. Citizenship includes both legal and extra-legal terms. Through looking at the case of the world “Jun Japa”, I found notions of inclusion and exclusion in the Japanese society.

The term is frequently used in international environments at Japanese universities. Jun Japa is a word created by the campus culture of those universities to describe Japanese students with no experience abroad. Those who are categorized as Jun Japa are often put in the bottom of the student stratification system on campus because their language skills (mostly English skills) are often lower than those of returnees, mixed-race Japanese, immigrants, international students, and native English speakers. As myself being a Jun Japa in a university with many international students, I could understand, to some extent, what my friends in other universities tell me about, such as how hard to participate in class discussions and fit in the multi-national community.

On the one hand, the word describes inferiority of Japanese students to those who have backgrounds abroad in terms of language ability. On the other hand, however, it entails an exclusionary aspect of Japaneseness. The word Jun (純) means “pure” in Japanese, and Japa is a contracted form of “Japanese”. So Jun Japa can be translated into “pure Japanese”. As a Japanese grown up in the society, I have noticed the Japanese society is, in many ways, exclusive to foreigners and mixed-race Japanese and that “pure Japanese lineage” is likely to be a measurement of inclusion or “full membership” to the Japanese society. However, returnees—even if they are Japanese and their parents hold Japanese nationality—are excluded from the meaning of this buzzword just because of their background in other countries.

In “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation and Challenges to the Nation-State” (2008), Irene Bloemraad and her co-authors argue that one can look at citizenship from four dimensions: legal status, rights, participation, and sense of belonging. Even in the face of globalization, nation-states still holds power “to shape the institutions that provide differentiated access to participation and belonging” (Bloemraad et al. 2008:154). A short/mid-term experience abroad can affect those “pure” Japanese’s behavior of othering, which influences returnees’ sense of belonging, and vice versa. Japanese society has diversified as globalization has continued, and the image towards those whose origin/background are from out of Japan seems to have improved. Their language abilities and experiences abroad are often seen an advantage on campus in Japan. However, the sense of otherness still exists.

What makes a “pure Japanese”? I found that this returnees’ case of exclusion in the Japanese society could be related to what Renato Rosaldo (1997) calls “Cultural Citizenship”. Citizenship includes legal terms, such as nationality, but he argues cultural background that is different from the mainstream of the country also can evoke marginalization and exclusion from the society. This concept was proposed in the process of Latino/na population increase in the United States. Rosaldo claims that Latinos/as’ bilingual ability and dual cultural background can arise marginalization and exclusion because of difference from the mainstream (living in the U.S. only, English only and Anglo heritage etc).

Not only legal terms, extra-legal terms can be applied to the notion of citizenship in the society. Even though returnees enjoy full legal membership in Japanese society, their bilingual abilities and multicultural experiences affect their evaluation from the mainstream. Thus, the term Jun Japa demonstrates the idea of exclusion in the social community in Japan, even though it is used to illustrate the sense of inferiority and envy to those who have a different cultural background.


Bloemraad, I., Korteweg, A., & Yurdakul, G. 2008. Citizenship and immigration: Multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the nation-state. Annual Review of Sociology. 34. 153-179.

Rosaldo, R. 1997. Cultural citizenship, inequality, and multiculturalism. In Flores W. F., & Benmayor, R. (Eds). Latino cultural citizenships. (pp. 27-38). Boston: Beacon Press.

Can Undocumented Immigrants Become Naturalized Japanese Citizens?

SurajAnonymous student post

In March of 2010, a Ghanaian national, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, died as he was being escorted by immigration officials to a private jet at Narita airport for deportation; he had asphyxiated due to the immigration officials’ negligence. The Japanese immigration officials had tied his arms and legs, and stuffed a towel in his mouth, thus suffocating him (The Economist 2010).

Suraj had been detained in 2006 after he was discovered by the Japanese police for overstaying his tourist visa. At the time of arrest, Abubakar had lived in Japan for about twenty-one years, had a Japanese partner he subsequently married while in immigration detention, fluently spoke the Japanese language, and had a sustainable income from working at a metal plating factory, recycling and clothing sector, as well as painting for a magazine, illustrating posters and CD jackets. (Jacqueline Andall 2014). Why wasn’t Suraj considered for naturalization, or at the very least, a special residency Permit (SRP), which is granted arbitrarily to immigrants under such circumstances? According to article 5 of the Nationality Law by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, an alien is eligible for naturalization if:

suraj2…he or she has domiciled in Japan for five years or more consecutively;…he or she is twenty years of age or more and of full capacity to act according to the law of his or her home country;…he or she is of upright conduct;…he or she is able to secure a livelihood by one’s own property or ability, or those of one’s spouse or other relatives with whom one lives on common living expenses;… he or she has no nationality, or the acquisition of Japanese nationality will result in the loss of foreign nationality;…he or she has never plotted or advocated, or formed or belonged to a political party or other organization which has plotted or advocated the overthrow of the Constitution of Japan or the Government existing thereunder, since the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan. (Ministry of Justice, no date)

Basing on Article 5 of Japan’s Nationality Law, Suraj was a perfect candidate for naturalization, even though he was an undocumented immigrant. The only clause that might have deterred his claim to naturalization is that an applicant has to be of upright conduct, and undocumented immigrants are often perceived as dishonest and problematic. Ultimately, the final verdict on who qualifies as a naturalization applicant is always left to the Minister of Justice, and it is likely that illegal immigrants might not be considered.

Many cases involving undocumented immigrants in Japan have arisen in previous years that have attracted the attention of the international community and shed light on Japan’s problematic immigration policies. For example: the case of Fida Khan, a teenager born in Japan but facing deportation together with his Pakistani father and Filipino mother who entered the country without proper visas; and Noriko Calderon, a girl born in Japan to undocumented immigrants from the Philippines who were apprehended by immigration authorities after having lived in Japan for 16 years.

It is my humble view that Japan needs to amend its immigration policies so as to clearly state under which circumstances undocumented immigrants qualify for naturalization or permanent residency. I also think that Japan needs to open up its borders and promote migration into the country in order to solve the labor shortage problem that is arising due to low birthrates and an aging population. It is clear that Japan needs foreign assistance in terms of migrant workers if it is to compete favorably with other developed countries to maintain its economic growth and development.


Andall J. (2014). Deported from Japan: until death do us part.

Ministry of Justice. (n.d.). The Nationality Law.

The Economist. (2010). A nation’s bouncers: A suspicious death in police custody.

Ibasho making as an Ibasho

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

In the future, I would like to work to improve human relationships. It pains me to see relationships that are not going well. Whether the relationships be strained or simply non-existent on the personal level, national level, or global level, I would like to do what I can do to help them improve. There are many ways of going about this. I strongly believe that a certain openness is required between people and nations for truly positive relationships to take place. This is why I would like to spread the message about different issues. Some examples of the things I would like to spread the message about are the U.S.-Japan relationship issues including the issues in Okinawa, the sex-trade occurring abroad and in Japan, and the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is made worse when people fail to understand what has happened to the person affected by it.

However, I believe that people are afraid of the truth in some of these issues if not all of them. Therefore I feel that doing this sort of work will certainly make me a precarious worker for certain if not worse than that. There is not be a big business for “whistleblowers” when the economy was booming, much less in this stagnate economy. However, despite the lack of market, this is a highly needed work so even if it in only my side job I think this sort of work will be a very important part of my future.

I strongly believe that this sort of service to one’s community outside of the work place as mentioned above can not only benefit the community, but also benefit the one who serves. This is because people can bond over a common goal. This provides an ibasho. One of my many ibashos is the student organization I work with to try to make a positive difference in this world. We work together to put on community festivals for the purpose of community-building and hold awareness meetings for jisatsu (suicide), hikikomori (life in seclusion from other), or futoko (chronic absence from school), among other activities. In the case of my student organization, there are 7 of us from 6 different universities throughout the Kansai area. We have all different goals and interests outside of the group from photo journalist to lifesaver to flight attendant. However, working towards our goal to provide ibasho we have also created a vital ibasho.

Precarious life for Japanese women at work

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

This time I would like to think about how is the current precariousness of life in Japan affecting my plans.

After graduate from Ritsumeikan University I would like to get a job. To get a job, I have to do job hunting but there is a “ikizurasa” for woman. It is said that women have much difficulty when they do job hunting because many of the companies think that women tend to retire after they get married, or have children. The companies don’t want to hire people who clearly quit job because no matter how supervise women, it will be absolutely nothing. But there are many women who will not get married or have children. So I think there is a unfairness between men and women, and it will be a “ikizurasa” for Japanese women.

Even if I write this way, I think I will quit job when I have children, and it is related to “ikizurasa” because I believe there is “ikizurasa” not only in the society but also in the company. There is a system that men/women can take a childcare holiday for several weeks whenever the employees want. I think that it is a good system for everyone who got children because you can take care of them, not to abolish or leave them in grandparents care. However, if you take childcare holiday, you will fall behind to the same period. I don’t think that falling behind to the peers is a bad thing, but most of the companies regards the employee as lacking of the ability. But there is a bad aspect to take a childcare holiday.  After I take the holidays, it will be difficult to get back to the job because I would not know how was the company going on during I take the holidays. I think this means that l will lose my “ibasho” in the company. I regard “ibasho” as the place where I can get comfort both physically and mentally. I have a image that companies change very fast so even if the employees take holidays for a while, it will be difficult to catch up the work, and surrender will be changed.

After I raise up my children, I want to open a small English private cramming school in my house. These days, we have variety of jobs nothing to do with gender. I think this is a improvement of “ikizurasa”.

Above all, these are my life plan and thinking. I want to find my “ibasho”.

Precarious State Casting Shadow on My Future Vision

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Momoka Murayama

First, I would like to make my goals and aims for the near future clear. As a university student, I strongly wish to gain the capability to think critically and logically through various experiences and being able to analyze one object deeply and globally from the various angles are the capabilities I aspire to acquire. Having those ability, I strongly wish to work as a career women in the future. I am interested in working with workers from different countries who have different thoughts and cultural background. I believe that working in this kind of environment would allow me to grow and to widen my views. Since I was a high school student, I have been interested in interpretation and translation. Although it is still vague, I wish to become a bridge to connect Japan with the rest of the world making the most use of English skills I will have acquired by then in this globalized age.

However, when I imagine my future I always become anxious because several social problems in Japan cross my mind. Here, I would like to focus on the gender issue. I see this as a sever issue and for me it is problematic since my future plans and goals may be affected by this issue. As a woman, I strongly wish to get married and have children someday. However, it is difficult to dispel my misgivings that I might lose a job after child-rearing and have no place to return. In spite of high level of education in Japan, employment rate of women is low compared to that of western countries and I feel that the Japanese government and society are not using potential power of women effectively. This is one of the Japanese precarious aspects. As Allison (2013) have mentioned in the book, the number of working women has increased over time, however, many of them have no choice but to leave their workplace when they get married and have a baby, and in addition, they are mostly irregularly employed.

This book talks about “ibasho” and we have discussed this in class as well. “Ibasho” to me is where I feel comfortable and it is where you could feel that you are not alone. I suppose most of the people find “ibasho” when they are with their friends and family members. However, in my opinion, it is also important to have “ibasho” at your workplace. On the other hand, companies should provide “ibasho” to workers. Workplace should be somewhere that makes you motivated and feel that you want to contribute to where belong to. It should be a place where workers can return anytime. In that sense, Japan needs progression and creating “ibasho” in society under stronger social relationship may be the key to get out of present precarious state.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

To deal with the precariousness

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

As Anne Allison described in her book Precarious Japan (2013), contemporary Japan is unstable and filled with anxiety. I have felt the precariousness of Japan and I have been struggling to decide a certain future plan to survive in the precarious social condition since I was a high school student. Though I have not reached any concrete future plan yet, I have found the way to help myself. It is having many qualification and much specialized knowledge.

Today’s labor system in Japan is changing rapidly. After the collapse of economic bubble, the employment situation is becoming more flexible and more unstable. According to Allison (2013), one-third of labor forces were registered as irregular workers in 2012. Besides, the former protection for workers of “Japan inc.” such as a permanent employment system and a seniority-based wage system almost broke down and a new strict evaluating system started to be introduced in many companies (Allison, 2013). Considering this situation, Japanese companies may come to require people who can be immediately effective like the company in the western countries, and all workers will be exposed to a harder competition in the near future. In my opinion, to survive in this hard competition and to get close to stability, I must have expert knowledge or be qualified as a specialist. Certain techniques are also helps for improving career.

So I want to have some qualification or learn specialized knowledge in the near future and get a specialist job. Now I am interested in some kind of qualification. However, these are much different from what I am majoring in. Moreover, I do not have enough time to study for the qualifying examination now. When I really try to obtain the qualification, I may study in two schools or enter a professional school after graduating from Ritsumeikan university. However, it costs much money and time. So it increases the burden of my family because I cannot spend so much time to earn money now. Therefore I still hesitate to take action and keep this idea to myself.

In the contemporary precarious society, there are few absolute things. For example, it is thought that public employees is stable. However, because of aging society, tax revenue will decrease more and it may influence the stability of public employees. Therefore I think it is better to having means to earn money as much as possible.