Jiko Sekinin: cold-blooded responsibility

by Marina Furuichi

First of all, I need to think of the meaning of “jiko sekinin”. In a Japanese dictionary, there are two meanings: to have responsibility for one’s own behavior and to have responsibility for only own fault. We often use this word in various situations, in accordance with the situation.

Now, I think there are some pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”. First, I’m going to state pros of “jiko sekinin”. I think that people aren’t allowed to pass things back to someone when people use the word. In other words, we must make up our mind to have responsibility for our own behavior. In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison says:

Related to this, others see in hikikomori a rejection of the dictum to be independent (jiritsu)-becoming stronger in today’s atmosphere of jiko sekinin (individual responsibility).

In this context, I think that having consciousness that we must have responsibility for our own behavior leads us to be independent. This is good point. On the other hand, there are some cons. One is the case in which people who should be responsible for others uses the word “jiko sekinin” to avoid one’s own responsibility. Another bad point is this: people who have power use the word as an excuse to ridicule some people who are weak.

Now, I think that “jiko sekinin” is used to justify “muen shakai” (society in which individuals are isolated and have weak personal links between each other). There is a following reason. Recently, I often see some people those who insist that they are unrelated to other who fail or are in trouble using the word “jiko sekinin”. I feel that they are very cold-blooded persons. Japan has precarious environment such as “muen shakai” because there are such people. Anne Allison says:

Basically, these are: aligning with (and protecting) big business, privatizing more and more of (what once were) government services under the banner of “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin) and investing too little in social programs, including welfare (for, but not only, the newly flexible labor force with low wages).

Today, there are some people who don’t get enough wages to live sufficiently in Japan. Most of them work at part-time jobs or are non-regular workers. They have a lot of problems. However, the Japanese government doesn’t save such people because they think it is “jiko sekinin”. I think that we never simply say that everything is “jiko sekinin”. We should not say that because it is possible that we may abandon some people those who have problem they can’t solve by their own ability before we realize it.


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

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13 thoughts on “Jiko Sekinin: cold-blooded responsibility

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