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.
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.
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