Making relationships, seeking social ties

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 Natsumi Yoshida

In the future, I want to have a family and two or more children and keep working. There are some reasons that I want such situation. First of all, after graduation, I want to get a regular work and have some experience in society.

In Precarious Japan (Anne Allison, 2013), there is “muenshakai”. I would like to make more friendly family with neighborhood. Actually, I grew up in friendly atmosphere and had a close relationship with them. People can recognize me and so do I. When I met them, they say “Hello, are you going to work or study?” Even today, there is “butsu butsu koukan”, bantering. They are very kind to everyone. But these days this magnificent relationship is about to vanish. I want to make the same relationship with neighbors as today. That will affect my children in good way and they can learn human connection and sense of Omoiari from early ages. In fact, I thought it is natural connection until recently.

In the second, I want to have two or more children because they will rely on with each other. If I had only one child, he or she cannot play in home. Moreover, if their parents (I and someone) die, they would not be alone. When they come of ages and become adults, they still have connections.

In the third, I want to keep working. If I had two children, a good deal of money would be needed because they will go college or university to get good job. In addition to that, I just want to have a connection with society, not only staying home. However, after marriage, I wouldn’t care of my job is regular or part time because my purpose is to stay in public place or my “ibasho”. Anne Allison said “being sacrifice signaled both duty and honor and also was just part of job” as the cliché and “having a job became his identity” (p23), although I don’t think so. Some people think the same way but, today, there are many contract workers and it becomes common. Therefore, after marriage, I will work in company that I really want. However, I can say such things because I am a woman. If I were man, I would have to think my life and job more seriously. I know it is strange sense but, maybe it’s the way of elderly Japanese.

Planning my future, with family ties

by Kanoko Sakamoto

As I’m living in Japan, where life has been becoming unstable, its about time for me to think about my future with seriousness because the Japanese job-hunting system is little different compared to other countries’ and Japan is unstable, so I’m old enough to think about those things.

When I was little, my dream was just to marry some one at young age, become a housewife, have kids, and live happily like everyone dreams. However, as we already know, it doesn’t work anymore with the current situation in Japan. People in Japan are facing precariousness and the situation has involved serious problems of “kodokushi”, “muen shakai”, “ikizurasa”, ”frita”, “parasite single” etc. People who feel they have no “ibasho”, which means the place they feel comfortable, it sometime leads them to suicide.

My “ibasho”, I think, is my family, my childhood friends, my friends in the university, and even my workplace is my “ibasho” too. It sounds like, and looks like everybody has their “ibasho”. Then why does “ibasho” continue to be a matter of debate? It had been too unfamiliar for me however, it became not somebody else’s problem.

To tell the truth, my grand mother lives in the same two-family houses with her first-born son and his family, and his kids who are my cousins, are already “shakaijin” and working in Tokyo so they don’t live together anymore. What is the problem is that since her eldest son and his wife are both working and my family doesn’t live near enough to see my grand mother everyday, she usually eats alone and sleeps alone and now she is feeling “kodoku” (alone).

I felt so sorry that I had never noticed about it and now me and my family are discussing to make the situation better. I’m sure that there are many people facing same kind of this situation in Japan. I thought everybody has “ibasho”, but like my grandmother, I realized that people sometime feel “kodoku” and no “ibasho” even they live with their own family for the first time.

Japanese society is an aging society with fewer children and it is predicted that the situation advances in the future. As I live in the future Japan, I thought it would be an option to get into a Japanese big company located abroad so that I do not have to stay in this unstable country and also I can contribute to Japan. However, since I encountered my grandmother’s situation, I thought it is also a good option to stay in Japan and not take my eyes off from the situation. Because people cannot live alone and like my grandparents and my parents took care of me, I should return a favor in the future and I think it’s a kind of my obligation.

The generation that doesn’t have dreams

by Misora Ohara

I was born after 1991, when the bubble economy burst. We called the bad situation of Japanese economy after the bubble burst “Heisei Fukyo (recession in Heisei).” In addition, sometimes people called children who were born under the Heisei Fukyo the generation that doesn’t have dreams. I was born in this very generation. Therefore, some adults who especially experienced the bubble economy may regard me as a student who doesn’t know dreams. However, I don’t think that we don’t have dreams. This is because I have a dream, and my friends also have their dreams.

In my opinion, the reason why adults call us the generation that doesn’t have dreams is not the fact that students actually don’t have dreams but the difference of the way of thinking about dreams. Adults who experienced the bubble economy think dreams as the situation that people can gain whatever they want, especially expensive material things, such as cars and houses. Also, they know how to get everything what they want and how happy they are after they got everything.

On the other hand, we tend to regard dreams as future plans or jobs. For our generation, dreams are for the future. This is because whenever we talked about dreams in school or family, we were always asked “What do you want to be in the future?” It means that dreams stand for what we want to do as jobs in the future, for us. In addition, the future plans and jobs are based on stability. This is because we only have the experience of recession in Japan. We don’t know how satisfied many Japanese were in the bubble economy. We only heard the story at that time from our parents or teachers.

Besides, after we were born, a kind of track was already established. It means that the course from birth to death was already decided. For example, many students tend to think that they should go to a good high school, enter an intelligent university and get good jobs of famous companies for the high salary. As a matter of fact, in my experience, I haven’t met any friends who want to be comedians or artists. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get those kinds of jobs. However, almost all of us easily think that it is impossible.

In conclusion, the reason why we are called the generation who don’t have dreams is the difference of views about dreams. Actually, we have dreams. However, the dreams are different from what adults indicate. This is because we hope the steadiness for the future.

Balancing career and family for women in Japan

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 Momo Nakamura

How should Japanese women who want to have both a career and family, including children, live in current Japanese society?

This is the ultimate question for me since I am one of the women. In my future, I want to study conflict resolution or peace building in graduate school and have work that require what I have studied. Although I don’t know whether I will stay in Japan or not, it is clear that having a child is very difficult after the age of 30. That means women who want a child have to marry at least by 30.

Marriage is the first and maybe the most difficult part. Of course they don’t have to marry to have a child, however, many of them must be in need of a partner because of the unstable situation of the Japanese society. Raising a child costs a lot and takes time and care, so it will be really hard to do it alone. Those who can prioritize one thing, having family or career, won’t have such difficulty but for women like me, it will be a matter of chance to find a partner while working hard.

I can think of two reasons why I want to marry. One is the stereotype that exists strongly in Japanese society that women’s happiness is to have children and their family. I agree to some extent. It will become a new and fundamental “ibasho” where I can relieve and be needed. Second is about future income. If I became a person who works for peace, I can easily imagine that I don’t have so much income. This is why I need someone who has another way of making money. These two reasons show that although I’m aiming to have a new type of life, I’m still trapped to the old and traditional values and needs.

Second difficult part is the relationships between relatives and neighbors. It is important to maintain good relationships with people around us. We can have various kinds of security we need as families from the relationships that Japanese society have had for a long time in history, and it was mainly women’s job to make the relationships. However, having a new kind of life can make it difficult to have the relationships. When both parents work regularly, there is less time to spend with people around them. Also, people’s way of thinking seems to be changing. When I started to live in Kyoto, I thought I have to go to see my neighbors to say hello, what many Japanese do when they have moved to a new place. However, my parents disagreed because it may be dangerous to tell my neighbors that I’m living alone. Some connections that were seen as a security are now seen as something different. In this situation, it requires active approaches to bring back the security.

I often think of those problems that may occur when I try to realize my dream, and it is deeply connected to the society where we live. Although it is difficult, I want to keep challenging and this type of life may one day become a normal way of life.

Struggle for My Future Plan

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 Mai Nakagawa

There are precarious situations related to my life and future plans which I don’t want to give up. I’d like to point out two issues which Japanese citizens (including me) are inevitably obsessed with, but which are obviously caused by distinct characteristics of the Japanese people. Firstly, the current education system, which is completely set up to destroy the creative capacity and the intelligence of students. For instance, university students started to think about “shukatsu” (job hunting) in early period.  Therefore, what they are studying in the university is only what is useful and necessary for “shukatsu”, not what they are interested in.  There is inclination that student to hate studying and to focus on partying or on a part-time job. When someone asked them “why are you studying at university?”, they might say “Because it’s necessary for getting job to get degree, great marks and a school diploma”.  Students finally cannot find the interesting points and the real meaning of studying, even the connection between the future job and what they are now studying.

Also, there is an insecure job system, which makes human (family) relationship worse.  For my example, my mother, who has 4 children (including me) and works for a kindergarten, couldn’t go back home until the evening. When my brother and I were in elementary school, we had to wait at school or my relative’s house until our mother finished her job. Her income gives her just a little bit of extra spending money.  Our mother have started to work for us, and shows us that she is a powerful women. However, without any children support from her workplace, it’s difficult for her to take a break to look after us when we get sick.  Her choice made a hard situation for us because it took from us a lot of time we could have spent with our mother.

Then, I’d like to move onto my future plans. After graduation, I have two options, one is a postgraduate course and another is what we call “shushoku” (getting a job). Honestly, continuing my studies in university is the best choice for me. Nevertheless, without an adequate income, it’s difficult for me to pay for such expensive school tuition. Also, there is a tacit understanding that “shukatsusei” should be “shinsotsu” (who graduated from school in 4 years to 6 years, whose age is approximately 22 to 24). It’s inevitable to me to consider job hunting (“shushoku-katsudo”) everytime and also to lay out a tight schedule of study.

There is one more struggle when I get a job, to choose to be either a good mother (wife) or a good worker.  Unlike my mother, I don’t want to leave my children alone and let them spend lonely time.  However, it’s my dream to work at the place where I can use my experience and what I learned at university.  It would be great if I could engage in both in the future. However, nowadays, in Japan, it’s still serious matter for me (as a university student, and also as a woman) to figure out what to do in the future.

Imagining my future, with worries and hope

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 Chizuru Kobayashi

My future plan is to get married before I am 25 years old and have two babies. I hope they would be one boy and one girl. After my children enter kindergarten, I will get back to a job. I really have no idea what kind of job I will get in the future.

There is one thing that I want to do with my future family. That is travelling somewhere once a year with a whole family. On the other hand, there are a lot of things that I am worried about the future. If I fail to get a job, this can cause having not enough money to raise the children. Quite a lot of money is needed to get children to go to an university.

In my opinion, these worries are caused by instability of recent Japan. After the bubble economy, Japanese economy was so awful that a lot of people lost everything, such as their home, money, jobs and also future plans. Since then, it got too difficult for young people to get jobs. Actually, my brother is struggling to get his job.

I found that some of my friends go to a developing country to do volunteer or go abroad to study foreign language not because they want to achieve their ambitions, but for the interviews when they are job hunting.

It is ridiculous to spend money for job hunting. I believe that university is the last time that students can do what they want to do. After they get a job, there will be no time to what they want to do. If they want to do a part-time job, it is best to do the part-time job till they get enough of it. Maybe doing volunteer is more profitable than doing a part time job while they are university students. However, there is no need to do what they do not want to achieve.

In this stressful Japan, the place where people can feel really relax, called ibasho, is so important that is very needed. My ibasho is my shower room. The time when I am taking the bath is the most relaxing time for me. In conclusion, finding the way to solute instability of recent Japan is the most thing that young Japanese face.

Dreaming 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.

by Kim Chang Hwan

My future dream is to have a job in Japan, as a member of airline company. This is one of my reasons for studying in Japan. My first flight was from Korea to Japan on ANA, one of the Japanese airline companies. The experience I could get at that time was wonderful. Nice service, comfortable seats, and the most wonderful thing was flight itself. Enabling people to go abroad, linking a person with flight… that gave me my dream.

For my future, from next year, when I’m a third-year student, you will find me at the career center or at seminars about airline companies. It seems that the most important thing is making a foothold after graduation and getting a job as my wish.

I also thought about marriage. One of my Japanese friends told me about the “kagami-mochi” theory after we listened about the Christmas cake theory. As we learned in class, the requirement of Christmas cake drops after December 26. That can compare to woman’s marriage age, meaning that after 26, it is hard for a woman to get married. Similarly, a man can be compared with Kagami-mochi. Basically, Japanese people buy Kagami-mochi in January 1. This can calculate as December 32. Yes. As you sensed out of point, this means man’s marriage age is 32.

After I heard about this theory, I thought I needed a systematic plan about marriage before I reach the age of 32 reach because I only have 7 years left. My vision of my wishing for a job is quite positive. In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison has a negative vision about Japan. According to Allison, of course it was before the bubble shock in 1990, people were nervous with their own property and became materialistic. And after the bubble shock, the economic system crashed and a lot of people lost their job. Stable jobs  disappeared and the new word “Furita” appeared.

In my opinion, as I mentioned above, airline companies seem stable and one of the great chances for business. The economic shock is now just an old times story. Nowadays, Japan’s economy is high level around the world. For this moment, doing business abroad seems very important. And materialism, actually I don’t think it is bad. With a vision of business, people want to fulfil their desire with materials. However, when they are somewhat satisfied, they want something else, leisure. And that can be travelling. I think airline company is one of the good business which can fill consumer’s demand as I listed above. That is why I think my future job’s vision is positive.

The Faces of Race in Anime

Untitledby Belle Pancharoen

There is a joke that my friend once told. “How do you blind an Asian?” she asked, to which we gave her a confused look. She grinned and answered, “With dental floss!” All of us got the joke right away and I’m guessing you did too. Almond shape eyes that almost appear to be tiny slits on the face when smiling is one of the stereotypical facial characteristics plastered on Asians. We use these visual characteristics to label people into different racial category at a glance, thus it can be said that race is not only socially constructed like many scholars say but race is also visually constructed.

In her article “Seeing Faces, Making Races: Challenging Visual Tropes of Racial Difference”, Terry Kawashima mentions that Sailor Moon looks “white” to some viewers and “Japanese” to others. She concludes that the reason why this is the case is because “we are culturally conditioned to read visual images in specific racialized ways” (Kawashima 2002, p.161). In other words, Sailor Moon looks just as “white” as she does “Japanese” and how we interpret her is based on our own cultural context.

Though, the fact that some people read Sailor Moon as white is understandable considering that her character design consists of the Western trademark blonde hair and blue eyes. Even in an anime where the hair and eye colors of the characters ranges from one end of the color spectrum to the other, when a Western character is put on the screen more than half the time he or she will have that exact hair and eye color combination. Take for example, the Western characters from Free! Eternal Summer. The Japanese characters have hair colors ranging from yellow to black, but all the Western character hair colors are limited to different shades of yellow and brown. How about comparing the facial features of Alex Louis Armstrong to Ling Yao from Fullmetal Alchemist? Isn’t it clear that Armstrong is drawn to represent your typical Western face and Ling as Asian? Why are we so fixated on these stereotypical appearances that they are also reflected in art and media?

Kawashima says that “certain features are highlighted and others suppressed or ignored to ensure a coherent result” (2002, p.164). Perhaps this highlighting of specific facial features and simplifying them is true. Perhaps this is the reason why we tend to say “they all look alike” when we talk about people from different races. I have lost count of the number of times when my friends look at a Korean idol group and say that they can’t tell the members apart. “The other race affect” says that we can recognize diversity in our own race but not with others. Daniel Levin, a cognitive psychologist at Kent State University, says that “the problem is not that we can’t code the details of cross-race faces—it’s that we don’t.”

Let’s face it, despite the fact that we know that these stereotypes exists some of us, for example, don’t like being told that all East Asians look the same. So just because “we don’t” doesn’t meant that we can’t try.


Kawashima, Terry. 2002. “Seeing Faces, Making Races: Challenging Visual Tropes of Racial Difference.” Meridians 3(1): 161-90.

Pomeroy, Steven Ross. “‘They All Look Alike’: The Other-Race Effect.” Forbes.

Reconsidering Assimilation Theories: The Case of China

by Yuan Mingyang

Although the new assimilation theory supported by Alba and Nee (1997) and the segmented assimilation theory in Portes and Rumbaut (2001) to some extent explain the experience of immigrants and their descendants in the United States, some flaws can be found in the basic conceptions in both theories. For example, Jung (2009) pointed out that the notion of race has been largely overlooked and misinterpreted in both the new assimilation theory and the segmented assimilation theory. These flaws might become more obvious in the context of countries other than the U.S. since both researches are largely based on the U.S., and therefore in the following paragraphs I will examine some key concepts in the assimilation theories in the situation context of China. The aim is not to criticize these theories but to reconsider whether it is appropriate to take these concepts for granted in the assimilation theories.

The first problematic concept is “culture”, which is also mentioned in Jung (2009). Segmented assimilation theory has been criticized to blame everything to “culture”, which tends to essentialize social groups into certain good or bad social images (Jung, 2009). The segmented assimilation theory also uses the term “culture” without making a clear definition of it. Without a clear definition, culture can literally mean everything in human society, and as a result, the argument of the segmented assimilation theory that some groups successfully assimilated in the U.S. due to their culture becomes hollow.

The notion of culture in both theories also fails to analyze the interaction between the groups that are sometimes considered as sharing similar cultures. Lin (2012) made a research about how Taiwanese assimilate in the mainland society. Lin found that the key for Taiwanese to assimilate in the mainland is a Weberian social stratification, instead of a vague notion of culture. Lin argued that it is possible for Taiwanese to assimilate in the mainland society, but only into the group of people with similar socio-economic status and taste, since a large number Taiwanese in the mainland settle in large cities and are businessmen of higher socio-economic status. The segmented assimilation theory would not be able to provide an answer for this kind of cases. Indeed, the segmented assimilation theory might not even notice this kind of cases if it kept overemphasizing the effect of a blurred notion of “culture”.

The term “assimilation” is also hard to be defined in the assimilation theories. Culture is not a good criterion for defining assimilation as discussed above. Although both theories more or less use socio-economic status as a criterion for assimilation, these two theories seldom mention the situation where a group of higher socio-economic status are trying to assimilate in the host society, for instance, Taiwanese in mainland China discussed in Lin (2012). It is also hard to determine whether Taiwanese in China, most of who are businessmen with high socio-economic status, have assimilated in the mainland society, and therefore socio-economic status might not be able to measure assimilation.

National policy, which is part of context in the theory of Portes and Rumbaut (2001), might be another way to examine whether a group is accepted as a member of the country, but usually policy is different from reality. For example, although pluralism is prevailing in the national discourse in China, and many national policies preferred minority ethnic groups over the Han majority, minority ethnic groups usually live in specific areas and are of relatively low economic and education standards (Myers et al., 2013). Although multiculturalism is written in the Constitution, the government focuses more on unity and has a strong control on the autonomous regions of minority ethnic groups (Ibid).

The final point comes to the definition of migration itself. If we define migration only as people moving from one country to another country, we might be blind to the things happening inside the borderline. Both theories are restricted by the international system composed of sovereign states since they only focus on people across the border. The groups that are inside the border from the beginning will not be considered in the theories even if they do not share similar social norms and economic standards with other members in the same country. The neglect of race (Jung, 2009) might also be a result of this kind of theoretical assumption which only focuses on people moving across the border. In the case of China, since Korean, Russian, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Uzbek, and many other minority ethnic groups are living inside China (see Myers et al., 2013 for details), their live and the interactions among minority ethnic groups and the majority Han will never be covered by assimilation theories. It is necessary to reconsider from the beginning what we should really focus on and what do all these conceptions really mean when we are studying migration.


Alba, R., & Nee, V. (1997). Rethinking assimilation theory for a new era of immigration. International Migration Review, 31(4), 826-874.

Jung, M. (2009). The racial unconscious of assimilation theory. Du Bois Review, 6(2), 375-395. doi: 10.1017/S1742058X09990245

Lin, R. (2012). Birds of a feather flock together: Social class and social assimilation of the Taiwanese in mainland China. Soochow Journal of Political Science, 30(2), 127-167. (Original text in Chinese)

Myers, S. L., Gao, X., & Cruz, B. C. (2013). Ethnic minorities, race, and inequality in China: A new perspective on racial dynamics. The Review of Black Political Economy, 40(3), 231-244. doi: 10.1007/s12114-013-9165-7

Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2001). Legacies: The story of the immigrant second generation. Berkley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

My experiences and expectations for 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

Do you know Kamagasaki? Kamagasaki is a city of the poor in Osaka, Japan. There are many homeless. Almost all of them are old men and day labors. Problems which they have are many and complicated.

Originally, day labors in Kamagasaki were recruited from the whole of Japan to hold Japan World Exposition in 1970. But, after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis, their jobs decreased intensively. They live depending on the wage of the day work. They don’t have houses and stay at day-labors’ lodgings called “Doya.” That is to say, no job means no money for living the day. They want to work but they have no job and no money, and they cannot help but be homeless.

I visited Kamagasaki as a study tour in the last spring vacation. Then, I heard a story of a man. He died alone in his room of an apartment building. One week after his death, he was found by others. The cause of his death was starvation. He was received welfare benefits, but he died of hunger. Why? A person who told us the story told the reason which he thought. Human have nothing to do, human don’t want to live. People who come to Kamagasaki have some problems and they don’t keep in touch with their family and relative. Therefore, they don’t ask about their experience each other. They know each other by sight but they are not friends who do something together and don’t have such friends. They are solitary and lonely. No one cared him, and no one knew his death for a week.

I don’t want to be a homeless or to die alone while no one know. It is too sad to die alone while no one alone. So as not to do so, I want to marry and to have some children. I want to have three children because I am one of them. For it, I want to have a stable job. My parents are public employees. The salary of public employee are lower than other business. But public employee is securer and safer than others. What I want is not a high but a decent salary and stability. Also I want my partner to have a regular work because I think that it is hard to bring up three children by only my income or my income and her income of irregular work. So, my future plan is to have family and to have a job which give me enough money to support my family.