Struggles of living in Japan

Anonymous student post

The minimum wage in Kyoto is 773 yen. It may be the limit to earn 6,000 to 8,000 yen in a day with minimum wage. The problem will be not serious when people can get only minimum wage if they have a family who supports them (such as university students doing a part time job). However there are many serious cases in Japan. Net café refugees can be taken as an example. Net café refugees can earn money for today, however they can’t earn money for saving even though they work as hard as they can do. They “usually rely on temporary work (haken) or day labor (hiyatoi)” (Allison 2013:44) and can get almost minimum wage in Japan.

Relying on unstable jobs and getting a low salary, people continually feel anxiety and they can’t maintain themselves both mentally and physically. A net café is like home, however “‘Home,’ when they find it in a net café, is decidedly unhomey” (Allison 2013:45). Furthermore many people have to worry about the job for tomorrow every night. They spend a day with the wage they get on that day, hence there are no foods and no place where they spend a night if they can’t find a job. Sometimes they are introduced too dangerous job from the temporary staff agency. Some employers might think poor people would do the hazardous job with bad condition because they couldn’t manage a day without the job.

There are not only net café refugees but also other people who are hired as irregular workers and live on the edge. It is difficult to get stable job without graduating high school or even university in Japanese modern society. People almost can’t get out the bad cycle of poverty if people leave the way of getting the life of stability once (giving up high school and so on). Some people are deprived of “a safety net, social support system, or reserves of almost any kind” (Allison 2013:45) and even hopes for the future. They lose most things that would support them and feel “devoid of hope or dreams for tomorrow” (Allison 2013:46). Their lost thing is not only them, but also ibasho.

There are many people who work with minimum wage or close to the minimum in Japan. If they live alone, it would be hard to live mentally, physically and financially. With minimum wage, people can’t use their time to enjoy much even are filled with anxiety and hopeless. Japan hold many people who have no ibasho and no hope. The bad cycle of hopeless should be solved as soon as possible and Japan should become the society filled with hope for tomorrow.


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

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Living on minimum wage in Japan

by Tomomi Hosokawa

In Japan, minimum wage is about 760 yen on average (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 2013). This is low compared to other developed countries. This is one of the factors of poverty in Japan. If I must live with minimum wage in Japan, I would struggle with both physical and mental pain. For example, a woman in the book Precarious Japan is a temporary worker, and she gets less than 50,000 yen a month. She was in bad health, but she could not go to hospital. In addition, that woman could not receive welfare because she was young and seen as healthy enough to work. This is directly related to life. If I am a temporary worker like her, I will also suffer from the anxiety of losing a job. Companies usually dismiss low-wage workers like temporary workers. If I was fired, I could not rent a room and I would not have enough money to find a new job. I have no choice but to be turned adrift. In this case, it is difficult to rely on family or friends because I do not want them to know about my situation. Also, I do not want to trouble them.

Many people are suffering from this problem in Japan. How can this be solved? According to Anne Allison (2013, p.58), “Making the lives and circumstances of such people visible in and to the public is part of Yuasa’s wider agenda in his reverse poverty”. I agree with this opinion because this will be the connection to the society. If they can feel someone understand them, they will be relieved. Also, community will begin to face this problem if they notice that.

However, I believe it is the obligation of government to make the situation of such people be seen and solve the problem. This is because government is one of the factors of this. They set the minimum wage lowest in the developed countries. In addition, only the people who passed strict requirement can receive welfare. They have responsibility to share and come to grips with this problem to make the connection to the society for them.


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

Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (2013)


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Jiko sekinin? Ringing an alarm about the country

by Minami Ichiji

“Jiko sekinin” (individual responsibility) is a word one hears a lot in Japanese society. Although, as Anne Allison (2013) points out, “Japan is at war caused by the deregulation and restructuring that have been acted as government policies”. According to Allison, “Yuasa (cofounder of the Reverse Poverty Network) sees poverty as a form of war.” Also, she says “it is a war that the state and society is waging by endangering and not fulfilling its commitment to the people-that of ensuring the right to a “healthy and culturally basic existence” that all citizens are entitled to under Article 25 of the constitution.”

After the end of the bubble economy, the Japanese government made much of a few corporations abandoning a large majority of workers. Allison explains as follows:

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).

She criticizes severely. I am of the same mind that they must protect workers in more weak position from an impact of economic decline. Certainly, when “jiko sekinin” is used in punishing me for my wrong doing, we need to bring up the idea. But, that applies under serious mistake.

“Nevertheless these workers are accused of been lazy with few support,” from Akagi Tomohiro’s work, which Allison quotes (2013). The wrong policies are the main factor, so rather than some person who is driving forward might be punished “under the banner of “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin)” (Allison 2013). Despite that, according to Allison (2013), Akagi says “lacking will and contributing to the lowering of the GDP” person is accused of.

In fact, the disparity between people succeeding in receiving full welfare and those who are denied or displaced is becoming bigger with continuous deregulation and restructuring. I agree with Allison’s thought that a situation that increasing number of youths engaging in irregular work is precarious as a crisis. They feel superfluous, they regard themselves as what could be replaced. Furitā or irregular work (hiseikikoyou) leads to but not only material poverty also an absence of affirming oneself. Allison states, “Japan was slipping into mud.” She rings an alarm about the country that is transforming into the land where an ordinary person could be the net café refugee.

If there were those who persist in raising the GDP, they should bring a measure that could gain confidence into effect. What the most important is supporting people to get a decent work and giving a full welfare, regardless of an employment pattern.


Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.35,47,51-52) Durham, London : Duke University Press.

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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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Balancing plans for work, travel, and family

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 Arisa Kato

My future plan starts from now. My dream is to take a job at a travel agency because I love traveling and encountering foreign cultures. Therefore, I’ve been studying for a certification of travel consultant. It is one of national qualifications in Japan and this requirement would help me to get regular job in the tourist industry. I don’t want to be haken (contract worker) while I’m single because I desire to make my work place my ibasho. So I need something strong to win the job hunting. In addition to study for the qualification, I will go Spain and Mexico to study Spanish while I’m a university student. Not only studying the language, I’d like to learn culture and tourism of Spain and Latin America.

After I get a job successfully, I will work as a tour conductor. I will guide travelers in Japan and all over the world. Even more, I have been thinking of making a plan that participants can experience daily lives in the countries. So I’m also interested in organizing tours.

In my plan, I will get married around thirty. It is because I want at least two children. If I could, I will have three. I wish the first is a girl. This is because girls tend to take care their younger brothers and I hope for going shopping and a café with my daughter someday like me and my mother. While the children are little, I might take a rest from or quit my job to bring my sons and daughters. I think family must be the most comfortable ibasho for children and mothers have responsibility for making pleasant ibasho for their families. Therefore I’ll be concentrate on housework and mothering.

After children grow up, maybe when they go on to junior high school, I want to return to working. If there is a chance, perhaps I may return to a travel agency. However, it can be useful to be a haken. Although it is irregular working and insecure, part time jobs usually allow workers to choose the time when they work. So I can adjust a schedule to suit other private events and appointments. From this point, irregular work is good for people who have plans in their private lives.

After I get older, I’d like to live in countryside. If I may be allowed to wish so much, I desire to live abroad. Anyway, I would like to find good partner who apprehend me well because there are so many things I want to do.

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Enjoying work and family

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 Yuri Kamino

I have not made a concrete plan about what I’m going to do in the future, but I vaguely imagine that in the fourth year I will fight against the glacial age of hiring, work for a company, marry someone, have babies, raise them and in the latter half, I will live a slow life with my husband, many grandchildren and dogs.

Job hunting is waiting for us and as many classmates have said, it becomes more difficult to get good work without enough knowledge. For university students, I think it is quite natural to hope to find good or top-rank work and live a better life because it costs a lot to go a university, so they desire to get work that corresponds to the money they have spent. However, personally I think it is not necessarily important to be employed in what is called a first-class company. Of course I want to get a better job, but for me, it is more essential whether I can enjoy the job at the company and handle both a career and raising children.

I have two points for my job hunting. One is that can the company be my ibasho. These days, the number of people who work oneself to death is increasing. More and more “kaisha-man or woman” sacrifice their holidays and private time. They also suffer from stress among their companies. I don’t think these situations can never be my ibasho. Maybe I will relate to the company for a long time, so I wish to keep a good relations with them.

The other point is that whether the company has a sufficient system for women to concentrate on both their job and childcare. Today, more and more women are doing great things in society, but there are still many companies which treat them as less important because they tend to retire from their jobs or take long vacations when they marry and give birth. As established by law, we can take childcare leave until our child reaches the age of 1. However under these companies, I could not pay much attention to my child. I strongly hope to build family with boundless love and wish it can be ibasho for my children.

I think that for children, family is the most important and for me, a job is essential to live more worthy life so, I am eager to seek for a way which I can meet both.

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