Tokyo Sonata: a look into precarious Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marina Furuichi

Tokyo Sonata” is a film which describes a breakdown and a faint ray of hope in a family. The outline of the story is this: In Tokyo, the Sasaki family lives in a town. Ryuhei, the father of the family, is fired, but he can’t tell his family the fact. His two sons also have their own secret. In addition, one day, his wife Megumi is drawn into involvement in a robbery. In these situations, however, little by little, they begin to find a faint ray of hope while all the family has each their own feeling. In this movie, some parts of recent precarious Japan which Allison states such as jikosekinin is depicted. I will states the review in terms of jikosekinin, kodoku, and mendōkusai which are the issues that Allison states.

First of all, I’m going to state my analysis of the movie in terms of “jikosekinin”. In the beginning of the movie, father, Ryuhei, is fired because the company decided to employ Chinese workers who work for a smaller salary than Japanese. In the scene, after the company tells that he isn’t needed in the company, his superior says, “What can you do for this company? Do the rest by yourself.” I think the line is one of the best examples of idea of “jikosekinin”. As the movie shows us a negative side of “jikosekinin” in Japan, I think they easily abandon people who is not useful by using the word “jikosekinin” because especially, Japanese company place great importance on their benefits. Government also imports on their policies such as “privatizing more and more of (what once were) government services under the banner of “individual responsibility (jikosekinin),” as Allison (2013, p52) states.

Second, I will state my analysis of the movie in terms of “kodoku” and “mendōkusai”. There is a scene which Kenji who is a younger brother talks with his piano teacher. He learns the piano without saying it to his family. One day, he happen to learn that the teacher decided to divorce. Then, he says to her, “I understand you. There is more time I want to be alone than that with someone. I have to be worried about hurting someone when I’m with someone.” In this scene, I think people who choose “kodoku” to live in easier human relationships without “mendōkusai ningenkankei” is described. According to Anne Allison (2013, p100), “young people say marriage is mendōkusai [a nuisance]; they’d rather protect their money and time for themselves.” There is a link between the scene of the movie and the passage in Allison’s book. I think that both of them refer to that there are many people who want to be alone to run away from “mendōkusai ningenkankei” in Japan.


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


9 thoughts on “Tokyo Sonata: a look into precarious Japan

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