Who needs a husband?

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Zhang Shiwen

Work is more loyal than a husband, I think. My ibasho will be my work in the future, as well as my ibasho is my university now. The reason is simple, because if I am not a student or a worker in Japan, I cannot continue living in Japan. Moreover, I can feel that I am valuable when I get a good grade in test or I am needed by my friends, such as having a party after school or going for a trip together. In fact, when I was a student in language school, I was living like a hikikomori (Allison, 2013). I felt pressure from teachers that they want me to go to a good university. On the other hand, I did not have good friends and could not have communication with Japanese. I preferred staying in the dormitory, but I felt so lonely and meaningless at that time. Due to that, being a university student really made me comfortable and my life meaningful. Therefore, my ibasho will be my work which will give me the same value, I hope.

However, if I work in Japan, my work will betray me if I do not have a husband. 10 years later, I will be 30 years old. According to Heikinchokonneirei (n,d.), it is known that 40 years ago in Japan, I should have married by the age of 24 years. However, will it be the best time for me, a 30 years old woman 10 years later, to get married, or it will be later?

What’s more, I have watched a Japanese drama that the main character, a 30 years old Cabin Attendant who was working in a big airline company, was fired at her best period in her career because the company would pay more money to new, young employees. It means that although the situation of women employees is becoming better, women and foreigners like me are the most precarious people in Japan, as Allison (2013) notes. Due to this, even if I want to continue working, from the view of company, they may get more benefits from hiring an unskilled, low-paid youth than me, who is high-paid and skilled. Also, unmarried is looked as irresponsible to the society. Therefore, for women working in Japan, it is hard for them to say “Who needs a husband”, because the society, where the shoshika (low birth rate) is advancing, need women to have husbands!

My other ibasho is my home with my parents, so I hope to have a job which can make me come and go from China to Japan. My parents have no wish to live in Japan, but I should take care of them after they retire. Due to this, I am not sure where should I live after I retire. Therefore, if I work for a Japanese company and pay pension contributions to Japanese government every month in the future, but I finally decide to go back to China, I cannot take back all insurance money I have paid, and also I cannot enjoy the Japanese welfare system. At the same time, the Chinese government will not provide me social security because I have not paid for the Chinese pension system, so how can I feed myself after I retire?

The situation will be better if I can take the right of permanent residence, while it is not very easy. However, a quick and easy way is to marry a Japanese man, which is also recommend by my parents. Therefore, is it good for foreigners to have a Japanese spouse? From Appendix A, it is known that the foreign wives are twice as common as husbands. I believe that most of them are married by love, but some Chinese wives I have known cannot speak Japanese well and seldom have Japanese friends. Caring for the children and their house are the only things they need to do.

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

In conclusion, it will continue to be hard for women in Japan to be independent from the social or familial role, as Allison (2013, p.22) notes. On the other hand, the pressure of managing both work and family became larger. Women are encouraged to work hard but precariously, and at the same time, they are blamed for not marrying.

I think it is very important for women to marry and have a family, but it should not be done for  the society or family. I means that we relay on our family for spirit,but not for pressure from parents, companies, and the society. Therefore, the government should provide an environment for women to make better choices for themselves and by themselves.

References

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

Heikinchokonneirei no Suii [The change in the average age of marriage]. Keikon Rikon deta.Net [Marrige and Divorce Net.] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.kekkon-data.net/marriage/cnt/heikin_shokon.php

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Avoiding becoming a Christmas cake

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Yuri Muramatsu

In the future, living in Japanese society may become much more severe. As Allison mentioned in her book, Japan has a lot of issues that have huge effects on our future.

First of all, Allison argued that Japanese became muen shakai (relation less society). I have some anxiety for this muen shakai situation. There is possibility that I will suffer a solitary death. I also have suspicions about Japan’s society.

First, I do not want to get married if I am over 25 years old. If I would be a “Christmas cake,” I would abandon some hope for marriage. In my opinion, I cannot be a mother if I am over 25 years old because it is difficult to raise children.

There are two main reasons. The age of 25 years and over is the important age to stabilize the position in the company that the time to be entrusted with important tasks. I do not want to miss this chance. Moreover, if I get married after the age of 25, I will give birth after the age of 26. This means I would have to take a maternity leave after 26, and that I would go back to company after 27 or over. However, taking maternity leave is difficult sometimes. This is the second reason. If I married someone over 25 years old, I would not have a chance to have children. I cannot believe this system.

In addition, it is unfair that the men should work and earn money while women should protect the family. Allison indicates that Japanese people tend to make this style of family. Women should be housewives and men should work and earn money. On the other hand, I want to continue working all through my life, even if the company tries to cut me because I am a woman.

I would like to get a job that has relationship with the Japanese social insurance system. I think Japan faces ikizurasa (difficulty of living) now, so I am happy if I could relieve this feeling. I believe that social insurance system can change Japan. Japanese society does not have a good system to support people in need. This situation directly connects ikizurasa.

That is why I want to get a job that can be changing the severe situation of Japan. Many people feel ikizurasa. I do not want to be a housewife but at the same time I would like to cherish human relationships to prevent falling into a muen shakai situation. I think my ibasho will be my local town, friends and work.

Although Japanese society may getting more worse in the future, I want to fight against an unfair society and rebuild a new system. At the same time I try to value opportunities for communication.

 

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Planning a future with social ties

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

I would like to tell you about my plan in the future. I have a small dream about work in the future, but it’s not clear now. I think I would like to get to work related to sports, because I love sports very much, especially baseball. Sports give me many collages and impressions. I can’t talk about my life without it. Additionally, I am a manager for a baseball club in my university, and this gives a sense of self-fulfillment. Therefore I support people who play sports as hard as they can, although I can’t express this in concrete terms. Also the Tokyo Olympic game will be held in 2020. It’s big news for Japan. I would like to take part in it in any way.

Next, I would like to have a good family. I would like to get married when I’m 26 years old, and to give birth to three babies. I would like to cope with both my work and housework very well. Japan has increased a nuclear family since postwar. It is linked to various problems in Japan. For instance, muenshakai, which causes kodokushi, hikikomori, and so on. My family lives with my grandmother, and my grandmother and my family help each other. I think it is my ideal. Also I will live with my parent or my husband’s parent in the future.

But I was sometimes anxious for Japan and future. As I read Precarious Japan, I remembered the past. When I was a junior high school student, I felt that I didn’t have an ibasho. It was very serious problem for me at that time. My best friend left the softball club I belonged to because she had a disagreement with our teammates. My role was to be an intermediary between her and the teammates. I heard from each of them about some abuses from my friend and teammates. It was so hard, also there was nothing I could do. Then I feel I don’t have ibasho. I was still a child mentally, so I didn’t understand how family is big and important for me. Even now I feel sometimes where my ibasho is. But I have friends with whom I can talk about my true feelings. They listen to my talk, also they were console a grieving me. The moment which I feel my ibasho is to be called by my name by anyone such as acquaintances. I think ibasho is unstable things especially for Japanese. Compare with foreigner, Japanese desire to make ibasho for themselves and dislike to be left alone. I think the reason why everyone have some anxiety for society.

In conclusion, I can’t expect my future and Japanese future, but that’s reason why I make plan and time. I don’t think I realize all of my plan, but I would like to do my best.

I cannot imagine my future

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Shiori Nabeshima

After I became a university student, the time of thinking about my future is increasing. I pondered about the life after graduating school. Although I considered my future when I was in high school, that future meant my life at university.

From when I was a child, the most disliked and hardest question has been about my future or dreams. I cannot imagine my future, therefore I still do not have a dream. Even though I am spurred to think and make a plan for my future, because the time for job hunting is conning closer, two years after from now. My future expectation is obtaining some secure job, marrying someone and having a family. It is not concrete, though I cannot describe my future anymore. One specific hope that I expect for my future is having the same level of life that I have enjoyed so far. Although I expect only one thing, I feel that it is very hard to achieve this goal. When I was younger, in middle or high school, I thought this expectation was normal. But I realized that the life I hoped to have  is not a normal life in Japan anymore. This expectation is greedy and I will need to struggle to gain a better future.

Besides, if I cannot have a lifelong job, I will feel guilty for my parents. My abstract plan for future is also to attain for my parents. So having a ‘normal’ life is one of my responsibility or contribution for my parents which I personally feel. Also family is one of my ibasho, so I do not want to lose it by straining my parents that I fail my future and collapsing my family. This situation of collapsing family is one of the famous problems in recent Japan.

Even Japanese society has various problems and bleak future as the author stated, I have to struggle to live in this society. Therefore I still do not leave my hope for the future.

In the future, I hope I have a secure job (not a temp or contact job) or to be married with someone and having a family in which everybody is satisfied the situation. And then my future child(ren) has a sufficient life such as having enough education. Also I hope Japanese circumstance will not be exacerbated more and the society becomes more tolerant.

My life plan in precarious Japan

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Sayaka Maeda

I want to be a high school teacher after I graduate from the university. This is because I like children, and teachers are public workers. There are good points to be a public worker. First, the income is stable, and I can earn enough money to support my family. Second, public workers are seldom fired. In addition, there is little danger to go bankrupt like a company. These points are very important in choosing work in recent Japan. Allison said that now in Japan, the number of non-regular workers, such as dispatched workers or part-timer, is increasing, and one-third of all workers are non-regular. They work for low wages, and they are the first ones dismissed in bad times.

In addition, Japan has social problems such as NEET and hikikomori. People who are hikikomori become NEET (not employed, in education, or in training) because they do not work and, seldom go out. Many people who are hikikomori are young, and some people start being hikikomori when they are students. Bullying sometimes causes truancy, and it can cause hikikomori. Bullying sometimes causes even suicide, sadly. If I can become a teacher, I will make effort to obviate bullying, and I want to help the children come to school.

By the way, I want to marry, and give birth to a child in the future. I will need to take maternity leave. As public workers, teachers can take maternity leave for a year, but at many general companies, people take it for a shorter period. At some companies, a pregnant woman has no choice but to resign from her job. Now a father can also take it but, there are few people who do so. I think it is what’s wrong with Japan, and compared with other developed countries, Japanese social welfare is very underdeveloped. Women’s rehabilitation is also the same. There are many people who cannot return to their work and work as a part-time workers. I want to balance my work and parenting.

In conclusion, I feel anxious living in precarious Japan. Japan has a lot of social problems. I want to be a public worker, but I do not think this is the best way. I do so in search of stability and welfare, however one person may seek freedom rather than security. I think many people are restricted in their choice about the way to live because of Japanese society.

Balancing my goals with reality and hard choices

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

After I graduate from the university, I’d like to study at national university to get a master’s degree. (I don’t know what category I choose.) It’s still up in the air as of now.

What is indispensable for going on to a school and then continue to study is money. I watched a TV program named “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives”. Students have no choice but to work to make money for their everyday life, because the money that their parents send is decreasing year by year. According to Allison (2013), “one-third of all workers today are only irregularly employed. Holding jobs that are part-time, temporary, or contact labor, irregular workers lack job security, benefits, or decent wages.” I’ve felt that Japanese lifelong employment has collapsed, as she states. That also makes students poor. I imagine I may contribute to my support like students who the program has taken up. According to “Education at a Glance 2013 OECD Indicators”, “public expenditure on education in Japan ranks in most lowest among the member state.”

After studying at a graduate school, I’d like to get a job at an NGO in order to accumulate experiences of supporting people in hard situation. Later some years, working as a member of international institutions is my final goal.

In the case, it takes much time to hunt job at these institutions than others for way of severe employment. That means I have to work to earn my living until getting the job. Though, I doubt whether I find a sustainable job. Allison says (2013) “one-half of all young workers are ‘working poor’”. I might slide into this one.

Ideally speaking, before I turn thirty years old, I hope that I will be hired. Though there’s no guarantee. While I’m striving for the goal, my parents and grandparents could come down with a disease or divorce. In a worst-case scenario, somebody might die alone. As Allison states (2013) “All alone people die, which happens everywhere in Japan”, which is no longer other people concerns.

Taking account of these facts, I expect that I will hesitate to make a choice of working abroad or in Japan. Roughly speaking, serving at an NGO or an international institution in Japan could be possible. So that I can imagine that I will be working in Japan by any chance. It occurred to me that to start work as soon as I graduate from school. This idea might make my parents feel relieved, even though it also means giving up my goal.

From my expectation, I wouldn’t get married. I won’t want to part with my career that I will have built up. In Japanese society, women’s marriage means retiring from their work conventionally. But for family such as husband and child, probably no one knows of my death.

Thus to avoid dying alone, I hope that I will keep in touch with my friends and cousins, familiar people from now on. When think of ibasho, I consider a comfortable space where people who accept without reserve as ibasho. For me, ibasho is the place where my familiar people are.

The other day, I heard that the elementary school which my father went to may be closed within a few years due to a decrease of children. This typical reality shows example of shoushikoureika (Japan’s declining population). In the future, it will be going on more and more. I predict this phenomenon affects my future in form of maintaining living standard.

References

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.12) Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

NAVIGATION 2014.4.25 “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives” from NHK online Website: http://www.nhk.or.jp/nagoya/navigation/past/

OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing from OECD Web site: http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm

Gender equality and my ibasho

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Marina Furuichi

I am going to state my future plans from two points of view and my ibasho.

First, I will mention my future plans from two points of view, marriage and work. I don’t only want to get married and have children, but also I want to work hard. After graduation, I will take a civil service examination, pass the examination and be a diplomat. By the time I turn 28, I will work with all my heart. When I am 28 years old, I will get married. These are my dreams. However, if I try to do so, I will face some difficulties. In fact, it is said that Japan doesn’t have good work environments for women. In this paper, Anne Allison says:

even during the boom period of the bubble economy, women were overly representative in the peripheral workforce as part-time workers (which they remain today with 70% of female workers employed in irregular jobs and with 80% of temp workers being female).

If this circumstance isn’t improved, the future of working woman will not be bright. In other words, it is not easy for me to achieve my dreams. Now, I think about the future of Japanese working environments. I expect that more working women will be able to live a full life by working sufficiently. Sylvia Ann Hewlett says:

As the looming demographic crisis threatens to reshape the economy as drastically as any natural disaster, better using its educated women would be an innovation that, according to a 2010 Goldman Sashs study, would add 8.2 million brains to the workforce and boost the economy by 15%. Japanese women are poised to make this happen and looking to employers to lead the charge.

I agree with this idea. I think it is inefficient that a well-qualified woman is passed over for a plum assignment. Therefore, I think that Japan should make more chances for working woman.

Second, I will state my ibasho. I think that ibasho is a little different from place. Ibasho is something we can rely on. In other words, ibasho is not so much physical place as mental place. My ibasho is the time to spend with my important people such as my family and friends. Therefore, in my future, it will be irreplaceable to have a time with my new family. To make my dreams come true, I will never divorce. I will clear a path for my own future.

References

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

TIME Japan’s Working-Woman Problem. http://ideas.time.com/2011/12/11/japans-working-woman-problem/

Planning for the future in unstable times

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Teppei Funatani

I have a clear plan for my future. Since I was a freshman, I have dedicated myself to helping refugees living in Japan. Through this activity I have found that giving them help surely changes my life and also the refugees’ future. Therefore I want to work at an NGO or NPO related to helping refugees.

Of course I want to find refugees helping work and dedicate to the job in my life, however there is a big problem for doing such activity.

The problem is a low salary. I met a lot of people who serve in NGOs and NPOs and help refugees. Except for few of them, most of them said that they could only get a small salary even though they worked really hard. They told me that helping the refugees was really a good job, because they could see smiles of the refugee and were cheered up. However, lacking of money was a reality they had to face up to and they could not afford to get marry. They don’t have enough money to save.

I think that I can manage to do everything at first even though I make only the small money, however as time goes by I get old and need a lot of money for many things. For example, I had a surgical operation for a lymphoma twice and it cost about 400 thousand yen each time. If I can only earn the small money, I probably cannot afford to pay for the operation.

I believe that getting the job that what you really want to do is important, however as I said that low salary is surely disturb your decision. As Anne Allison said in her book Precarious Japan, many people can only get an irregular jobs that are very unstable and they worry about their life and future. Both NGOs and NPOs are not irregular jobs, however mostly they don’t have enough money and you can get only the small salary. Of course a motivation to change a social problem is important, however you cannot keep working only with the motivation. Some NGO staff members told me that they got married when they were young and their married lives were good at first. However, as mentioned above, supporting refugees is really hard work with a low salary. Therefore they had no time to spend with their husband or wife and could not afford to have a baby. Finally, they got divorced and one of their ibasho was lost. I don’t think people can live alone. If your ibasho is only the job, after quitting the job what you can do?

In conclusion, I cannot decide now whether or not I should work at an NGO or NPO. There may be some possibilities to work for refugees. I need time to think about my future deeply.

Imagining my future

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Yume Furumura

When I imagine my future, I have two images. First, I have a job and I can be myself. Second, I have my happy family, good friends, and nice neighbors.

I have not decided specifically what sort of business I would pursue yet, but I have some ideas. In Japan, women tend to be discriminated against in the society. Therefore, in case that I decide to work for a company, I will try to find a company that considers women’s life cycles. For example, it is better that has an environment in which taking childcare leave is easy. Then, I’m considering another plan these days. In my university life, I found some things I was interested in. That is to encounter people, to teach something, to do for other people. Moreover, I love traveling and like children. These are why I think that to be a Japanese teacher in foreign country suits me well. However, even though I could obtain the license, I can’t be always a Japanese teacher. Even if I could be, the income would be unstable. I may need a second job or lose jobs, and it would be difficult for me now. I need to learn any skills, have a lot of experiences, and get some qualification for a rainy day.

I need someone who I can talk to about anything in order to live. The place I can spend a time with my parents or valuable friends is my “ibasho” now. Once, I used to think that I would like to live alone and establish myself. However, it was very lonely. After leaving my hometown, I understood that it was hard for me to live alone. I was helped by the friends and neighbors I made in a new environment. In my future, I don’t want to live alone and die alone. Therefore, I want to marry a nice man and have children. According to Anne Allison (2013), by becoming a sarariman or education mama, the child tends to be “hikikomori”, and the home has failed to produce a productive child. When I raise my children, I’m going to let them do what they really want to do. In my case, I have never been told “Study more” by my parents, so I want to be like them too. In addition, even though I will work raising children, I’m going to spend enough time with them. Finally, I’m worrying about my parents from now on, because I may not be able to stay with them. If I could, I want to live with my parents after my marriage, otherwise I will get them to live in a region they have good neighbors. Allison (2013) states that in Tokyo alone, ten people die from “lonely death” (kodokushi) every day. Including me, when someone in my family die, I hope that they pass away in their “ibasho”.

These are my future plans and my expectations for my future.

Reference

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

Oldness is goodness: Is it truly a tradition?

by Sheena Sasaki

What is Japanese traditional food? What is Japanese worldwide known food? I am sure some people would tell me the answer sushi. However, sushi (vinegar rice topped with piece of raw fish), famous Japanese food, began to be eaten since Edo Period. Compared to relatively new nations such as the United States, 400 years of history for food may be long “tradition.” However, compared to Japanese history, which lasts since era of B.C., it is not significantly long. More important, sushi had been eaten only in limited areas of Japan since it uses fresh fish. Referring to Japanese geography as a mountainous land, it is impossible for some parts of Japan to come up with food such as raw fish. However, as the nationalization and globalization have taken place in Japan, sushi has become domestically and internationally known as a ‘traditional’ food of Japan. Thus, nationalization and internationalization have played a significant role in the invention of tradition in Japan.

This invention of tradition is becoming an issue in Japan today. In September 2013, the Japanese Supreme Court finally accepted that the law that limited  children born outside of marriage to inheriting only half the amount of “legitimate” children, as discrimination and a violation of Japan’s Constitution. Japanese denial and rejection of “illegitimate” children, adopted children, divorce, and married couples having different surnames is quite strong even now. It is not surprising to hear that children born outside of marriage were bullied in the school they attended during their youth. Also, some parents tell their children not to play with such children just because they lack real parents or their parents use different surnames.

Why do Japanese citizens strongly oppose different styles of family? Many people answer: “Because we do not want to destroy the traditional family system of Japan.” This traditional system of family is based on “ie (家)” and “koseki (戸籍)” which respectively mean house and family legislation. Thus, many Japanese citizens resist changing what is written on their koseki, with the exception of when a woman is married. However, the history of koseki is not so long as to be called traditional.

Influenced by Germany, Japan created the koseki system during the Meiji Period, the era of Japanese nationalization. The system was to support one royal family, imperial family of Japan. The imperial family is unchangeable, meaning one single bloodline is considered to be imperial. Thus, for this family to hold stronger and more important meaning, member of one koseki was also to pass down one blood. The Meiji-era civil code also stated that an ie must consist of single surname, single koseki, and single bloodline. Here, we see the family system putting an emphasis on one bloodline, which is considered as tradition today. In opposition to the word “tradition,” before the Meiji Period and the creation of koseki system, it was common to see adopted children reign as the head of the household. Compared to the ie system today, the family system used to emphasize more the surname of the household rather than bloodlines. Therefore, what is said to be the traditional family system in Japan has existed for only 100 years.

There is Japanese phrase “furuki yoki (古き良き)” which means that “old is good.” However, the invented tradition of the Japanese ie system does not seem to bring good anymore. Year by year, there is an increase of divorce, child adoption, and single parenting. These shapes of family are not considered proper families, and are targets of discrimination. Although the Japanese government has admitted that the law discriminates against certain children, the law itself has still not changed. The curse of “furuki yoki” still dominates the sense of discrimination.

Some links to news reporting issues of rights for illegitimate children

“家族とは?親子とは?揺らぐ法制度” http://www9.nhk.or.jp/gendai/kiroku/detail_3408.html

“婚外子差別の撤廃へ 民法改正案を閣議決定、戸籍法の改正は見送り” http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2013/11/12/kongaishi-minpo-_n_4258246.html

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