Discovering the importance of ibasho

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.

Anonymous student post

Anne Allison views the problems Japan faces from a lot of perspectives. I am very interested in topic about human relationship and ibasho. Therefore I want to think about it related to my experiences.

I became a university student one year ago, and I began living by myself. What I felt strongly in my university life as a freshman is that life consists of a continuance of acts of choosing something. Because I can choose almost all things by myself, I have to take responsibility by myself. I have had more time to face that by myself and imagine my future since I had such an idea. When I think about my future, that is almost shushoku and shukatsu, I often talk to myself what is most important thing in my life at the same time, because I consider future plan is deeply connected with what I value. In thinking about that, I realized that my view on the family has changed so far.

In short, it was not until I left my hometown and lived alone that I understood how valuable my family is. I knew that the greatness of my mother who raised me and my brother by herself with working every day, and how much I have been supported by family for the first time. If I am worried about something, my family always listens to my worries and gives good advice for me. My family accepts and loves me no matter what I am, and filled with my desire of recognition absolutely. I was sure that family is ibasho for me after reading Allison’s paper.

As Allison says, current Japanese society is unstable, liquid and precarious. Human relationships get to be thin more and more, and many people seek their real ibasho. I know it is important to have a “good” job and earn much money, and praised by many people, however, it is more essential to get deep human relationship and feeling of spiritual satisfaction in like there society.

I have not decided concrete my future plan and what I choose as my occupation yet. However, I have the core of myself, that is, I want to be a person who can be proud of myself to the family and protect ibasho. Moreover, I also hope to become a person who can support someone as one of their

Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ibasho.

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Finding my ibasho at work, without becoming a kaisha-ningen

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

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 Ayaka Sasaki

My future plan is to become a hotel employee after graduating from Ritsumeikan. To realize my future plan, I am working at a hotel as a part- time job. When I refer to my future plan, many people say that job in hotel is beautiful and sophisticated, but it is not. I know that it is not so beautiful and rather unsophisticated. Because, even though I work part–time, I feel  the precariousness that Anne Allison describes in her book. However, I only work at the hotel, so I can’t refer to other jobs.

For example, I felt that some male employee, especially those who became a manager or a chief of the department, are divorced. There are a lot of reasons, but I felt that some got divorced because they were kaisha-ningen (company person). The harder they work, the further the distance from the family becomes.

In addition, the system of the job in hotel depends too much on the non-regular employees, as part-time workers or dispatch workers. The reason why I feel so is that there are a lot of affairs which can’t be dealt by the regular workers. In Allison’s book, furita are referred as a symbol of the non-regular employee and precariousness.

However, I realize that I am in an ibasho by belonging to the organization, a hotel, as Allison wrote, even though I am a part–time worker. I work as often as regular workers, so regular workers or managers frequently say that I am a big help to their affairs. They approved, so I felt that I am in ibasho and my ibasho is the hotel. The feeling or impression of approval brings the feeling of ibasho.

Therefore, the wages are not so high, and the affairs are not so easy or light, but many non-regular workers work at the hotel because they can feel ibasho.

Moreover, I guess that workers who divorced have become kaisha-ningen because they can feel that they are in ibasho—where they are approved by the company.

Finally, I think that the situation doesn’t change in the future, and the feeling of ibasho relies on belonging to the organization, group and company. Then also it rely on the approval by others. However, in ibasho, I’m not content with the environment, and don’t want to bury my personality. Therefore, I have a plan after becoming a hotel employee—becoming a sommelier.

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The influence of women’s social advancement in Japan on my future plan

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Anonymous student post

My academic interest in the IR field is peace and conflict studies, post- conflict peace-building, and the Middle East. One of my future dreams is to give peace education and human resource development for children in conflict areas by offering some artwork and developing it into critical thinking. In order to do so, I need to improve my own knowledge and skills. Therefore, I am planning to study abroad at the post-graduate school of London University, SOAS, after graduating from Ritsumeikan University. I have not decided yet whether to take a framework-making approach such as working for an international organization, or a grassroots approach, such as local staff of a NGO. However, in either way, certain period of work experience in companies is likely to be required, therefore I would once get a job in a company to have some social experience.

I think one phenomenon that Anne Alison pointed out in her book Precarious Japan, women’s social advancement in the workforce, might affect my plan at this stage. According to the statistics of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 34.2 percent of Japanese women (one in three single women) aged 15-39 wishes to be a housewife. Similarly, survey conducted by the cabinet office shows that 51 percent of Japanese people answered that it is ideal for men to work outside as a breadwinner and women to be a housewife. This number increased by 20 points, compared to the number of the survey in 2009, among the age of 20 to 30 years old.

This tendency is due to the despairing situation for female workers to develop a career steadily in their jobs, and the recent economic stagnation. According to Anne Alison (2013), irregular workers are those who are the most precarious in Japanese society because they have minimal rights and protection, and can easily get fired. Women make up 70 percent of irregular workers, and have the worst status by experiencing the worst gendered disparity of all industrialized countries.

Although Japanese society is becoming a result-based employment, women suffer from likewise disadvantage of employment even in regular employment and full-time work. It is based on underlying sexually biased premise that men are the breadwinner and women stay home as a housewife (Alison, 2013). They only earn about 67 percent of men’s salary and around 80 percent of working women makes less than 3,000,000 yen a year. Also, 44 percent of working women receive less than the minimum wage of the year and the number of women staying in professional jobs is remarkably low. The percentage of women having managerial posts is considerably low as well. Moreover, 80 percent of women workers retire after giving birth to her first child (Allison, 2013).

In conclusion, when I look at this current situation, I guess it may be very hard for me to get a highly paid secure job and advance my career in a company, especially when I am planning to ultimately move out and change my job to work in international cooperation. Therefore I have anxiety about whether  I could successfully become economically independent from my parents and pursue my dreams at the same time. In other words, I have to work very hard not become a parasite single.

References

Alison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University press.

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (March, 2013). Wakamono no ishiki ni kansuru chousa [statistic on youth’s consciousness survey]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mhlw.go.jp/file/04-Houdouhappyou-12605000-Seisakutoukatsukan- Seisakuhyoukakanshitsu/0000022200.pdf

Gender Equality Bureau cabinet Office. (April,2012). Dansei ni totte no danjo kyoudousannka [Survey of male’s consciousness on gender equality].Retrieved from http://www.gender.go.jp/research/kenkyu/dansei_ishiki/pdf/chapter_1.pdf

 

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Future plans get complicated in precarious Japan

Partial three-quarter right front view of a cl...

Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Natsuki Nakasone

Now, I am a nineteen-year-old student at Ritsumeikan University. If everything goes well, I will graduate in three years. However, I need another two years in order to get a license since I would like to become a kindergarten teacher. Therefore, in my future plan, I will go to another school while working at a company, and then I will become a teacher. This plan seemed easy to realize, but there are several problems which are affected by the precariousness of Japan.

First, recently, the rate of non-regular employees has been increasing. As Anne Allison said, after the Bubble, many temporary workers played important roles in high economic growth in Japan. This employment system has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it is able to post employees when they are needed. However, the disadvantage is that it also becomes an issue of public concern. There is a possibility that temporary workers will be fired all of a sudden. Therefore, they cannot have a stable life.

Next, the number of children has been decreasing, because the number of people who remain unmarried has been increasing. As a result of this, the demand for nursery school teachers and kindergarten teachers is decreasing, and it is not sure whether I can get an ideal job.

In addition, in Japan women can get fewer jobs than men, because there has been a stereotype that men work outside of the house and women work in the house. Even if some women are fortunate enough to get a job, they often have to leave their jobs to raise their children. In my plan, I would like to have two children, and I might be in similar circumstances. In this precarious Japan, it is difficult to realize my dreams and live an ideal life.

Lastly, I would like to mention a little bit about my ibasho. I think my ibasho is my family, so, since I am still a teenager, an ibasho for me has always been provided by others. However, in the future, I will have to find it for myself. Therefore, it is important for me to get married and to have children in order to create my new ibasho.

As you can tell from what I have mentioned, to get both ibasho and ideal work is not easy in my case. Thinking about this tells me that I am living in precarious Japan.

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Doing what you want in precarious times

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.

Anonymous student post

Today, more and more people tend to seek stability and security for their lives, so younger people study hard to go to famous universities and try to get secure jobs. Given the current precariousness of life in Japan, it may be necessary to live in Japan. However, will it really make you happy and comfortable? I don’t think so. The reason is that you cannot always be assured of security and a happy life whatever you get as your job. Also, what makes you happy is not only steadiness. When the whole of the society is not secure and stable, even if you get a secure job, like as a public employee, there is some possibility of failing and losing everything. Now, Japanese society is precarious, and that is why you should do what you really want to do! I know it is difficult to do actually, but it is worth trying because I believe that the current precariousness of Japan means the turn of Japanese society.

For the reasons mentioned above, although my dream is not a stable job, I would like to get the job.

I have had my dream since I was in junior high school. In the future, I would like to work for people and with people in developing countries. They have suffered from poverty, wars, or something difficult. We have to pay more attention to those serious problems and struggle with them to improve and solve more positively. In my case, the first time to recognize those obviously was when I was a junior high school student. In English class, I opened a page of my English textbook and saw a well-known picture. The picture’s name is “The Vulture and The Starving Child” taken by Kevin Carter in Sudan. I was shocked by the picture and I couldn’t concentrate on the lesson at all. It was not until I saw the picture that I recognized what poverty was in developing countries and how people were in those countries. After that I became to think I should something for those people and be interested in some jobs for people who suffer around the world vaguely. Now I would like to be involved in international cooperation as a Japanese and a member of a Japanese agency. Although the current Japan is in unstable and dangerous situation, it doesn’t matter to me. I want to live strongly for not my stable life but my dream.

Imagining my future in Japan

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.

Anonymous student post

I have not decided my future occupation. I want to work in foreign countries or with using English. If I become a translator, I could use English skill. Besides, if I become diplomat, I may work all over the world. I am originally interested in English and the world situation. In this college, I read many English articles or documents and study international relations now.

Recently, it seems that globalization is advancing in the world. Some Japanese companies start to operate overseas. So I think that there are many chances of using English in the future. It needs highly competent people in workplace. I want to work in those global office and be a talented person.

In Japan, there are many problems in various fields now. One problem is ‘employment’. This is not easy to resolve. The number of irregular workers increases every year. The salary of those workers is lower than that of regular workers. In addition, they may suddenly be fired because of the depression or cutting down labor cost. So I think that this present working condition is unstable. I worried about obtaining employment in the future. The Japanese government should establish some policies rapidly. It needs to stabilize employment and increase mobility in the job market. On a different subject, there is the word ‘muenshakai’. It explains the relationless society. It also leads to many problems such as ‘kodokushi’ (lonely death), the destruction of family blood and thin human relation. However, I am blessed with family or friends so I do not feel isolation. Then I think that it is important to communicate with other people. If anything serious happens, the important thing is the human ties.

In the future, if I get married or have a child, I would like to continue working. I manage to handle both a career and raising a child. However, it is difficult for woman to work after giving birth. It seems that the number of a child on the waiting list for admission to a kindergarten increase. It needs to make complete nursery or childcare leave. The Japanese government needs to improve women’s working condition.

At last, I want to have a wider field of vision and to grow in knowledge. Now, I study hard in this college. In addition, I want to improve my English skill. So I have concrete dream and imagine my future clearly.

Balancing my goals with reality and hard choices

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.

Anonymous student post

After I graduate from the university, I’d like to study at national university to get a master’s degree. (I don’t know what category I choose.) It’s still up in the air as of now.

What is indispensable for going on to a school and then continue to study is money. I watched a TV program named “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives”. Students have no choice but to work to make money for their everyday life, because the money that their parents send is decreasing year by year. According to Allison (2013), “one-third of all workers today are only irregularly employed. Holding jobs that are part-time, temporary, or contact labor, irregular workers lack job security, benefits, or decent wages.” I’ve felt that Japanese lifelong employment has collapsed, as she states. That also makes students poor. I imagine I may contribute to my support like students who the program has taken up. According to “Education at a Glance 2013 OECD Indicators”, “public expenditure on education in Japan ranks in most lowest among the member state.”

After studying at a graduate school, I’d like to get a job at an NGO in order to accumulate experiences of supporting people in hard situation. Later some years, working as a member of international institutions is my final goal.

In the case, it takes much time to hunt job at these institutions than others for way of severe employment. That means I have to work to earn my living until getting the job. Though, I doubt whether I find a sustainable job. Allison says (2013) “one-half of all young workers are ‘working poor'”. I might slide into this one.

Ideally speaking, before I turn thirty years old, I hope that I will be hired. Though there’s no guarantee. While I’m striving for the goal, my parents and grandparents could come down with a disease or divorce. In a worst-case scenario, somebody might die alone. As Allison states (2013) “All alone people die, which happens everywhere in Japan”, which is no longer other people concerns.

Taking account of these facts, I expect that I will hesitate to make a choice of working abroad or in Japan. Roughly speaking, serving at an NGO or an international institution in Japan could be possible. So that I can imagine that I will be working in Japan by any chance. It occurred to me that to start work as soon as I graduate from school. This idea might make my parents feel relieved, even though it also means giving up my goal.

From my expectation, I wouldn’t get married. I won’t want to part with my career that I will have built up. In Japanese society, women’s marriage means retiring from their work conventionally. But for family such as husband and child, probably no one knows of my death.

Thus to avoid dying alone, I hope that I will keep in touch with my friends and cousins, familiar people from now on. When think of ibasho, I consider a comfortable space where people who accept without reserve as ibasho. For me, ibasho is the place where my familiar people are.

The other day, I heard that the elementary school which my father went to may be closed within a few years due to a decrease of children. This typical reality shows example of shoushikoureika (Japan’s declining population). In the future, it will be going on more and more. I predict this phenomenon affects my future in form of maintaining living standard.

References

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.12) Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

NAVIGATION 2014.4.25 “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives” from NHK online Website: http://www.nhk.or.jp/nagoya/navigation/past/

OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing from OECD Web site: http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm

Gender equality and my ibasho

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 Marina Furuichi

I am going to state my future plans from two points of view and my ibasho.

First, I will mention my future plans from two points of view, marriage and work. I don’t only want to get married and have children, but also I want to work hard. After graduation, I will take a civil service examination, pass the examination and be a diplomat. By the time I turn 28, I will work with all my heart. When I am 28 years old, I will get married. These are my dreams. However, if I try to do so, I will face some difficulties. In fact, it is said that Japan doesn’t have good work environments for women. In this paper, Anne Allison says:

even during the boom period of the bubble economy, women were overly representative in the peripheral workforce as part-time workers (which they remain today with 70% of female workers employed in irregular jobs and with 80% of temp workers being female).

If this circumstance isn’t improved, the future of working woman will not be bright. In other words, it is not easy for me to achieve my dreams. Now, I think about the future of Japanese working environments. I expect that more working women will be able to live a full life by working sufficiently. Sylvia Ann Hewlett says:

As the looming demographic crisis threatens to reshape the economy as drastically as any natural disaster, better using its educated women would be an innovation that, according to a 2010 Goldman Sashs study, would add 8.2 million brains to the workforce and boost the economy by 15%. Japanese women are poised to make this happen and looking to employers to lead the charge.

I agree with this idea. I think it is inefficient that a well-qualified woman is passed over for a plum assignment. Therefore, I think that Japan should make more chances for working woman.

Second, I will state my ibasho. I think that ibasho is a little different from place. Ibasho is something we can rely on. In other words, ibasho is not so much physical place as mental place. My ibasho is the time to spend with my important people such as my family and friends. Therefore, in my future, it will be irreplaceable to have a time with my new family. To make my dreams come true, I will never divorce. I will clear a path for my own future.

References

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

TIME Japan’s Working-Woman Problem. http://ideas.time.com/2011/12/11/japans-working-woman-problem/

Future anxiety

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.

Anonymous student post

When I thought about my future, I imagined only bright future without anxiety and my plan would do well in my future. However, after reading chapters 1 and 2 of Anne Allison’s book, I felt anxiety about my future. In this chapter, I show clearly my ideas about my plans of business for the future and about my ibasho (a place of security and stability)

First, I start to show my plan about business. I decided my dream for the future when I was 12 years old, and my dream is to work at clothing company because I am very interested in the clothing business. Although I didn’t know the differences between an irregular worker and a regular worker when I was 12 years old, and I didn’t have any worries about my future. But I hope that I will be able to work as a permanent worker at clothing company after graduation from Ritsumeikan University.

The reason why I will want to work as a regular worker at clothing company in the future is that the salary of a regular worker is higher than of an irregular worker. I will pursue my career in the field of apparel, and hope to manage my tailor’s shop at some time in the future. Therefore, I will need funds deeply to manage the shop, so I don’t want to be irregular worker absolutely. Also I can’t bear to continue living in constant fear of dismissal. Although I noticed that I don’t know yet whether I will be able to get a job as a regular worker or not.

Recently, Japan is very precarious and increase irregular employment. Even if you graduate from a famous university, you have no guarantee that you will get a job as regular employee. Actually, according to Anne Allison, one-third of all workers today are irregular workers in Japan, and 70% of all female workers are irregularly employed. It seems difficult for women to work as regular worker in Japanese society. The current situation is wholly unexpected to me and makes me anxious.

Second, Anne Allison wrote that the number of Japanese people who don’t have relationships is increasing. I always am blessed with having people around me. Therefore, I have never been in a situation like this. However I reconsider where is my ibasho. It is a place where I can relax from the heart, such as family and friends, and it isn’t formal like a boss in company. The most important thing about ibasho for me is my family. I was raised in a loving home and always felt a strong bond with them. I can tell them how I feel. My family is the most important persons in the world. In my future, if I become a mother, I want to give my kids the security of a loving marriage, like my parents. Furthermore, my friends are also important ibasho to me. I always laugh a lot and have a good time with my friends. When I got depressed, I can get over the sting thanks to my friends encouragement. I’m grateful really to my family and friends.

In conclusion, I realized that japan is in a precarious situation now through business for my future. While I had a difficulty empathizing with those who lack relationships because I have a supportive community, I want to value my relationships with them forever.

Future dreams

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.

Anonymous student post

I make plans for the future. Now, I am 19 years old. I will go abroad to study English for one year. I want to acquire ability for English. I will graduate from Ritsumeikan University smoothly at the age of 22. At the same time, I will begin to work for some company. Presently, I want to be a buyer. I like interior, fashion clothes, miscellaneous goods. Making use of my English skill, I would visit foreign countries, and buy up wonderful products. Moreover, I want to design original clothes, and sell them. I make clothes that I want to wear. I want many people to wear the clothes that I designed.

Apart from that, I like to announce things. So, I think that announcement person in department store is also suiting me. At the age of 24, I am going to get married. But I will not quit my job. I keep on working even I have babies. In my 20’s, I want two children. One is boy, the other is girl. I make a loan, and build detached house. I like both of western-style and traditional Japanese style. However, I don’t like the house which built in half-foreign style across between Japanese and foreign. So, I unify either western-style or traditional Japanese style. I will have a big dog, and white cat with blue eyes. Although It is very optimistic future plans, It is my dream.

By the way, “kodokushi” (dying alone) is now a serious issue in Japan. However, in the future, when I become a senior citizen, will “kodokushi” still be a serious problem? Presently, the senior generation in Japan is the generation that supported postwar Japan. They tend to think vertical connections are important. On the other hand, our generation tends to think side relations are important. So now, there is generation gap between senior generation to our generation. I think the tendency of our generation is more popular now. Present senior generation can’t fill the gap. As a result, they are lonely in present society. When our generation become senior, how the tendency is going? I wonder. It is unimaginable for me, but I don’t want to be lonely at that time. I am going to make strong relationship with people around me, like friends, elder people, my family and so on.