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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Avoiding Precarity

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 Shun Aoki

There are several things that I hope to achieve in the future, which are actually still quite vague. First, putting it simply, I hope to become someone who is internationally active. Perhaps, I could achieve this by working for a foreign multinational company. I have one major reason as to why this is a realistic and appealing future for me. It is that I want to have a working environment where “typical Japanese values of working” is non-existent. This is the reason why foreign multinational company is the most preferable alternative, and not Japanese company. As Allison (2013) illustrates, in contemporary Japan, labor is continual and tends to merge with one’s life (p. 16). However, I hope to clearly draw a line between work and personal life. Through the experience of living in Belgium for 5 years, I found that the average working class in Belgium are able to separate their jobs and personal lives, which is a trend I hardly see in Japanese society. For instance, their priority is spending a time with their family, and hierarchical relationship at their workplace rarely affects their personal lives. To put it differently, I am attracted to the Western values when it comes to working environment.

It is not that I want to run away from the precarity in Japan and I am aware that my generation has to face the current situation and live through the hard time. However, forecasting its future from present situation frightens me. For example, the LDP is now trying to pass a labor legislation that will abolish working limit and obligation for the companies to provide their workers days off (Kanetani 2014). Such a policymaking is believed to increase the number of overwork deaths and it could worsen the precarity issue. This is another reason why I would like to work in an international environment.

Another goal is to have a family and let them have the same quality of life as I currently do, thanks to my father. What is important is that, in my life, I’ve always had a choice and never been coerced to choose certain path, which I believe is only possible due to a stable source of income. In other words, I do not want my future kids to be in a situation where having a precarious job is the only option. I believe that in the future, family will always be my ibasho, as it always has been. Ibasho, in my opinion, is a place that one can always “save” and go back to regardless of time. My friends from high school, or even from elementary school, have always been my ibasho where I can feel like a worthy individual. I believe it can be meaningful to place importance on keeping in touch with old friends and having “tsunagari”, because these would provide an individual more ibasho (Allison 2013, p. 20). I feel that it would be wonderful if I was able to have my workplace as my ibasyo where I have a good human relationship and am able to show my ability to the fullest. This way, working will not be something too stressful.

In conclusion, my future is still unclear and my plan is mostly based on the idea of “how to avoid precarity.” For this reason, in a next few years, I hope to find myself a clear future goal, so that I will be able to work on my own initiative to achieve that goal. To be honest, I am quite optimistic about my future career. And preferably, I would like not to become a part of the precarious society, but become a leading force to solve this issue.


Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp. 16-20). Duke University Press.

Kanetani, T. (2014). What is ’no overtime money’ system? Retrieved from「残業代ゼロ」制度-189789

Running for My 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 Miki Yamaguchi

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison looks at the current situation and problems which Japan faces now. The country where are believed it is full of hopes and wealth no longer exists. Instead of that, people struggle in enigmatic mud. Although it is not easy to lead a steady life, we young generation shouldn’t lose our expectation. And from now, I would like to describe my future plan as one of the young, based on Anne Allison’s study.

My dream is to work for a trading company, because I’m very interested in unique merchandises and imported food which are rarely seen in our table. I think, however, salary, working hours and a system of paid vacation are also considerable. Of course it is lucky to be able to get a job which meets every conditions, I know the society is not so naïve. In fact, I have anxiety and concern for future. My greatest worry is a relationship with our co-workers and bosses. As Anne Allison stated, it’s common to see a company man (kaisha ningen) in Japan. On weekend, fellow workers go lunch and play golf all together, not spending with their family. Furthermore, these gatherings are thought to be more or less influential their career. This system plays a role to create bond (kizuna) among colleagues, I think, however, for women like me who want to make child, this will be affecting their life plans. This means once women quit their jobs for a maternity leave and lose the too tight relationships suddenly, they feel lonely or even feel isolated the society. Unfortunately, the husband also is tied this system and so he works all day and comes home very late. And while the husband is in his company, women have to raise child and do her household. This life style seems very stressful (ikizurasa) and I do not lead such a tired life.

I believe my ibasho is my home in Nagasaki, and my another hope is to create a warm family. In order to balance my work and family life, and make child-raising more happily and enjoyable, husband’s cooperation is important. For example, it very helpful for women that he takes care of his baby on weekend and try to share housework every day. Also the relationship with fellow mom (mamatomo) is necessary, because a complaint and information about parenting can be shared.

Building my career is important, nevertheless I want cherish my family. And under any circumstances, I don’t want to lose my expectation and want to live my own life. To become such a woman, I take the current situation sincerely and consider my way of life.

My future plans and expectations

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 Sana Matsuda

As for my future plan of working, I am thinking of becoming a public servant so that I can work stably. As Allison says, employment situation of Japanese society has been flexible and liquid (Allison 2013). Furthermore, economic situation has continued to be unstable as well. Consequently, I feel it is necessary for me to become one kind of public servant in order to secure my life in this precarious society. More specifically, I would like to be a faculty member of the national university if possible, aiming to improve the Japanese situation as much as possible that the rate of professional women is pretty low (Allison 2013). However, since I will have to repay my scholarships soon after the graduation while struggling to earn living expenses, whether I can go to graduate school, which is necessary for the career, is insecure. Therefore, I am also thinking of another choice to get other jobs such as customs officer or local government employee (public servant, in any case).

At this moment, I can find ibasho within my friends and classes of the university, and my family. However, when I think of my becoming “shakaijin” and working, I feel a little bit anxious that whether I will be able to find it at the workplace as well. Since ibasho is something deeply related to relationships, it will be crucial to build good relationships with others working there. In addition, I would like to make ibasho for my prospective children like what I have felt comfortable within my family.

Speaking of family, I desire to get marry and make a home at latest by 25~26 because I think this would be ideal for having some children safely. In fact, I would like to have about three children so that my future family will be lively, and will also contribute to heightening a birthrate in Japan even just a little. Moreover, I am planning to live in housing for two generations which accommodates my future family and my mother (also parents of my prospective partners if they want) to prevent her from falling kodokushi.

Finally, Allison’s vision that I have felt familiar to my own experience most is the feature of muen shakai. I can find one of the features within my neighborhood. Although I make it a rule to greet the neighbors, I think it is not sufficient because there are rare interchanges among neighbors. Therefore, I would like to think a great deal of not only my career but people around me including my mother, future family, or neighbors.


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

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.