Thinking about “jiko sekinin”

by Yume Furumura

When we do something by ourselves, we must have the responsibility in many cases. To become a member of the society, we need “self-responsibility” (jiko sekinin).

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison explains how self-responsibility was promoted by the government under Prime Minister Koizumi. In 2004, some Japanese (who were doing volunteer work) were captured by insurgents who demanded the Japanese government withdraw troops. Nevertheless, the government refused to negotiate and denounced the hostages for irresponsibly “causing Japan so much trouble”. Certainly, people who go to the dangerous places should have resolution and responsibility. However, I think that the people who were captured them must also have strong convictions. The government has to defend and act for the people in any case. I feel that the government pursued about their responsibility too much. In my opinion, the Japanese government should have respected their activities more.

I think the phrase jiko sekinin is used in a broad meaning and various situations, and to have jiko sekinin is very important to make the society well organized. For example, if politicians don’t have accountability for what they say, we cannot trust the government. Conversely, the politician whose actions correspond to his words is believed by people. Responsible people are socially acceptable. Then, the idea of self responsibility allows us to do things freely. Without permission under jiko sekinin, free-lance journalists cannot go and do they want to.

However, people sometimes cannot live with security if they are pressured by jiko sekinin. Many people are dismissed from their companies suddenly, and most of them cannot put up opposition if they are told that it is their responsibility. Now young Japanese tend to quit their jobs voluntarily, being obsessed by the thought of jiko sekinin. (In Japan in the olden days, samurai performed hara-kiri to take responsibility. I doubt that such cultures make Japanese do, throwing away their lives.)

Then, in the world, there are many things we cannot deal with by only ourselves. Allison says as follows, “In the face of encroaching precarity, greater expectations are being placed or not only the individual (under the urgency to be “self-sustaining” and individually responsible) but also the government to help people manage life.” The poor cannot live without economic support. Many people need supports of someone.

We have to be careful when we use the phrase jiko sekinin. To have responsibility is essential for making a good relationship in the society, but we must not forget that the word may put a person in a hole.


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

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One thought on “Thinking about “jiko sekinin”

  1. Pingback: Positive and negative impacts of jiko sekinin | JAPANsociology

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