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.

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.

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.

Finding my ibasho in the 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 Natsuki Suzuki

Ibasho is a place where I can stay comfortably and where I can allow to stay whenever I want. Ibasho means both rooms (places) and human relationship. For me, it is wherever people always accept me (wherever is ok!), but mainly my family, relatives and friends. Also, my home, hometown and school (current and past) are my ibasho.

The work I want to do in the future is directly connected with my opinion on ibasho, because I want to create a comfortable society where everyone has their own ibasho. I feel Japanese society and relationships are too tight and cold, and I wish everyone has more tolerance. There are some organizations that work for people who need ibasho. For instance, counseling at Tohoku, gathering for women or sexual minorities and café that thinks about peace. I respect those organizations. At first I was thinking of my future plan working to support developing countries and resolving war. Such my vision came from a wish that I want a peaceful world. However, one day I realized that Japan has also many serious problems such as disconnected people and high suicide number. That is, current precariousness of life in Japan affected me to stand up for changing Japanese society. Japan was less peaceful than I thought, and I hope someday I realize world peace from Japan with wonderful members.

My vision about relationship and family in the future is very flexible. I don’t care whether I get married or not. I also don’t care about the age, but if I have a child, I’d like to get married under 25 years old because the younger is the better to have babies as ability. If I get married but don’t have a child, I prefer at the age of over 45. It’s just because I’m worried about my elderly life. I want broad and worldwide relationships in the future (and also now) since it may be important for my job and it’s nice to learn many things from friends. In addition, I want to have good relation with my family, relatives and old friends for life long. I will try to have contact with them however I’m busy. Also I take it as necessary to have connection with neighbors because it affect my life quality. Allison points out about contactless in page 20, but I will always be positive to have koryu. In every relationship, I think it’s important to have face-to-face connection. More and more people came to use SNS and it’s a good way to keep in touch with friends, but still actual meeting is the best. Also, Allison points out about contactless in page 20, and I think connection with neighbors is necessary for my good living.

Allison’s view of Japan is interesting and true. For example, I heard that hunting a job is so difficult, and some of my friends tend to be hikikomori. Those examples are not difficult to find. There are more issues in Japan other than Allison says in the text, such as extreme (wrong) nationalism, however, Allison’s vision of liquid Japan agrees with my experiences and view of Japan. I think it is the cause of most issues she points out.

Liquid Japan is a result of neoliberalism, which means many problems are regarded as personal one (just in one aspect). Losing in this world is because you didn’t have talent or ability that the society requires, and it’s jikosekinin. Therefore, most people don’t try to solve its system although their “personal” problems even though the problems come from social structure. In addition, many people have serious problems that others can’t or don’t help because of jikosekinin, so they are likely to lose their hope. Such people can be found everywhere around me. I think now Japan came to a turning point to change the way how the government, companies and lifestyle are. People who are struggling with their personal problems usually don’t afford to think about others, but I believe they are the main actors who stand up together and change current problematic social system.


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

Immigration, gender structures and their present roles

Cover of "Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, a...

Cover via Amazon

by Ludvig Bergman

Men have since way back dominated over women with authoritative power, remnants of that might still have some effects on the relationship between the contemporary “equal” men and women in our global contemporary society. Global Woman by Ehrenreich and Hochschild describes how women from third world countries move to developed contries to do “women’s work” with hopes of a higher salary to provide for her family in her home country. Even though this method in many cases secure the financial problems, it also contributes to splitting up families, mothers leaving their underage children without the nurture and care they need.

This shows how third world citizens now take on the role of the traditional suppressed woman in developed countries where the women, due to becoming more “equal” to the breadwinning men, no longer have time to attend such matters as upbringing and childcare. The gender norms expect women to take care of the home and the children while the man should support the family and work long hours.

In the Swedish modern society where I grew up, this might no longer be the case. Men and women more and more split the parental leave between them to give each other the oppurtunity to spend time with the child as well as not loose to much days off from work because of the new addition to the family. The issue comes first when the parental leave is over and the child old is enough to no longer need constant attention from it’s parents. When both of the parents return to work, who is now supposed to take on the traditional role of the mother? This is where the immigrant nannies come into the picture. Nannies whose care for their own children gets neglected to help maintain the gender roles of the developed west.

The salary gap between men and women are in contemporary times static. Unlike past times where men were considered to be the sole breadwinners of the family, in contemporary times that no longer applies. With men no longer being the only breadwinners of the family, services such as daycare and kindergarden allows women to have a family alongside with having a career.

Maatz describes in her Forbes article “The Awful Truth Behind The Gender Pay Gap” how full-time working women in the U.S for the last decade have had median earnings equivalent to 77% of men’s earnings. That such a big difference actually exists in our modern society shows, in my opinion, how either unmotivated any change must be or how uneducated people must be of the current situation. This doesn’t only affect women’s financial status over time but have immediate consequenses regarding issues such as repayment of student loans. Women pay the same tuitions and have the same student loans as their comparative male students. The result of this financial unequality is, according to the article, women already from the beginning being financially behind men in a race where they most commonly cannot ever catch up.


The Awful Truth Behind The Gender Payment Gap by Lisa M. Maatz

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Hochschild. eds. 2004. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Holt and Company.

Precarious Japan and Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kota Yanagidani

In her book Precarious Japan, Anne Alison discusses the depiction of precarious life in the film “Tokyo Sonata.” In the ensuring paragraphs, this paper introduces “Tokyo Sonata” first, and after that, Allison’s view of “Tokyo Sonata” is analyzed, and my opinion on the movie and Allison’s view comes in the final part.

First of all, this movie starts with the situation that one man loses his job, and the movie shows the family’s life in which the father struggles with hiding the truth about his job. After all, family got to know that he lost his job.

About this movie, Allison says there are also other stories of his sons and wife. They all face some problems and complicated and awkward situations; all members of the family have problems but they gather around the table and eat dinner in almost silence. According to Allison, this family represents muenshakai (relationless society) in which disconnectedness and incommunicativeness are occurring. She writes “No one speaks and no one knows, or asks, why the others look a mess” in his family, and her point is actually shown in his family. Also, Allison claims that the house can be a tool for analyzing the soul. In “Tokyo Sonata,” the soul of the family can be seen when the house actually plays the role of “house” which means the place for family members.

My opinion is for my contemporary situation, I really cannot imagine if I was fired while having a family. I may try to find another job while pretending to go work. However, as for muenkazoku (relationless family), I also cannot imagine how I would manage family as father, but from my experience, love is the most important element in family and this should be shown as a form.

In order to show love as father even mother, relationship have to be a big deal. This means that a family thinking love is relationship in a family must not be involved in muenshakai. The truth, however, is there are a number of relationless families in contemporary Japan, according to Allison. Like Allison points out, the cause of these families is market capitalism. Mentally, this market system makes the family, especially the father, think he has to focus on work in order to take care of his family. Then the mother thinks she is supposed to focus on housework and grow up sons or daughters.

Therefore, to put it simply, muenshakai (relationless society) is a by-product of overly developed capitalism, I think. It should be required not to change market capitalism, but to give rise to solutions like improving the welfare system, which directly leads to people’s happiness while we keep capitalism. Anyway, the government should be involved to make a change in our society.

A disjointed family seeks unity in Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Masatoshi Yamamoto

Tokyo Sonata is a movie that shows us a recent ordinary Japanese family. The Sasaki family appears in this movie. Ryuhei, Megumi, and their 2 sons make up the family. This movie starts with a tragedy of Ryuhei. He was working at a company, and he was a department chief. However, suddenly he was fired by his boss because the company decided to set up a new operation. Ryuhei did not talk about it to his family, and he pretended to go to work every day after he lost a job. Nobody in the family knows about his joblessness because he wore a suit and left the home typically. But Megumi who is Ryuhei’s wife saw him receiving a soup ration in a park.

In this family, there were some problems other than Ryuhei’s joblessness. Both 2 children had what they wanted to do. The older son wanted to join the American military, and the younger son wanted to go to a piano school. However, Ryuhei disagreed with them, and he had a very strict authority in his family. Megumi had no opinion of it. Because of the dictatorship of Ryuhei, the family started to break up.

This movie has no happy ending, but I felt that this disjointed family may be able to become a united family through this ending. In the halfway of the movie, both Ryuhei and Megumi wished to start their life again because their family broke apart. How can they rebuild their family?

Ryuhei made a lot of sacrifices in his life to keep the social system in Japan going. He was working very hard at the company, and he did not have enough times to spend with his family, and he often worked late. He tried to contribute to the society and economy. However, he couldn’t receive enough benefits from the company. Moreover, suddenly he was fired, so he lost his ibasho both in the society and his family. People work hard and contribute to the society, but it is obvious that there are many people who cannot get enough welfares. I think that the traditional Japanese society system should change. For example, the labors should be guaranteed their positions more in their company.

In conclusion, I thought that probably there is a relationship between family and economy through this movie. Many people work hard, and they don’t have enough time with family. From this, the relationship in the family may sour. Therefore, if the economy starts to get worse, the number of families which have breakdown of relationship may increase. In our future, we will depend a great deal on the society and economy.


Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from:

Can We Start Over Again?

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

We watched Japanese movieTokyo Sonata” in the class. This movie strongly appealed to us that how the Japanese society is. In particular, it focused on one family which is a normal one in Japan. But existing problems which brothers had have come to the light and their father was fired. In other words, one trouble causes another one. Their mother suffered from them. And all of them seeks their new ways in this story. As the most interesting point, they not only act as members of a family, but the film shows the actual example that Japanese people have now.

I can say that this movie relates to Anne Allison’s book deeply. In short, this shows how Japan is precarious. For instance, their elder brother was like typical young person of today in Japan. Like Allison says, many young people do not have hope or dream for the future. And they do not know what they want to do or should do. Finally he joined the American army in the movie. Moreover, their father who was fired by his company was also important. He met with some misfortune; dismissal, the death of his friened who was in the same situation, coming out of his dismissal and being a contract worker. Halfway through the movie, the family seemed to be about to split. However, they wanted to start over again in spite of such a bad situation. But I have a question. Can the loser really start over again in Japan?

In the movie, they understood the situation they were in and stood together again. But how is it in this real world? Now Japanese society is regarded as a strict society. In terms of failure, if someone makes some mistakes, he/she can not get over them. So people try to avoid the risk and seek safe lives. When such lives collapse even if they are safe, they fall in panic. Many Japanese will try to hide the fact if they lose their job. In the movie, in fact, several contract workers were wearing suit before working despite they did not need to wear. This scene means Japanese care too much about appearance. They never want others to know the dismissal.

In conclusion, I think Japanese society have to be more tolerant. Of course, I know that people are too tired to give a helping hand to others and all they can do is to support themselves. So we must aim to let this society be like that. And then loser will try again easiliy. Failure is not big thing.


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

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from:

Finding where one belongs

Anonymous student post

Last week, we watched a movie, “Tokyo Sonata“. When I watched the movie, I found that this movie may not only tell us “The real of people who have no job” but also “muen shakai”. I’ll talk about meaning of this movie with Anne Allison’s opinion.

“For this era of sarariman Japanese, was where one “belonged” and got socially nested.” Alison said in the book Precarious Japan. In the movie Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa, who is the leading character in the movie, had an “ordinary” Japanese family and an “ordinary” job. But when he lost his job, simultaneously he lost sight of his life by degrees. We may think and know life is not only to work, however, it is not easy to say we can find happy without working in Japan. Kurosawa’s losing job leaded some problems in his family.

When I watched this movie, at first, I thought this family was normal like my family. But I know that “ordinary” is not “normal”. I think Japanese are possessed with the idea that men must work, women must do household affairs and children must go school and university. But this is not the only style to live. Maybe Kurosawa believed he must work and working was only his purpose, so he lost job, he gave up hope and his family began breaking down.

Alison said, “This is a movie about what is ordinary in the (de)sociality – disconnectedness, intercommunicates – of Japan’s muen shakai. Families where no one speaks; communities where a long time resigned can starve to death without seeking or receiving help from a neighbor next door”. And she pointed out stronger muen shakai even if they have family or their own home than jobless. I realized and am surprised that if we have home, family and money, we have a dangerous part in muen shakai. In this movie, Kurokawa family can eat food and children can go to school and somewhere, but their communication is poor, and I felt they didn’t look like happy.

In the last of this movie, members of Kurosawa family found their own way to live. I think they broke down the old way the had lived as “ordinary” family. To be out of ordinary life, they got real happy. This movie told me many problems in Japan, especially in family and the importance of breaking out of the loop days. I now go university, however, I realized it is not important to go university, but it is important to realize the real thing I want to do. After watching this movie, I was able to know ordinary isn’t only way to live.


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

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from: