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.

Reference

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from: http://www.mediafactory.co.jp/tokyosonata/

Tamagotchi, prosthetic sociality, and starvation in Japan

English: My very own Tamagotchi.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Masanori Takino

Author Anne Allison created the concepts techno-intimacy and prosthetic sociality when she heard “if I don’t feed it, the dog dies. It’s utterly dependent on me.” (2013:101). The definition of prosthetic sociality is “electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continuously plugged into circuits for information, communication and affect” (2013:101). Allison mentioned that in present Japanese society, family ties have become weaker and weaker. Tamagotchi can describe how the Japanese family ties is in the present situation. As you may know that, to keep the game of the Tamagotchi, the player has to keep feeding until the pet in the screen died. Someone have to continue feeding the Tamagotchi so it will not be starved.

Techno-intimacy or prosthetic sociality is, of course, an issue in the present Japanese society. One of the example is the starvation incidents (2013:103). As the author pointed out, “the incident has triggered warning bells all over again of the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity. A situation of life and death, of mendo (care of daily living) coming undone.” (p.p. 103). Weakening the ties with own family and community has been outstanding by the incidents.

The ties with the family, community have been loosened by the changing of society. The author criticized the starvation incidents by using the word “heartlessness.” It cannot make sweeping statements, only the word, “heartlessness”. There might be the other reasons of the incident of starvation having happened. For example, about the feeble connection with the neighborhood, even if the people live in the same apartment, they are not figured out who lives in the next to their room. Can people borrow or give money to people who do not well? Of course no, people cannot do such things to who do not know. It is far difficult to depend on easily. Moreover, those incidents should not be blamed the around the people or the community, but also the victims themselves. “Of hesitance in seeking out help even by those in dire need” (2013:103), if the issues which the people faced were too serious, they should rely on their relatives no matter how slight their connections were. Therefore, the problems cannot deal with only the word, “heartlessness.”

Reference

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

The state of modern family in Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Tokyo Sonata is the story of modern Japanese family. The family consists of four persons, the father Ryuhei, the mother Megumi, the older son Takashi, and the younger son Kenji. This type of family is popular in modern Japan, called kaku-kazoku. The film tells about the present state of Japanese family and from a breaking down to a rebuilding of the family.

In the opening of the film, the father gets fired from his company and the company employs a Chinese person instead of him, because Chinese workers work for cheaper wages than Japanese workers. Therefore, he lost his job and he couldn’t get income expect for a retirement payment.

After he lost his job, he could not say it to his family and he pretended as going to his company everyday, because he had a pride as a father of the family. In middle of the film, the story continues on with the breakdown of the family. The younger son started lessons of piano and he was recommended entering the music school from the piano teacher, but he refused the proposal because he thought his father opposed to this. Then, the father went to a Public Employment Security Office to get work  and he finally got a job as a sanitation worker in a shopping mall, but even this he hid from his family.

In this point, it can see that he regarded the people who lost jobs and work in low wages as embarrassed. One day, when the mother was home, she was attacked and taken as a hostage by a robber. The some day, the father had an accident and he was injured, and the younger son was arrested by police officers because he got on a bus without paying the fare. The next day, they came back home separately. After in this time, the family began lunch on one table without talking and asking, so anyone knew the events happened for themselves. In the end, the parents went to a music school because they see the physical skills test of their younger son to enter the school. The son showed talented performance and audiences was attracted by his recital. At last, the parents and son left the school after the son’s wonderful performance.

I think this film shows the state of modern Japanese family and economy. Anne Allison said the state of family is changing and breaking down. This phenomenon relates to not only people’s way of life, but also even economy. In this film, a Japanese worker lost job because Japanese company promotes employment of foreigners. It caused by globalization and cut in labor costs. We know there are many people who lost job or home and it becomes the problem in Japan but to improve the problem complex and difficult because many facts connect to this. But the ending of film, the breaking down family rebuilds little by little. Anne Allison also said the most important things for people are economy and family because these make ibasho and support the life of people Therefore, in conclusion, family is important place for people and to keep peaceful, but to that end, people should need the stable economy in Japan.

Reference

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

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from: http://www.mediafactory.co.jp/tokyosonata/

Tokyo Sonata and contemporary Japan

by Keita Sakato

The film ‘Tokyo Sonata’ is one of the nice films which shows recent precarious situations in Japan. Recently, the Japanese economy has not been stable. Some major Japanese companies have left Japan for developing countries, where they can hire a lot of workers with lower wages. Because of this, the domestic economics has no vigor and keeps declining. Most companies end up deciding to fire many incompetent workers.

One of the fired workers was the ‘father’ in the film. He was fired though did nothing about some punishments, because of the company’s circumstances. He was just the type of the fired workers who are over 40 years old and have no special abilities. Some companies think that they do not need the older workers because they have no long future. Instead of hiring the older workers who are expensive to hire, they want to hire many younger able workers. This is the situation of recent Japan.

After that, the ‘father’ tried to get a good job, which means that it gives workers enough money. However, it is not easy to get such job because there are a lot of fired workers in Japan. Of course, he could not get the good job that he wanted. When he visited a company to get an interview, he was said ‘Let me see your ability.’ It means that what ability he has for company, but he could not show anything. He was not hired by the company, of course.

To lose one’s job directly connects to own family, as his fired friend concealed from his wife and died in the end. The biggest difference between regular worker and irregular workers is the wage. Irregular workers have to work with lower wage. It means the family may be poor. In Japan, it is not normal and not proud that a head of a family is irregular worker, so ‘father’ could not tell it to ‘mother’. Nevertheless, it was known and ‘mother’ felt sad. The normal form of her family might fall to pieces.

To avoid such situation in the film, the government needs to guarantee a stable system for people. If the term that fired worker is searching a new job became so long, it will be the situation like in the film, so to create the situation that the fired workers can find and get a new job quickly.

The importance of ibasho

Anonymous student post

English: Inside a Maid Cafe in Den-Den Town, O...

English: Inside a Maid Cafe in Den-Den Town, Osaka, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that the concept of “global affective labor” means job related to moods, feelings and attitudes such as maid cafe, hostess or cat cafe. It has some effects on our emotions such as healing, moe or relief. I think that there are original examples in Japan. At first, “maiko” is a geisha who learns or receives training in Japanese dance or song. They wear kimono and make up whitewashed. We are entertained with Japanese banquets. This is a traditional culture in Japan.

Next, CA (cabin attendant) is an occupation that works in an airport or on a plane. Many of them are beautiful or pretty women. They wear short skirts or stylish uniforms. They usually provide passengers drink and food with smiles. So they take care of passengers during flight. These jobs usually need some selections, many trainings or practices.

There are many imaginable reasons why people pay for affection from those jobs. I think that people want ibasho or to escape the reality. It is involved in some factors such as thin connection to family or friends. They may not have ibasho where talk their daily life or some distress and to find them necessary. Everyone needs ibasho, identity, affiliation. As a result, they go to those places to heal their feelings. It may lead to thin connection to other people. In addition, they may feel the connection to other people is “mendokusai”. Anne Allison (2013) also says “the breakdown or liquidization of the relationship between human time and capitalist value at the level of the (re)productive family home”. I agree with her analysis. As time passes, the various trends change in Japan. For example, there is the trend toward late marrying or not marrying recently. Young people think that marriage is mendokusai. Thin connection to other people may cause this feeling. The family corporate system also has changed. Both women and men work recently. As working every day, they need to care give or raise children. Some children tends to eat pre-pared dishes alone at home. As a result, there is also less communication between families.

I think that existing many global affective labor is related to relationships or connections to family, friends or other people. In addition, ibasho is also related to these sources. I think that ibasho is important for us. “Japanese are living more solitary existences, apart from others [tanin]. Communication is lacking these days.” So it is caused thin connection to other people. We have to rethink our relationships and this problem.

Reference

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

Techno-intimacy in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

Japanese society has been changing due to the precarious economy or depression. The number of youth who are not good at communicating with others is increasing. Such young people tend to feel lonely easily and become psychically and socially withdrawn; “referring to the phenomena much in the news of youths who literally take themselves out of school, work, or human circulation” (Allison 2013:81). Moreover, with regard to marriage, they think it is mendokusai [a nuisance] and they want to protect their money and time for themselves (Allison 2013:100). Then, the change of such as poor skills of communication or thought of taking care of someone makes a new concept. It is called “techno-intimacy” by Anne Allison (2013:101). In this blog, I will show three points. First is an explanation of techno-intimacy, next are examples of it in Japan, and final is my opinion.

To begin with, the concept of techno-intimacy was generated by problems of human relationships. This means that a human has attachment to a presence which feel lifelike. Tending to a child, a pet or something is regarded as mendokusai (bothersome) today because of many chores. This connects to the thought that young people are unwilling to get married today: “the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison 2013:101). However, since the game of taking care of digital creature had been discovered, producing such a creature came to evoke an intimate attachment in humans, which Allison calls “techno-intimacy.”. Although the play is multifaceted and complex, it becomes to foster drives of attachment that read the nervous system as if humanly interactive. According to Allison, kids who grow up practicing social intimacy with such a technological friend will be the user of care robots when they get old, which will be more likely alone. As above, the condition ―“electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication, and affect” (Allison 2013:101) is called prosthetic sociality. This is penetrating the sociological gap left by the weakening of human bonds in the family, workplace and community in Japan recently. According to Allison’s book, the anthropologist Katsuno Hirofumi has discovered that being able to have a companion makes people pleased even if it is not real human. A heart to heart relationship between human and robot is important to the heartlessness in humanity.

Secondly, in Japan, we have many games as a techno-intimacy. For example, Tamagochi or Nintendo 3D game software’s ones―the virtual pets, or pet robots like dogs or cats. Also, dobutsu no mori (a forest of animals) is a good seller game in Japan, which user has a village, makes residents and has them get along with each other.

Finally, I agree with Allison’s analysis that “the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity” (Allison 2013:103) brought the tie of heart to heart between humans and robots. Because the fact that care of daily living is regarded as mendokusai things and techno-intimacies comfort people exists. In addition, in my opinion, I thought that Japanese tend to have an attachment to unreal creatures like techno one is the influence of a national anime “Doraemon.” He is a robot and can communicate with humans. As almost all Japanese watched this in childhood, people may have little reluctance to make a friend with robots or other techno-intimacies.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (pp.77-82.100-103)

In Search of Muenshakai

by Atsuko Omura

These days, there are various kinds of cafés in Japan. For example, in a snack bar, customers select their drinks and chatted with neighborhood friends and the master. Thus, people offer foods or drinks, chat with customers and receive them warmly. Allison defines them as “global affective labor”. The Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko pointed out that global affective laborers do not only sex work but care work, as seen in the recent migrations of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers into Japan (Allison, 2013, p.99).

Densha Otoko

Densha Otoko (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

In Japan, maid cafés or imoto café have been popular in Japanese culture after the vogue of Densha Otoko and Akiba. And otaku culture has begun to spread. So many crimes have happened every year. For instance, the master hires girls who are so young. In general, the pay of global affective labor is higher than that of other jobs. In fact, the pay of a girl’s bar in Umeda, which is given in Townwork is about 1,100 yen per hour. Most pay of many places to eat in Umeda is from 800 yen to 900 yen, so the pay of the girl’s bar should be so attractive for young girls.

Young girls begin to work at the maid café, imoto café, girl’s bar and so on, drink sake and chat with customers. They are so satisfied with earning easy money to be able to play or buy many things only chatting with customers. However, these work are dangerous. Many cafés are situated in amusement areas―for example, Kabuki-cho, Namba, Umeda, Gion, and so on. At night, many people come and go. Many crimes tend to occur in these areas, so they may be implicated in a crime. And working at night may prevent the ordinary lives of students―getting up and going to schools in the morning, taking lessons in their schools, eating dinner with their families at home, and sleeping at night. So we should stop hiring young girls.

I think that the reason why people pay for affection from maids, hostesses, and other sources is that people want connection with other people. These days, it is said that Japanese society is “muenshakai”.  Everyone struggles and lives each life frantically. So I agree with Allison’s analysis, and not only the Japanese government but also the individual citizen should think about social problems in Japan and try to solve them.

 

Reference

 

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

 

Virtual affective labor: Looking for love in the virtual world

by Katsuya Nagasawa

The demand for affective labor is increasing all over the world, especially in developed countries. For example, many Filipino and Chinese caregiving workers spread in the world. It is because people lose the peace of mind in exchange for getting satisfaction about usefulness. Therefore, the society have gotten truculent and people came to want the calmness. Then, people start to go to cabarets, host clubs, and maid cafés. I think the trend is remarkable in Japan.

As Allison argued, in modern Japan, there are enormous problems such as killing family, bullying, unemployment, hikikomori, the gap of salary (kakusa shakai). In addition, female and youths are in the bottom in the society. Allison explain that as “the collapse of Japanese democratic system.” These problems made the precarious society and even the collapse of family. People cannot depend on other people, sometimes even their family, they visit affective labors because they can get the emotional feeling but formal feeling by paying money.

I think 2-D world is also affective labor. As Allison argued in the book, “otaku” gathered more than 2000 signatures about marrying a 2-D character, and there is a word for this, “nounaikanojo” in Japan. In the virtual world, 2-D characters never depress people, they contact with real people in friendly ways because they are programed to do so. Therefore people who are not good at making relationships, for example “otaku,” tend to sink into the virtual world. I think 2-D world is a form of virtual affective labor.

In the past, the era that there were no computers, people had to make relationship only in the real world. However, because of the appearance of the virtual world, people face to the computer, and some people think making a relationship is “mendokusai”. According to Allison, the effect spread to the marriage problem. People who think making relationship is “mendokusai” think marriage is also “mendokusai”. In modern society, people came to pay for affective labor to get comfort rather than trying to get along with other people because it is “mendokusai” to do argument, to disappoint in love. They chose that the effort replace into their money.

If the situation that people depend on the 2-D world or affective labor continues, we will depend all of our life on robots, as Allison writes. I think affective labor can never replace our family or friends, and we cannot live in the virtual world literally. Therefore we have to hold more real relationships. Depending on the virtual world is not equal to coexisting in a virtual world. We have to search for the way to coexist.

Reference

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

Prosthetic Sociality: Taking Your Virtual Girlfriend to Atami

by Shiori Nabeshima

In chapter four of Precarious Japan, Anna Alison uses the term “prosthetic sociality” to express recent Japanese circumstances. Many people are tired of having intimacy with others, so they tend to seek intimacy from robots or digital games. She says “robots to render the human touch and intersubjective sensitivity of person-to-person relationship” therefore “the robot needs its own heart”.

Although there are people who are absorbed in digital games, they seem to depend on the intimacy from games not because they want to feel necessity. They think that they can replace the relationship between humans with games. Besides, the digital intimacy is easier and more controllable than human relationships.

View of Atami

View of Atami (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The TV program ‘Bankisha’ introduced the recent trend of games and young Japanese Otaku. Now, the games which can make girlfriends in smart phones or DS have become famous. Love Plus is one of the games in which the user can choose a heroin as girlfriend and can date the girlfriend in the city of Atami. Therefore many Otaku who play Love Plus visit Atami with their digital girlfriend. All of them who were on screen seemed to enjoy dating their girlfriend. Allison mentions that the prosthetic sociality makes people more likely to be alone. Although they seem to give up having an intimacy with people, they seem to not feel alone.

I personally think that they prefer having a girlfriend in a game to having real girlfriend because they had some kind of trouble with relationships with people in the past. In the real communication, we need to think and care about others but we don’t need to care about digital girlfriend or characters because they don’t complain to us and we can control them. That is why many Japanese feel “the kind of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying.” So if the prosthetic presence gives their own heart and becomes no different as human, it doesn’t make sense to them. By my sense of value, although I can’t accept that human intimacy and digital intimacy are same, they just

Perhaps this trend that people give up having intimacy with humans and replacing it with prosthetic presence is more dangerous and complicated than what she thinks, because the person who wants to feel necessity perhaps can change their mind with human relationship. But the person who is already satisfied with digital relationship won’t try to have intimacy with humans.

References

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

バンキシャ カンシキ「アニメで町おこし」http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hinvrNWlWnM

 

Japanese fixed concepts and weak relationships

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Misaki Kosaka

First of all, while Anne Allison’s book refers to the homeless and they have merely lost their home materially, Sasaki Ryuhei, who is a main character in the film Tokyo Sonata, has lost his home space mentally. That is, he has no place inside of his home. After WWⅡ, family roles in Japan have been rigid, such as “sengyo shufu” or the breadwinner of the family. Especially, the fixed view that a husband should work very hard for his family is an idea accepted by most Japanese. Ryuhei could not tell his family the fact that he was fired due to this fixed idea. He acts as if he is still working, wearing his suit and having card holder after his dismissal because being at home without any jobs of a husband is often recognized as ashamed things in Japan. Ryuhei’s former classmate who was fired like Ryuhei was even sets his cellphone ringing in designated time. They were afraid that people around them, especially their families, find out they have lost a job. Husband or father in Japan have to be just existence as people imagine. Ryuhei rejected a work as cleaning man and hoped a work people there wear suits at first, then it is also a kind of the fixed concept of people in Japan or himself.

But such an idea is not only a cause of not telling the truth but also of a weak relationships. In Allison’s book, Japanese tend to seek their identity at workplace and have few connections with their family or neighbors. The characters in this movie also put their place on workplace, so Ryuhei would feel to take away “ibasho” when he lost his job, and he could not tell the truth his family because of disconnectedness and incommunicativeness. Allison says that this family is “ordinary” in Japan.

In this movie I was most impressed by the scene that the family gather and start to eat a meal. This scene seems to be ordinary family’s life, but I felt something strange because although they are sitting in front of same table, they hardly talk each other. We generally think that they don’t need to gather for a meal if no one speaks, but I guess that sitting around the table with one’s family keeps a few relationships, and it may be only evidence that they are “family” even if nobody speaks. This strange sight can be seen in any Japanese home. Japanese are losing a spiritual home.

Reference

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