Facebook – Keeping Us Together or Keeping Us Apart?

What did we do before Facebook? I do not even remember. Facebook has been in my life for a mere five years, and still, I cannot imagine life without it. It has become part of my daily routine, and it keeps me in touch with people. It is especially useful when I am travelling or living abroad, since it enables me to share my life across the world with people back home more easily.

The first thing you see when you type in Facebook.com is the sentence “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” But is this really true? I usually update people about my life here in Japan by uploading pictures or simply writing a status update, and my family and friends seem to be very appreciative of this. Also, I can share my opinions and thoughts about basically whatever I want and reach out to hundreds of people simultaneously. In this sense, Facebook is genius.

It is also easy to keep up with everybody from all around the world, and I actually enjoy catching up on the lives of childhood friends that I have not seen in years. However, the conversations are often limited to the Facebook chat and rarely develop into an “irl” (in real life)/face to face meeting. Sometimes, you do not even write anything. All you have to do is press “like” and you have done your part. And sometimes, you do not even do that. Facebook enables people to snoop around and read about other people’s lives without ever saying a word to that person. Just because you are friends on Facebook does not necessarily mean that you actually communicate. Facebook makes it easier to keep in touch, that is for sure, but at what level? I would argue that Facebook lacks to offer depth to relationships. Everything is kept on the surface since Facebook often replaces physical contact, and in my opinion, conversations over the Internet can and should never be compared to meeting someone in real life and having eye contact, seeing that person’s facial expressions, body language and hearing the person’s tone of voice, and so on.

But I admit it; I am a Facebook addict. Because of this reason I have contemplated deleting my Facebook account several times, but I never seem to get around to it. I do have friends that have tried to close their accounts though. However, they usually end up pausing their accounts instead since deleting it for good seems to be an impossible task. The reason why I have not closed down my account yet is because I feel like I would miss out on so much. I get events sent to me every week, and if you are not on Facebook, you risk missing out on these events and on updates (this is known as the digital penalty). I also have a friend who never uses Facebook, and she is missing out on a lot of events and updates because of that. She does not care for technology, which makes is difficult for us to communicate and keep in touch while I am in Japan. I have only talked to her once since coming here. There is definitely a digital divide between those who have Facebook and uses technology and those who do not.
But what do you think? Is Facebook keeping us together or keeping us apart? And would you “dare” to delete your Facebook account?

by Erika Selander Edström

Inequality in the system and an apathetic youth?

In my last blog post, I mentioned that my generation is looking away from problems concerning the system we live in and just lives for the fun of today.

However, this also is a very naïve approach to what’s really going on. The main issue is that even though we may want to change the ongoing situation in which huge parts of the world population live in poverty, in which our planet is destroyed by massive amount of pollution of the rivers, the air, the woods, chemicals used for industry and other unacceptable disasters. I am sure there are many young people out there who are concerned about all this and want to see a modification. So, why does nobody seriously strive for it?

The question should rather be: how should we do that?

For an easy example, if you buy food in the stores you may be aware of genetically modified vegetables and try to avoid them. But even if you do so, who tells you the company did not just mix the modified ones with a certain percentage of biologically produced ones? If you need to buy new clothes, do you have to research upon every little label to reassure they were not produced by child labor? A few years ago, the brand ‘esprit’ who claimed to ban child labor from their clothing production was convicted to actually support it!

Being part of the society makes you be part of the culprits. How can we stop being integrated in that? Demonstrating seems to have little or no effect on politics as they will just continue doing what they want to do and at worst arrest those who harass “local peace”. If we really want to be consequent about making a change that affects the system, we would be forced to step out of it and organize resistance. Who tells you that this will be successful and in the end, you’ll not just lose your job? Life is not a video game, where you can play Robin Hood for those in need and fight those with power and money. After all, this will just make you be the bad guy and exclude you from your social environment, like family, friends, and neighbors.

Maybe we live in the wrong period of time. If it were the 70ies, where ideas of freedom and love circulated, it was much easier to respond to ideologies and be part of a social movement. Nowadays, as nothing is more important than efficiency and success, it is much harder to speak up.

So what can we do about it? The most common answer is to keep things personal. We make an effort to consume consciously and make a change little by little. Protecting individual bodies by purchasing products isn’t likely to transform us into environmental activists, yet it does make a change in our live.

To peg people who actually do something with people who do not have care in the world as ignorant seems to me to be conceited. We are surrounded by helping organizations for the third world, we see so many allegedly organic food, and we think we do the right thing until we realize that we shouldn’t have judged this company for its environmental friendly cover. In the end, we cannot see the wood for the trees and end up querulous.

A change does not necessarily begin from top down. A bottom-up one, where more and more people change little by little is a good start. If we get the majority of the population of rich countries to do so, the system might eventually modify itself without a revolution.

by Julia Semineth

Immigration in Norway

Back when I lived in Norway I didn’t really have any problems with immigration. The town I lived in, despite only having a population of about 2000 people, had a lot of immigrants – with many of them being from Chile. Some of my best friends growing up had parents from another country, and my mother worked as a Norwegian language teacher for foreigners. Once a year, there would be a market where they sampled food from all over the world. This enabled me to experience a lot of different cultures in a relatively small community. When I moved away to one of the bigger cities in Norway in order to start studying at the university I realized how different the situation was there. Not all the immigrants got the proper follow-up while they were learning the language, and many immigrants had problems getting jobs because of their cultural backgrounds or their lack of knowledge of the language. I also noticed that people I talked to sometimes reacted negatively to the topic of immigration. Norway is a wealthy country, and one of the reasons people against immigration usually give for not wanting more people to enter the country is “having to pay tax which is in turn given as support through the welfare system and sent back to the home country of the immigrants”, among other things. On the other hand, since immigrants sometimes have such a hard time finding jobs, what other choice do they have than to rely on the support from the state?

On the 22nd of July 2011, a bomb went off in the capital of Norway, in one of the parliament buildings. On the same day, a youth camp for the Norwegian Labor Party was attacked when a man opened fire on the attendees. Before the attack on Norway, the right-wing parties in favor for closing the borders and letting less people into the country had experienced a boost in voters, but after the attack the left-wing parties gained more support. An election that had been scheduled beforehand was to take place not long after the attack, and was carried out despite the disturbances the country had faced. The election showed less support for the parties that fought the most for less immigration. The attacker claimed he had done it in defense of the “Islamic invasion” that was about to overtake the country. This fierce stance against a different culture and immigration in turn led to harsh criticism against the right-wing parties’ previous campaigns and advertisements for shutting down the borders and not allowing more immigrants into the country.

Another case that gained a lot of attention in Norway is the writer Maria Amelie, who after writing a book about being an illegal immigrant in Norway despite having lived there for almost 10 years, was deported from the country. After the publishing of the book she was arrested and deported to Russia. This case sparked a discussion on treatment of immigrants and how their stories often went unheard, but also made Norwegians question the current laws for immigration and asylum. Some claimed the Maria Amelie-case overshadowed some of the other immigrants in more dire need of support, but in the end it also put a focus on immigration in the media. The case also led to political debates, and changes made to the rules for applying for permits for staying in the country. Following this, Maria Amelie was allowed back into Norway on a work permit in April, 2011.

The country has faced hardships recently, but I believe the recent events have made an impact on people’s views, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how Norway’s stance on immigration develops from now on.

by Sindre Berg

Globalization and Inequality: from the Viewpoint of Fast Food

In centuries past, a young worker would apprentice for years, learning a craft at the feet of a master. Today, companies try to create systems that require “zero-training.” Fast food industry is one of the best examples of this. I think the shift was caused by the industrial movement. In early 19th century, people had to work with the limited technology and often required handwork that took long time to complete a task. This was basically the feature of traditional industry. However, people have been more and more impatient as the technology developed because they can do the mass production and do things much faster than the traditional manmade task. Because of this alternative technology, new types of industry came to exist and new types of business started from it and there was a significant proportional transfer from the previous industry to new types of industry and the business.

Many sociologists argue that organization and mechanization of fast food restaurants create an “interchangeable” industry. In this environment, teenagers are the best kind of employee for fast food companies. The purpose of the mechanization of workplace is to increase the “throughput” with the small number of employees. Mechanizations were designed to do jobs as fast and much as possible. Fast food companies didn’t depend on the skills or talents of the employees but the “innovative technology” that requires no training. Therefore, fast food companies basically didn’t care who are working for them and gave great importance to the mechanical systems that organize the environment which was for “mass production.” And the companies try to make the systems and instruction/direction of it as simple as possible so that anyone, especially the teenager, can easily follow it, which requires no talents or skills of the workers. Therefore, the companies can employ anyone and that’s why they can replace people easily when they got tired of it. Teenagers were targeted because the companies can hire them with fewer wages to pay because they have no experiences and skills and can reduce the labor costs. Moreover, since teenagers don’t have knowledge of society and how society works, they are easily controlled by the people in top.

Other than mechanization, fast food companies use various strategies to keep labor costs down. When U.S. experienced the end of baby-boom, the fast food companies were targeting “immigrants, the elderly and the handicapped” that were I think poor and can be hired with cheap wages and longer working time. Another strategy was to hire the crew members. The employers arrange their schedules so that they can limit the amount of work they can do and at the same time not making the overtime payment. And often the companies used some tactics to force the employees to work and control their working time. Even though the workers work for overtime, some companies cheated by just erasing the working time on the papers and force them to just work, ignoring their complaints and claims. Moreover, employers often don’t pay wages but serve food to the “minors and recent immigrants” instead of the overtime payment.

by Hirokazu Takeuchi

Schlosser, E. (2005). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal. Harper Perennial.

Young people moving out from the City to the rural area

When there are many news articles talking about urbanization; about young people leaving their home town to work in big cities; about only elderly left in the town and lead to depopulation in rural area. However there is some news articles keep popping out saying that there is a new trend of moving back to the rural area to farm. People who move back to the rural are not just retired elderly people, but also some young people. They give up their job also the convenient life style in big cities, while we are thinking what’s wrong with those people. Have you thought about the food that you eating everyday were grown by the farmers in rural area?

The Global food shortage is catching more attention now and this encourages young people to move back to the rural area. Food is one of the most important elements for us to maintain our daily life; especially Japan is a country that most of their foods are imported. The awareness of food safety is another reason that encourages young people to farm, many young people are interested to learn how to produce organic food and there are farmers who teaching young people how to farm in an organic way.

Life in big cities is hustle and bustle. Take typical white-collar workers as example, trying to get onto a train which is full to go to work, get on the empty train to go home every day, with long working hours, included the over-time work. Work occupies most of their time, they might have good salary, but they also have to afford the high rent and high living cost. No matter where you are going it is always crowded. Would you enjoy a life style like this? Young people who tired of the big cities life style moved out and starting a brand new life in the rural area!

Back to the origin, living in somewhere that are not surrounded by convenience store, growing your own organic food; earn money by selling the food that you grew; your life not controlled by your work anymore, conversely you got the right to control your life. I believe most of the young people moving out of the city are because they found the way of living in the rural area is enriching their life and soul.

by Chi Lun CHENG

Xenophobic Japan, Multicultural Singapore

Many countries are confronted with the problems of ethnic and cultural diversity in their society. Under the globalization, the flow of people from one place to another has been increasing tremendously in the past few years and yet, many countries still struggle to put their policies on multiculturalism into practice.

One of the countries that have been quite successful at putting multicultural policies in practice is Singapore. Singapore is well known for being a multi-ethnic country, with 77 percent of the population being Chinese, 14 percent Malays, and 8 percent Indians. Because of this diverse population, the government of Singapore recognizes English, which is the most widely spoken language, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil as the official languages. At school, children learn various subjects in English, but also have the choice to take courses on their mother tongue if they wished.

In addition to the different languages that are recognized in Singapore, the country also celebrates a variety of ethnic and cultural festivals such as the Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa. Each of the racial groups celebrates festivals of other cultures, which shows how people in Singapore respect ethnic and cultural differences of the others.

On the other hand, Japan still seems to be reluctant to accept many immigrants who are non-Japanese. For example, care workers from the Philippines and Indonesia that came to Japan had to learn Japanese, be able to read Japanese and take exams to qualify for these care workers in Japanese. Many Japanese people also expressed their anxiety, such as the language barrier and fear of non-Japanese workers providing care, when Japan first accepted care workers from overseas. As a result, many institutions did not accept these foreign care workers to work at their hospitals.

Like the example of Japan, even if the country may have policies on multiculturalism, if these policies are not effectively implemented, it does not make the country multicultural. Singapore has successfully established a multicultural and multiethnic society by recognizing the different ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the people living in Singapore, and has treated all of the different identities equally. Without the recognition of the different cultures that exist in the society, it would be difficult to establish a multicultural society that everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, can feel some connection to the society that they live in.

by Nami Tatewaki

Moyer, Amy J. “Current Sociolinguistic Situation.” Singapore: A Multilingual, Multiethnic Country, n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Homogenizing Gender- A Dull Conspiracy

I’ve been living here in Kyoto for around seven months now and so far, I’ve only seen one rainbow flag proudly displayed along the quiet streets of Kyoto. I discovered Colori Caffe , an Italian restaurant owned by Yossy, an openly lesbian Japanese woman. Aside from serving Italian cuisines and good coffee, Colori is also a place where everyone can be themselves. It’s one of the few, or possibly the only place in Kyoto that openly supports LGBTs – lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals.

I was happy to discover Colori, but at the same time, I was also quite surprised to find this café in a relatively conservative place such as Kyoto, Japan. I asked Yossy if all of her customers know what the rainbow flag in front of the café symbolizes, sadly, nearly half of them aren’t even aware of its meaning.

The rainbow flag symbolizes the LGBT pride; it also represents the diversity within the LGBT community. It’s often used in pride movements pushing forward LGBT rights, and yet a lot of people have no idea what it represents – most people would perhaps think of it as a symbol of peace – which it really is, but often times, its eminent message is left forgotten, drowned by its own bright colors.

Perhaps the biggest predicament is that a lot of people are still unaware of LGBT issues, if not, then they are simply indifferent. Or worse, they are heavily misinformed; hence they tend to misconstrue the issue. This problem can be traced back to the fact that most people don’t have a clear understanding of gender, primarily because gender itself is a socially constructed concept in which dominant norms have forced itself onto everyone. Hence giving birth to discrimination and prejudice against the LGBT community. This problem is not confined to Japan, but can be observed all over the world.

Most of us, as early as childhood, were probably already exposed to the dire distinctions between men and women. We were told that girls and boys should act in certain ways; otherwise, we are disturbing the imagined code of gender roles that society has imposed upon us. We live in a world which follows a strict gender binary: men are like this and women are like that. Men are supposed to be attracted to women, and women to men. But what about same-sex couples? Some would deny their existence, hence placing the issue as a taboo. While others would openly denounce same-sex couples as an “abomination,” a moral disgrace, a social deviance. This problematic outlook towards the LGBT community may be a product of a homogenized way of thinking regarding human sexuality. This homogenization of the concept of gender has been manifested through dominant teaching practices, the popular media, and through social norms.

Most societies today maintain a highly heteronormative nature – the representation of heterosexuality as the norm, and the denouncement of homosexuality as an unacceptable social deviation – this puts the LGBT community on a detrimental position. On top of that, most societies also maintain a strong patriarchal nature, hence putting lesbian and bisexual women in an even more difficult and oppressed position within society.

For decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals have fallen as victims of social stigma, unfair treatment, and harsh stereotypes. Myriad societies continue to look down on LGBTs, hence affecting their lives on multiple levels – socially, economically, politically, and even emotionally and psychologically.

by Fritzie Rodriquez

Japanese students demonstrate against Job Hunting System

Last week, there was a demonstration against Japanese job hunting system in Shinjuku, Tokyo. This demonstration was mostly organized by Japanese university students but there were also some working members of society.

This demonstration’s concept is to destroy the system of Japanese job hunting these days. They raised some points they think should be changed. First, considering this depression and high unemployment rate period, students have to start their job hunting process when they are in junior year hence they cannot concentrate on their studying. Second, unlike many foreign countries, Japanese companies are not flexible to hire students who want to get out of the rail Japanese society made. For example, if a student goes abroad and travels the world for a year or so after his graduation, he won’t have as many opportunities to get a job as he could have just after he graduated. Most Japanese companies treat new graduate with very great deal but that is only for them. This tendency also encourages students to get a job before they graduate from university. Third, having these pressures, many students are worrying about getting jobs. Recently, companies to support students’ job hunting have emerged. Demonstration also mentioned these companies should not be allowed. They think these companies are making it worse because they are getting money from these students who are worrying about job hunting by offering them seminars and books.

However, this demonstration is taken as a quite negative issue. Japanese people rarely demonstrate on the streets. People think people who demonstrate are too sensitive. Some people even say that they are complaining these things because they could not succeed to get a job and they are just being bad losers by complaining those things to society.

Are they crazy? I don’t think so. I think people who have a problem should demonstrate to let society notice. These students who protest got many negative comments, but they could let society know that there are some problems in this Japanese society. They may get people’s attention and those who also think that this is a problem but never say it out loud.

One person cannot change the society but using the power of people and the media, it may work. I respect their courage to demonstrate.

by Naoko Matsumoto

Social Movement in Japanese Society after March 11

After March 11 crippled nuclear power plant accidents in Fukushima, there have been many social movements against nuclear power plants. On September 19, about 50000 people gathered in Tokyo for antinuclear demonstration. It was the largest demonstration since the 1960’s when the students’ activities against Anpo (Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan) occurred. Not only this demonstration, there are many movements of farmers who had big damage on their products, and mothers who live around crippled nuclear power plant who are afraid of the effect of radiation on their children. However, it seems that these demonstrations attract little attention, and have little effect on government’s policies so far. Why have these demonstration not been successful enough to change the Japanese society which heavily relies on nuclear energy and is facing a crucial moment to think about our energy policy in the future?

Some people argue that Japanese society has less characteristic which try to change society with demonstration. Basically people leave their decision to upper class people such as politicians and obey them. There is little initiative that trying to change the society compared to other country such as U.S and European countries. Is it true? Yes, actually Japanese people tend to rely on decision of politicians and obey it. But, after the massive earthquake and tsunami which caused serious nuclear accident, and under the situation which we are facing fears of radiation from nuclear power and government unable to progress policies on compensations for victims and new energy policy, lots of Japanese people feel the neediness of some kinds of big change in our society.

I think the first reason why these social movements have not been successful in Japanese society is these movements fail to involve people who live far away from crippled nuclear power plant. Around the nuclear power plant such as Fukushima, Ibaraki, antinuclear power plant is growing because they live with some fear of radiation every day. However, we cannot see such movements in Osaka, Kyoto, and Kagoshima where is more than 1000 kilometers away from Fukushima. Since we do not have nuclear power plants close to our town, we do not care about radiation so much. Maybe most Japanese people who live away from Fukushima think like that. Furthermore there is some ironical fact. Although farmers around Fukushima nuclear power plant had big damage on their products, farmers far away from Fukushima such as Kyushu area had some advantage, because they had more demand for their products after the nuclear power plants accidents in Fukushima. Therefore, even people around Fukushima make demonstration for stopping nuclear power plants, they will attract little attention from people who do not have to care about radiation so seriously now. Of course, even if people who do not live around Fukushima, this accident is very crucial for them. We do have lots of nuclear power plants all over the Japan, and also there is possibility that we have big earthquake which can cause serious accident like Fukushima nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plant does matter for all of Japanese people. So, people who are taking part in antinuclear demonstrations have to take some actions not only in Tokyo but also in Osaka, Kagoshima where people less fear about radiation. For instance, they can hold some lectures on how nuclear accident had changed their life and what we need to in our society. It will be necessary that social movement makes all people concerned and aware that this accident is very crucial for all of us and have to take some actions.

In addition to the lack of involvement of people, I also think the goal of these demonstrations is vague. Though lots of people are taking part in demonstrations for expressing their anger caused from nuclear accidents, their goal is diversified so far. Farmers are demonstrating against Tepco for compensating its damage from radiation. Residents who had lived around nuclear power plant are demonstrating against government for guaranteeing their shelter. Currently many people are holding demonstration in a different ways based on their interests. However, to make demonstration successful, they have to corporate with each other and they have to make clear one goal of the demonstration. If people make one big demonstration which people who have different interests gather together and have a clear goal for them, it is more probable that antinuclear demonstration will be successful.

The key thing to make the social movement successful is to involve all people concerned and make clear one goal for them. If we can achieve it, antinuclear movement will be successful and be able to change our society.

by Shunsuke Ochi

Muslim in America, Muslim in Hip Hop

It is said that in some parts of America, people got to recognize Muslim people as a habitant having evil and dangerous trait after 9/11. Then many Muslim people still hold unclear feeling due to this America’s ‘change’.

However, there are also some conscious men who are against this current situation. According to the first article, one Muslim American rapper (23), who “went through their adolescence and early adulthood post-9/11”, “speaks about his personal struggles and the political and social issues that resonate in him the most.” He tries to change people’s wrong recognition of Muslims through hip-hop music, which history was also shaped in confronting racial, social and political injustice.

‘Capital D’ is a Chicago rapper who criticizes America with the modern capitalism and the war in Iraq. He said that recently American Muslims has been taking hip-hop music into their culture, and that ‘Islam hip-hop’ is very young in its process. However as he says, I think this movement will be expanding more.

Today, many Muslim rappers succeeded in surviving through the game of hip-hop, and the number of them has been increasing. Lupe Fiasco is one of them.

Lupe (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco), a conscious rapper from Chi-town, is very explicit to proclaim that he is Muslim and talks lots of things how he thinks about Islam. In his song“Words I Never Said” (2011), he emphasizes “Murdering is not Islam!” to make people change their conception about Islam. He also criticizes (Muslim?) people who don’t take their voice out to say the truth, saying;

Now you can say it ain’t our fault if we never heard it.
But if we know better than we probably deserve it.

Since his debut in 2006, Lupe has cemented his position in hip-hop with his incredible lyrical skill. Now, he became the representative of Muslim in America and hip-hop, and became the voice of them. I’m sure we can say that hip-hop, to some extent, made it possible for American Muslims to state their social and political intentions.

This culture called hip-hop seems to have a very unique religious perspective. It has a root in Gospel, at the same time; it had a great influence of Nation of Islam and also had important support by Jewish people to become economically independent. I think this trait made it possible for Muslim people to fight the situation through hip-hop. The main thesis of hip-hop, I guess, is to do the right thing. This means to tell people the truth, removing all the inconsistency, with positive vibration.
Reading each report, I feel that Muslim are fighting their situation in America through hip-hop.

by Yuki Atsusaka


Madeline, D. (2010, August 17). Muslim American rapper growing up in post-9/11 America. Common Ground News Service.
Retrieved November 30, 2011, from

n.d. (2005, November 24). Muslim rappers combine beliefs with hip-hop. Associated Press.
Retrieved November 30, 2011, from

n.d. (n.d.). 10 Most Successful Muslim Rappers. Islamoblog.
Retrieved November 30, 2011, from