My experiences and expectations for my future

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

Anonymous student post

Do you know Kamagasaki? Kamagasaki is a city of the poor in Osaka, Japan. There are many homeless. Almost all of them are old men and day labors. Problems which they have are many and complicated.

Originally, day labors in Kamagasaki were recruited from the whole of Japan to hold Japan World Exposition in 1970. But, after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis, their jobs decreased intensively. They live depending on the wage of the day work. They don’t have houses and stay at day-labors’ lodgings called “Doya.” That is to say, no job means no money for living the day. They want to work but they have no job and no money, and they cannot help but be homeless.

I visited Kamagasaki as a study tour in the last spring vacation. Then, I heard a story of a man. He died alone in his room of an apartment building. One week after his death, he was found by others. The cause of his death was starvation. He was received welfare benefits, but he died of hunger. Why? A person who told us the story told the reason which he thought. Human have nothing to do, human don’t want to live. People who come to Kamagasaki have some problems and they don’t keep in touch with their family and relative. Therefore, they don’t ask about their experience each other. They know each other by sight but they are not friends who do something together and don’t have such friends. They are solitary and lonely. No one cared him, and no one knew his death for a week.

I don’t want to be a homeless or to die alone while no one know. It is too sad to die alone while no one alone. So as not to do so, I want to marry and to have some children. I want to have three children because I am one of them. For it, I want to have a stable job. My parents are public employees. The salary of public employee are lower than other business. But public employee is securer and safer than others. What I want is not a high but a decent salary and stability. Also I want my partner to have a regular work because I think that it is hard to bring up three children by only my income or my income and her income of irregular work. So, my future plan is to have family and to have a job which give me enough money to support my family.

Future plans, destroyed dreams, and heartless people

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Yohei Kondo

I have some plans for future. The first one is to graduate Ritsumeikan University in four years. After that, I’m planning to go back to Hiroshima which is my home town and get a job at Mazda car company, because my family is living in Hiroshima and my grand mother wants me to come home. My house in Hiroshima is one of ibasho for me, because everytime I come home, my family says “Welcome home” and I feel relaxed with them. My father is working at Mazda. It is one of the biggest companies in Hiroshima and it is paid work. My mother is teaching English for high school students. Thanks to my parent’s effort, I could come to Kyoto and study what I want to do. My mother’s side grandmother is living with my parents. On the other hand, my dad’s side grandmother is over seventy years old, however she is living by herself. I’m worrying about her, because in the book Precarious Japan there were two stories about old people who died because they were disconnected from others. I think these reports realized me how important to have a connection with others.  Also, I want to get married before I am 30 years old and have 2 children just like my parents. I would like to spend much time with my family on every Saturdays and Sundays.

However, these plans are unstable because of today’s Japanese society. It is getting more and more difficult for us (young people) to get a job because a large number of companies employ cheaper laborers from other countries. I am apprehensive about this job shortage could increase the number of “furita”,“hikikomori” and “parasite singles” and it create a “muen-shakai”. In my future, if I am a furita or something like that, I probably cannot get married because of short income. Typically, Irregular workers income is less than regular worker’s one. Regular workers get 4 million yen per year, on the other hand, average irregular worker’s annual income is under 2 million yen. It means that it is difficult for irregular workers to have children and take care of their family too.

I think these structures of Japanese society are destroying people’s dreams and creating heartless people.  So, what we have to do are to find our own ibasho where we can feel comfortable, build a relationship with those around us, be nice to other people in order to exterminate the word of “muen-shakai” from Japan.

Avoiding Precarity

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Shun Aoki

There are several things that I hope to achieve in the future, which are actually still quite vague. First, putting it simply, I hope to become someone who is internationally active. Perhaps, I could achieve this by working for a foreign multinational company. I have one major reason as to why this is a realistic and appealing future for me. It is that I want to have a working environment where “typical Japanese values of working” is non-existent. This is the reason why foreign multinational company is the most preferable alternative, and not Japanese company. As Allison (2013) illustrates, in contemporary Japan, labor is continual and tends to merge with one’s life (p. 16). However, I hope to clearly draw a line between work and personal life. Through the experience of living in Belgium for 5 years, I found that the average working class in Belgium are able to separate their jobs and personal lives, which is a trend I hardly see in Japanese society. For instance, their priority is spending a time with their family, and hierarchical relationship at their workplace rarely affects their personal lives. To put it differently, I am attracted to the Western values when it comes to working environment.

It is not that I want to run away from the precarity in Japan and I am aware that my generation has to face the current situation and live through the hard time. However, forecasting its future from present situation frightens me. For example, the LDP is now trying to pass a labor legislation that will abolish working limit and obligation for the companies to provide their workers days off (Kanetani 2014). Such a policymaking is believed to increase the number of overwork deaths and it could worsen the precarity issue. This is another reason why I would like to work in an international environment.

Another goal is to have a family and let them have the same quality of life as I currently do, thanks to my father. What is important is that, in my life, I’ve always had a choice and never been coerced to choose certain path, which I believe is only possible due to a stable source of income. In other words, I do not want my future kids to be in a situation where having a precarious job is the only option. I believe that in the future, family will always be my ibasho, as it always has been. Ibasho, in my opinion, is a place that one can always “save” and go back to regardless of time. My friends from high school, or even from elementary school, have always been my ibasho where I can feel like a worthy individual. I believe it can be meaningful to place importance on keeping in touch with old friends and having “tsunagari”, because these would provide an individual more ibasho (Allison 2013, p. 20). I feel that it would be wonderful if I was able to have my workplace as my ibasyo where I have a good human relationship and am able to show my ability to the fullest. This way, working will not be something too stressful.

In conclusion, my future is still unclear and my plan is mostly based on the idea of “how to avoid precarity.” For this reason, in a next few years, I hope to find myself a clear future goal, so that I will be able to work on my own initiative to achieve that goal. To be honest, I am quite optimistic about my future career. And preferably, I would like not to become a part of the precarious society, but become a leading force to solve this issue.

References

Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp. 16-20). Duke University Press.

Kanetani, T. (2014). What is ’no overtime money’ system? Retrieved from https://kotobank.jp/word/「残業代ゼロ」制度-189789

Lack of confidence and education

corridor in a Japanese elementary school. The ...

corridor in a Japanese elementary school. The sign says “You do not run.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Kotaro Yamamoto

Is it Japan really hopeless country? Do you have a hope in your future? According to government survey, many young people in Japan not have confidence on themselves. In 2014, Japanese government did cabinet decision about kodomowakamono hakusho (children・youth white paper) and it shows difference between Japanese youth and youth in some other countries (kodomowakamono hakusho, 2014). Survey conducted on men and women between age of 13 to 29 from 7 countries such as Japan, Korea, United States, England, Germany, France, and Sweden. About a thousand of people in each countries answered through the Internet. As the result, people who answered question that “Are you satisfied yourself?” are only 45.8% in Japan. On the other hand, other 6 countries got more than 70%. The question that “Do you have a hope in your future?” also shows same proclivity as former question, only 61.6% of Japanese youth answered as positive. However, other 6 countries got more than 80%.

Through this survey, I can’t stop worrying about future of Japan. In the future, I want to some how contribute to education especially for younger age people. I think education is very important factor through human life. However, it is difficult to change that Japanese education. I suggest that the reason why many youth in Japan have no confidence is because of Japanese education system. In Japan, many school have to follow same kind of education system. There is “juken” which is entrance exam for university. Most of junior high or high school have to do the education program only for that exam. All people who want to go to college have to get a high score to enter the good one. Japan still has an academic career-based society, so people have to enter good college to get a nice job. Many people think that to have a good life, we have to study and enter good college then get an informal appointment from big company as “Shinsotsu” (new graduate student). This system gives stop thinking as creative. They are required to find one answer so person who answered wrong will exclude.

I think this is one of the biggest reasons making atmosphere that “strange” or “different” people are eliminate from Japanese society. When I was elementary school student, I lived in America. My family was in Los Angele

s but many people treated our family member as friends. However, some of my American friends told me that Japan is closed society and sometimes feel uncomfortable because of his nationality. In the future, Japan will face more severe situation. To break through it, we have to revive confidence of Japanese youth.

Reference

Naikaku-Fu. (2014, June 3). KodomoWakamono Hakusho (Children・Youth White Paper). Retrieved from http://www8.cao.go.jp/youth/kenkyu/thinking/h25/pdf/b2_1.pdf

Running for My Life

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Miki Yamaguchi

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison looks at the current situation and problems which Japan faces now. The country where are believed it is full of hopes and wealth no longer exists. Instead of that, people struggle in enigmatic mud. Although it is not easy to lead a steady life, we young generation shouldn’t lose our expectation. And from now, I would like to describe my future plan as one of the young, based on Anne Allison’s study.

My dream is to work for a trading company, because I’m very interested in unique merchandises and imported food which are rarely seen in our table. I think, however, salary, working hours and a system of paid vacation are also considerable. Of course it is lucky to be able to get a job which meets every conditions, I know the society is not so naïve. In fact, I have anxiety and concern for future. My greatest worry is a relationship with our co-workers and bosses. As Anne Allison stated, it’s common to see a company man (kaisha ningen) in Japan. On weekend, fellow workers go lunch and play golf all together, not spending with their family. Furthermore, these gatherings are thought to be more or less influential their career. This system plays a role to create bond (kizuna) among colleagues, I think, however, for women like me who want to make child, this will be affecting their life plans. This means once women quit their jobs for a maternity leave and lose the too tight relationships suddenly, they feel lonely or even feel isolated the society. Unfortunately, the husband also is tied this system and so he works all day and comes home very late. And while the husband is in his company, women have to raise child and do her household. This life style seems very stressful (ikizurasa) and I do not lead such a tired life.

I believe my ibasho is my home in Nagasaki, and my another hope is to create a warm family. In order to balance my work and family life, and make child-raising more happily and enjoyable, husband’s cooperation is important. For example, it very helpful for women that he takes care of his baby on weekend and try to share housework every day. Also the relationship with fellow mom (mamatomo) is necessary, because a complaint and information about parenting can be shared.

Building my career is important, nevertheless I want cherish my family. And under any circumstances, I don’t want to lose my expectation and want to live my own life. To become such a woman, I take the current situation sincerely and consider my way of life.

My future plans and expectations

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Sana Matsuda

As for my future plan of working, I am thinking of becoming a public servant so that I can work stably. As Allison says, employment situation of Japanese society has been flexible and liquid (Allison 2013). Furthermore, economic situation has continued to be unstable as well. Consequently, I feel it is necessary for me to become one kind of public servant in order to secure my life in this precarious society. More specifically, I would like to be a faculty member of the national university if possible, aiming to improve the Japanese situation as much as possible that the rate of professional women is pretty low (Allison 2013). However, since I will have to repay my scholarships soon after the graduation while struggling to earn living expenses, whether I can go to graduate school, which is necessary for the career, is insecure. Therefore, I am also thinking of another choice to get other jobs such as customs officer or local government employee (public servant, in any case).

At this moment, I can find ibasho within my friends and classes of the university, and my family. However, when I think of my becoming “shakaijin” and working, I feel a little bit anxious that whether I will be able to find it at the workplace as well. Since ibasho is something deeply related to relationships, it will be crucial to build good relationships with others working there. In addition, I would like to make ibasho for my prospective children like what I have felt comfortable within my family.

Speaking of family, I desire to get marry and make a home at latest by 25~26 because I think this would be ideal for having some children safely. In fact, I would like to have about three children so that my future family will be lively, and will also contribute to heightening a birthrate in Japan even just a little. Moreover, I am planning to live in housing for two generations which accommodates my future family and my mother (also parents of my prospective partners if they want) to prevent her from falling kodokushi.

Finally, Allison’s vision that I have felt familiar to my own experience most is the feature of muen shakai. I can find one of the features within my neighborhood. Although I make it a rule to greet the neighbors, I think it is not sufficient because there are rare interchanges among neighbors. Therefore, I would like to think a great deal of not only my career but people around me including my mother, future family, or neighbors.

Reference

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

Civil service for a secure future?

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Michiyo Umezato

My future plan is to be a national civil servant after I graduate from the university. I have three reasons. First, I never lose my job: national servants do not have “ristora”. As Anne Allison discussed in her book, contemporary Japan is very precarious, so the most important thing on working is stability, I think. When I was a child, I wanted to have a more unstable occupation: pro golfer, pastry chef, and so on. However, as I got older, I thought I should get more stable job. Second, it is easier for women to take a maternity leave and reinstate after it. Of course, women’s reinstatement is getting usual in general company but, it is still about 20 percent. “Matahara” is very serious problem too. Third, all of my family (father, mother and two sisters) are national civil servants. So, I can know many various things about job easily.

In order to take a maternity leave, I have to marry with someone and bear a baby. I feel this is one of the most difficult events in my life. As I mentioned above, stability is very important. So, I am going to marry a man of a national civil servant like my parents and want two children.

After I retire the job, I want to immigrate to the place which is very tranquil: New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and so on. This is because if Japan does not change a lot, this country would be still unkind to elderly people. Maybe I will not live so long. I want to die around seventy.

Next, I think “ibasho” is the place I can relax and speak my mind. Especially we Japanese put a high value on “honne to tatemae”. So, to speak our minds means we trust you. When we are with people we trust: family, best friends and so on, we can relax. I feel “ba” and “ibasho” are mixed. For example, in the class room, if I sit down alone, there is “ba” but, if I sit down with my friend, there is “ibasho”. They are being inseparable. Also, these ideas relate to some Japanese social problems. People who cannot make “ibasho” in society become hikikomori or get kodokushi (dying alone). Also, I think these problems are caused by smartphone and internet. They bring us fictitious ibasho: friends or community on the internet. It is not real ibasho. This hallucination is cause of them. We should think about how to use them more.

An unexpected “gaijin moment”

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho...

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho, Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Robert Moorehead

At the beginning and end of each semester, my college faculty and staff gather for a fancy meal at a restaurant before a smaller group moves on to an Irish pub for a nijikai (second round of drinking). The nijikai crowd eventually shrinks down to a smaller group that heads to a third bar, for a sanjikai. At each place, everyone shares stories, laughs, and enjoys each other’s company in a mix of Japanese and English. Despite the fun, at the third stop I had a “gaijin moment.”

A “gaijin moment” is my Japanese adaptation of Eli Anderson’s “n**r moment,” in which non-Japanese are starkly reminded of their outsider status in Japan. In this case, the reminder came despite the smiles, laughter, and joyous karaoke singing of my colleagues.

The sanjikai took place at a small Japanese-style bar. The 16 people in our group settled in on couches in the back of the bar, as three Japanese hostesses came over to pour drinks for us, serve us snacks, and engage us in conversation. Thankfully, these women avoided the more dramatic flirting found in hostess bars, where the job is to flirt with customers, smile, sing, and get customers to buy drinks—what Rhacel Parreñas has defined as a form of sex work. (Anne Allison and Parreñas have produced great ethnographies of hostess work, for those interested.)

A Japanese woman in her 30s sat across from me and another foreign professor, poured us some watered-down drinks, and asked questions that non-Japanese often get—do you speak Japanese, where are you from, how long have you lived in Japan, etc. To her credit, she avoided exaggerated responses like “Oh really? Wow! That’s great!” Or maybe she read the look I probably had on my face.

English: Kabukicho, Tokyo

English: Kabukicho, Tokyo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I understand the history of the hostess role, I also understand the gender dynamics of paying women to serve me. Pouring drinks, wiping moisture off the glasses, re-filling drinks (with extremely watered-down booze), clapping their hands in time to the karaoke singing, and pretending to be interested in whatever I might say. I couldn’t separate their smiles from the fact that they were being paid to show those emotions … that I was paying them for those emotions.

At that moment, I realized that I am unable to turn off the sociologist in my head. I couldn’t get comfortable with the hostess-customer relationship. While there’s no shame in working as a hostess, I would have preferred to have gone to Ing, a rock bar that several of us had unsuccessfully lobbied for. At least the bar we went to was better than the place we’d gone to previously, a depressingly dark bar where the hostesses routinely yawn, check their watches, serve stale snacks, and pour drinks that are essentially watered-down gasoline.

Then came calls for me to join the karaoke. I demurred, as I listened to my colleagues sing one Japanese song after another, from pop to rock to dance music, generations of Japanese songs I had never heard. A few English classics, like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra, made their inevitable appearance. But it was the endless medley of Japanese songs that made me feel like a gaijin. Everyone was nice enough, and even the hostess eventually moved on to other people. But sitting through song after song that I had never heard before, but all my Japanese colleagues seemed to know by heart, made me realize that, despite all the music that we had in common, we grew up listening to very different things.

Black Sabbath 1977 Ozzy Butler Iommi - "R...

Black Sabbath 1977 Ozzy Butler Iommi – “Reality Show” (Photo credit: Whiskeygonebad)

Odds are that if my Japanese colleagues had found themselves listening to people (try to) sing the heavy metal and rock tracks I grew up with (time for some Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden karaoke, anyone?), they would have felt similarly. As people pushed me to look for songs to sing, I drew a blank. Feeling like an outsider, I couldn’t even think of what I’d look for. Not that I really wanted to sing, but I felt like such an outsider that I couldn’t imagine anything I liked being in the computer system.

Eventually, I got forced to sign the last song of the night, and while people were originally searching for “Hey Jude,” I got stuck with “We Are the World.” Seriously. It would not have been my first choice, or my second, or my 153rd.

The next day, all sorts of songs popped into my head, making me wonder even more about what had set me off. After more than 7 years in Japan, it’s interesting to see that I can still feel like a total gaijin.

So a little empathy is in order whenever a native complains about foreigners not fitting in. Fitting in is a long, bumpy road. And just when you think you’re in the clear … more bumps.

頑張ります.

Precarious Japan and Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kota Yanagidani

In her book Precarious Japan, Anne Alison discusses the depiction of precarious life in the film “Tokyo Sonata.” In the ensuring paragraphs, this paper introduces “Tokyo Sonata” first, and after that, Allison’s view of “Tokyo Sonata” is analyzed, and my opinion on the movie and Allison’s view comes in the final part.

First of all, this movie starts with the situation that one man loses his job, and the movie shows the family’s life in which the father struggles with hiding the truth about his job. After all, family got to know that he lost his job.

About this movie, Allison says there are also other stories of his sons and wife. They all face some problems and complicated and awkward situations; all members of the family have problems but they gather around the table and eat dinner in almost silence. According to Allison, this family represents muenshakai (relationless society) in which disconnectedness and incommunicativeness are occurring. She writes “No one speaks and no one knows, or asks, why the others look a mess” in his family, and her point is actually shown in his family. Also, Allison claims that the house can be a tool for analyzing the soul. In “Tokyo Sonata,” the soul of the family can be seen when the house actually plays the role of “house” which means the place for family members.

My opinion is for my contemporary situation, I really cannot imagine if I was fired while having a family. I may try to find another job while pretending to go work. However, as for muenkazoku (relationless family), I also cannot imagine how I would manage family as father, but from my experience, love is the most important element in family and this should be shown as a form.

In order to show love as father even mother, relationship have to be a big deal. This means that a family thinking love is relationship in a family must not be involved in muenshakai. The truth, however, is there are a number of relationless families in contemporary Japan, according to Allison. Like Allison points out, the cause of these families is market capitalism. Mentally, this market system makes the family, especially the father, think he has to focus on work in order to take care of his family. Then the mother thinks she is supposed to focus on housework and grow up sons or daughters.

Therefore, to put it simply, muenshakai (relationless society) is a by-product of overly developed capitalism, I think. It should be required not to change market capitalism, but to give rise to solutions like improving the welfare system, which directly leads to people’s happiness while we keep capitalism. Anyway, the government should be involved to make a change in our society.

Will Miku give us hope?

Lady Miku

Lady Miku (Photo credit: m61322)

by Zhang Shiwen

Hatsune Miku (初音ミク) has become a boom all over the world. Like the 2-D fetish or imaginary girlfriend of otaku, she is a digital character who sings with a human voice if people set music to it. Users can set the size of her body, so they can each have their own Miku. According to Bendako (2012), because users can make her move and sing, she is seen as satisfying their fantasy love, such as by saying “I love you” to them. Users can also create music and dance to make her do, and then upload it to the Internet. Following this, the most important reason for the boom is that although she cannot be felt as a human idol, she can imitate a normal human being to encourage users if they create good music, and communicate with them to make users feel happy (Bendako 2012). Miku has fulfilled what Allison said, that “human and the robot to understand each other like human beings” (Allison 2013:102). There came up a heart to heart relationship between Miku and users.

Around 20 years ago, the virtual pet, Tamagotchi, was very popular for people who wanted to experience keeping a pet. People take care of digital pets for fun when they are free, to feel warm when they feel tired, but they can stop and restart whenever they want. No matter whether it’s Miku or Tamagotchi, they are all the productions of prosthetic sociality. They are electronic goods, but we can communicate with them and they can affect us. Although they are digital, the relationship between human and them does exist.

Especially with the development of technology, the electronic goods that accompanied people have changed from a pet in a special electronic screen to a lovely, humanlike girl in computers, PSP, even people can see live performances by Miku on real stages. Moreover, people can use the Internet to share their own Miku music and dance to the world. Users can also get communication through Miku. It is said that these humanoid robots can help “promote companionship and communication” (Allison 2013:102). However, how about the real lives of people who feel healed by prosthetic sociality?

The interesting phenomenon in Japan is that compared to the overflowed information on the Internet, Japanese society is lacking in communication and humanity. People are interested in saying things on the Internet, but refuse to communicate with their families and neighbors. I totally agree with Allison’s criticism that prosthetic society will weaken “human ties in the family, workplace, and community” (Allison 2013:101). The bad effect is appearing, and I myself am an example.

My parents were very busy and had no time to take care of me, so they bought me a DVD player. Maybe they thought it was good for me to have a companion, like the mother is happy for her five-year-old son to have a Tamagotchi. However, I just repeated watching DVDs and wanted to be a good child to not be a nuisance (mendokusai). Now when I looked back over my childhood, I prefer being a bad child to having more touch with my parents. Due to that, I am afraid that I will become a user of care robotics, as I grow old. I do not want to taste loneliness again.

Prosthetic sociality will not save people. It is like a drug, which can make people happy temporarily, but the side effect, feeling lonelier, will continue in the future. People will grow older. The day when they get out of the prosthetic sociality will come, but they cannot find any connection with others at that time. People relay on digital life maybe because their parents or friends cannot give them more care or touch, or they shut down their family life themselves. However, as a result, escaping from the reality is not a good choice. I appreciate Tamura Hiroshi and others, who can face to the difficulties of life. The prosthetic society can be a good entertainment, but will not give us hope.

References

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

Bendako. June 10, 2012. Hatsune Miku ha naze konnani ninkinano? [Why is Hatsune Miku so popular?]. Retrieved from http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2012/06/10/005/

Who is Hatsune Miku? http://ggsoku.com/2013/07/miku-hatsune-mac-english-summer/