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.

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.

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.

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.

Civil service for a secure 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 Michiyo Umezato

My future plan is to be a national civil servant after I graduate from the university. I have three reasons. First, I never lose my job: national servants do not have “ristora”. As Anne Allison discussed in her book, contemporary Japan is very precarious, so the most important thing on working is stability, I think. When I was a child, I wanted to have a more unstable occupation: pro golfer, pastry chef, and so on. However, as I got older, I thought I should get more stable job. Second, it is easier for women to take a maternity leave and reinstate after it. Of course, women’s reinstatement is getting usual in general company but, it is still about 20 percent. “Matahara” is very serious problem too. Third, all of my family (father, mother and two sisters) are national civil servants. So, I can know many various things about job easily.

In order to take a maternity leave, I have to marry with someone and bear a baby. I feel this is one of the most difficult events in my life. As I mentioned above, stability is very important. So, I am going to marry a man of a national civil servant like my parents and want two children.

After I retire the job, I want to immigrate to the place which is very tranquil: New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and so on. This is because if Japan does not change a lot, this country would be still unkind to elderly people. Maybe I will not live so long. I want to die around seventy.

Next, I think “ibasho” is the place I can relax and speak my mind. Especially we Japanese put a high value on “honne to tatemae”. So, to speak our minds means we trust you. When we are with people we trust: family, best friends and so on, we can relax. I feel “ba” and “ibasho” are mixed. For example, in the class room, if I sit down alone, there is “ba” but, if I sit down with my friend, there is “ibasho”. They are being inseparable. Also, these ideas relate to some Japanese social problems. People who cannot make “ibasho” in society become hikikomori or get kodokushi (dying alone). Also, I think these problems are caused by smartphone and internet. They bring us fictitious ibasho: friends or community on the internet. It is not real ibasho. This hallucination is cause of them. We should think about how to use them more.

Miss Universe Japan — spectacle, race, and dreams


Ariana Miyamoto’s victory in the Miss Universe Japan contest has raised debates about race, representation, gender, and identity. While hāfu women are very visible in fashion and mass media in Japan, these women are rarely Blackanese. Recent events, like a blackface performance by Momoiro Clover Z and a call for apartheid, in Japan have reminded us that Japanese society has a long way to go in acknowledging and accepting the diversity of its population. Thus Ms Miyamoto’s victory gives hope that maybe, just maybe, things are changing in Japan. Mitzi Uehara Carter’s blogpost shares some important insights on these issues.

Originally posted on Grits and Sushi:

The newly crowned Miss Universe Japan is Blackanese.  No, she’s Japanese.  No, she’s Haafu.  Multiracial? Mixed?  Japanese enough to represent Japan in a silly beauty contest?  Ariana Miyamoto is from Nagasaki, Japan and her win has whipped up both excitement and disdain.  The issue of representation has emerged yet again for those anxious about the nation’s performance on the global beauty stage. These pageants, the spectacle of “national authentic beauty” are always a site where race and gender intersect in convoluted, messy ways and Miyamoto’s racial difference has sparked a series of interesting questions about how to identify “Japaneseness” through the body of women.

Ariana Miyamoto

Weather you’re a pageant supporter or not, the social commentary these kinds of wins generate in everyday discourse is telling of how race is framed in mainstream Japanese and transnational media circuits and they should not be easily dismissed.  While people outside Japan seem…

View original 1,100 more words

‘Ideal Asian Beauty’ in Skin Care Marketing

by Kiho Kozaki

In modern societies, we can observe that there are countless advertisements by mass media, companies, etc., in our daily life. It is almost impossible to not get influenced by them. Whether one recognizes it or not, one’s thought, common sense, standard of behavior, or actions are established based on these influences. Especially in the field of skin-lightening, mass media is playing an important role in idealizing the standard of beauty, according to which those who have lighter skin are more attractive and beautiful.

The global market for skin lighteners is projected to reach US$19.8 billion by 2018, based on sales growth primarily in Asia, Africa and the Middle East (McDougall, 2013). In most advertisements of skin products in Asia, we can see the appearance of Caucasian and half-Asian models. As Japanese person, I was always wondering why even Asian companies use Caucasian or half-Asian models in order to promote their products in Asia. For skin care products, I assume that is to give an impression of light-skin beauty, according to which white is more attractive and superior to dark skin. An Asian ideal image of beauty is almost created and controlled as something really hard to achieve in order to create profit, and Asian women are following those images unconsciously.

There is an argument about whether Asian women use skin-lightning products to become like Europeans. Joanne Rondilla, the author of “Filipinos and the Color Complex,” gave a different perspective, writing that many Asian women are satisfied with being Asian or having Asian features. However, they are looking to “clean up” or become “better” versions of themselves. The author repeatedly used the word “uniqueness” and “delicate” to describe Asian skin. These words can be seen in many skin care products’ advertisements in my daily life. It triggers a question for me, what does uniqueness mean in this context? I feel like there is a contradiction between the Asian women’s desire of whiteness, which is the image of beauty companies are trying to sell, and their insistence on Asian beauty and the uniqueness of their skin.

The assumption is the power. Many Asian women, including myself, have not thought about what they really want to be and what beauty means to them before purchasing the products. This is the natural consequence of every single person having a different skin tone, however, the models in skin care advertisements all seem to have the same white skin tone. The widespread phenomenon of the white standard has already become a huge pressure for Asian and other non-white women. I argue that every single person has their own way of beauty, regardless of race and skin color.


McDougall, A. 2013. Skin lightening trend in Asia boosts global market. Retrieved from

Rondilla, L. J. 2009. Fillipinos and the Color Complex. Pp. 63-80 in Shades of difference: Why skin color matters, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn.Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Beauty Per Skin Complexion and Symmetry

Anonymous student post

This blog will focus on beauty ideals pertaining to skin color and facial symmetry.

From Asia to Africa, having a light skin tone makes one more desirable. Colonial invasions have only helped to instil the idea ‘the whiter the better’. Even in Africa skin bleaching is quite popular. Especially in Nigeria where 77% of women use skin bleaching aides (Alonge 2014). While many Caucasians may tan, other races may tend to avoid tanning. According to the media, tanned skin on a Caucasian individual represents fitness and vacationing, yet ads showcasing the tanning of other races is rare or non existent.

Perhaps the desire for lighter skin is due to the “colonial mentality” which preaches that “white is right”. Yet in countries such as Japan and Asia the ideal beauty has been pale and to an extent is still considered the ideal. One only needs to search for images of celebrities to know the standard. For many centuries in Asia the color of one’s complexion has been an indicator of class status with pale being at the top (Wagatsuma 1967).

India also has a status system based on the complexion of one’s skin that has been exaggerated since the invasion of colonialism. The main difference between the availability of opportunities between East Asia, India, and Africa is that in Japan and China tanned skin does not affect job opportunities, but dark skinned foreigners stick out and aren’t treated as nicely as their lighter skinned counterparts (Arudou 2014), but in Korea where a profile picture must be attached to a resume (The Grand Narrative 2010), the discrimination is worse; in India dark skinned people use skin bleaching aides in order to secure a ‘good job’ and/or get a successful arranged marriage partner (Glenn 2008); and in Africa women bleach their skin due to self esteem issues and to get married as the ‘colonial mentality’ still exists along with the racial profiling of black skinned people.

Even in the US and Europe there are issues with the degree of one’s skin color yet bleaching is less common. Being lighter than average in complexion in one’s race gives one special privileges such as receiving discounts, extras, and also better behavior such as in not being profiled (Fihlani 2013). Lighter skinned black people receive extra attention yet being too light or albino excludes one from their race yet they are also excluded from the white race group (Parks 2007). Also bias in treating others differently due to skin tone is a form of internalized racism (Hall 1992).

According to research, facial symmetry is preferred over asymmetrical faces. In Rhodes et al.’s study on facial symmetry, males preferred the perfect symmetrical face more than females, but the preferences of all other degrees of facial symmetry was similar between the genders. In experiment 1, three individuals original portraits were shown along with computer-altered images in the order of low, normal, high, and perfect symmetry (Rhodes et al. 1998). The argument for the reason being that facial symmetry is attractive is due to health in childhood, but such evolutionary claims have been debunked as a myth (Poppy 2014).

In westernized nations a low WHR (waist to hip ratio) is preferred over a high WHR, yet the Matsigenka people, who are isolated from westernization, prefer a high WHR. According to the Matsigenka the low WHR looks unhealthy (Yu et al. 1998).

Also infants responded more to images of symmetrical faces than asymmetrical faces by staring at symmetrical faces for a greater duration of time. Not many studies in facial symmetry have been conducted multiculturally yet current issues in South Korea such as plastic surgery being quite popular may suggest that facial and/or body symmetry is quite important (Chang & Thompson 2014).

Perception bias may also influence the concept of facial symmetry as participants in Little and Jones’s experiment didn’t express a preference for symmetrical faces that were inverted, rather such images were perceived as objects than faces (Little et al. 2003). Overall westernized cultures, (meaning not having been influenced by western media) may prefer symmetrical faces and bodies with a low WHR.

Cross culturally in determining beauty a symmetrical face and clear skin are main ideals that remain (Gaad 2010) while ideals such as having fair skin are of Western (Wade 2014) and East Asian origin (Xiea et al. 2013). If one pays attention to the media, the majority of actresses, models, celebrities and those who appear in the media usually have clear, bright skin, and facial symmetry. Also hierarchy due to skin tone may be a cultural issue, but it is most likely not strictly just a cultural issue alone, but also internalized and externalized racism (Hunter 2007).


Alonge, Sede. “Not all African women believe ‘black is beautiful’. And that’s OK.” The Telegraph 18 July 2014. <>.

Arudou, Debito. “Complexes continue to color Japan’s ambivalent ties to the outside world.” The Japan Times (2014). <>.

Chang, Juju, and Victoria Thompson. ” Home> Lifestyle South Korea’s Growing Obsession with Cosmetic Surgery .” ABC NEWS, 20 June 2014. <>.

Feng, Charles. “Looking Good: The Psychology and Biology of Beauty.” Journal of Young Investigators 6.6 (2002). <>

Fihlani, Pumza, and Thomas Fessy. “Africa: Where black is not really beautiful.” BBC NEWS AFRICA. BBC, 1 Feb. 2013. <>.

Glenn, Evelyn N. “Yearning for Lightness Transnational Circuits in the Marketing and Consumption of Skin Lighteners.” Gender & Society 22.3 (2008): 281-302.

Hall, Ronald E. “Bias Among African-Americans Regarding Skin Color: Implications for Social Work Practice.” Journal of Black Psychology 2.4 (1992): 479-86. <>.

Hunter, M. “The Persistent Problem of Colorism: Skin Tone, Status, and Inequality. Sociology Compass” (2007), 1: 237–254. <>

Little, A. C. & Jones, B. C. (2003). Evidence against perceptual bias views for symmetry preferences in human faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 270: 1759-1763. <>

Parks, Casey. “Black Woman, White Skin.” N.p., 13 July 2007. Web. 20 Dec. 2014. <>.

Perrett, David et al. Symmetry and human facial attractiveness. Evolution & Human Behavior. 1999 (20): 295-307. <>

Poppy, Brenda. “Facial Symmetry is Attractive, But Not Because It Indicates Health.” Discover 12 Aug. 2014. <>.

Rhodes, Gillian, Fiona Proffitt, Jonathon M. Grady, and Alex Sumich. “Facial symmetry and the perception of beauty.” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 5.4 (1998): 659-69. <>

Saad, Gad. “Beauty: Culture-Specific or Universally Defined? The universality of some beauty markers.” Psychology Today (2010). <>.

The Grand Narrative. “Korean Sociological Image #40: As Pretty as a Picture?” The Grand Narrative: Korean Feminism, Sexuality, and Popular Culture, 16 June. 2010. <>

Wade, L. (2014, May 16). When White is the Standard of Beauty. The Society Pages. <>

Wagatsuma, Hiroshi. “The Social Perception of Skin Color in Japan.” Daedalus 96.2 (1967): 443-97. <>.

Xiea, Qinwei (Vivi), and Meng Zhang. “White or tan? A cross-cultural analysis of skin beauty advertisements between China and the United States.” Asian Journal of Communication 23.5 (2013).

Yu, D W., and G H. Shepard. “Is Beauty In the Eye of the Beholder?” Nature (1998): 396, 321-322+. <>.