Planning my future, with family ties

by Kanoko Sakamoto

As I’m living in Japan, where life has been becoming unstable, its about time for me to think about my future with seriousness because the Japanese job-hunting system is little different compared to other countries’ and Japan is unstable, so I’m old enough to think about those things.

When I was little, my dream was just to marry some one at young age, become a housewife, have kids, and live happily like everyone dreams. However, as we already know, it doesn’t work anymore with the current situation in Japan. People in Japan are facing precariousness and the situation has involved serious problems of “kodokushi”, “muen shakai”, “ikizurasa”, ”frita”, “parasite single” etc. People who feel they have no “ibasho”, which means the place they feel comfortable, it sometime leads them to suicide.

My “ibasho”, I think, is my family, my childhood friends, my friends in the university, and even my workplace is my “ibasho” too. It sounds like, and looks like everybody has their “ibasho”. Then why does “ibasho” continue to be a matter of debate? It had been too unfamiliar for me however, it became not somebody else’s problem.

To tell the truth, my grand mother lives in the same two-family houses with her first-born son and his family, and his kids who are my cousins, are already “shakaijin” and working in Tokyo so they don’t live together anymore. What is the problem is that since her eldest son and his wife are both working and my family doesn’t live near enough to see my grand mother everyday, she usually eats alone and sleeps alone and now she is feeling “kodoku” (alone).

I felt so sorry that I had never noticed about it and now me and my family are discussing to make the situation better. I’m sure that there are many people facing same kind of this situation in Japan. I thought everybody has “ibasho”, but like my grandmother, I realized that people sometime feel “kodoku” and no “ibasho” even they live with their own family for the first time.

Japanese society is an aging society with fewer children and it is predicted that the situation advances in the future. As I live in the future Japan, I thought it would be an option to get into a Japanese big company located abroad so that I do not have to stay in this unstable country and also I can contribute to Japan. However, since I encountered my grandmother’s situation, I thought it is also a good option to stay in Japan and not take my eyes off from the situation. Because people cannot live alone and like my grandparents and my parents took care of me, I should return a favor in the future and I think it’s a kind of my obligation.

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Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.

A disjointed family seeks unity in Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Masatoshi Yamamoto

Tokyo Sonata is a movie that shows us a recent ordinary Japanese family. The Sasaki family appears in this movie. Ryuhei, Megumi, and their 2 sons make up the family. This movie starts with a tragedy of Ryuhei. He was working at a company, and he was a department chief. However, suddenly he was fired by his boss because the company decided to set up a new operation. Ryuhei did not talk about it to his family, and he pretended to go to work every day after he lost a job. Nobody in the family knows about his joblessness because he wore a suit and left the home typically. But Megumi who is Ryuhei’s wife saw him receiving a soup ration in a park.

In this family, there were some problems other than Ryuhei’s joblessness. Both 2 children had what they wanted to do. The older son wanted to join the American military, and the younger son wanted to go to a piano school. However, Ryuhei disagreed with them, and he had a very strict authority in his family. Megumi had no opinion of it. Because of the dictatorship of Ryuhei, the family started to break up.

This movie has no happy ending, but I felt that this disjointed family may be able to become a united family through this ending. In the halfway of the movie, both Ryuhei and Megumi wished to start their life again because their family broke apart. How can they rebuild their family?

Ryuhei made a lot of sacrifices in his life to keep the social system in Japan going. He was working very hard at the company, and he did not have enough times to spend with his family, and he often worked late. He tried to contribute to the society and economy. However, he couldn’t receive enough benefits from the company. Moreover, suddenly he was fired, so he lost his ibasho both in the society and his family. People work hard and contribute to the society, but it is obvious that there are many people who cannot get enough welfares. I think that the traditional Japanese society system should change. For example, the labors should be guaranteed their positions more in their company.

In conclusion, I thought that probably there is a relationship between family and economy through this movie. Many people work hard, and they don’t have enough time with family. From this, the relationship in the family may sour. Therefore, if the economy starts to get worse, the number of families which have breakdown of relationship may increase. In our future, we will depend a great deal on the society and economy.

Reference

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from: http://www.mediafactory.co.jp/tokyosonata/

Global affective labor and Japanese society

by Mizuki Watanabe

Anne Allison refers to “global affective labor” in her book Precarious Japan. In this blog post, I would like to write about “global affective labor” and Japanese society in Japan.

In the beginning, we will define “global affective labor”. According to Allison, it’s is defined as workers that sell “affection” to customers. For example, Cat Cafes, Maid Cafes, and so on and we can see those examples in her book. Also “global affective labor” has globalized. Therefore we can see laborers performing it in foreign countries. Moreover Allison mentions that people pay for affection from those services. And she thinks it is related to people thinking that relationships are tiresome (mendokusai) as well.

As we can see in Allison’s book, it is “easy” for customers to visit those kinds of shops because they do not have to be in trouble any more. If people visit Cat Cafes, they need not have own cats. Keeping pets is tiresome (mendokusai) because we have a responsibility to look after them as their parents. If they visit Maid Cafes or Host Clubs, they need not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Going together with her or him is tiresome (mendokusai) because it is possible that we are in trouble such as a quarrel, a period of lassitude, unfaithfulness and talk about ending a relationship. Temporary relationships are comfortable for them. They can satisfy their demand when it’s convenient. Just by paying money, they can get an ideal world without making an effort.

I can bring myself to accept her idea because I might be one of the global affective laborers in Japan. I can understand what is it easily. I have worked at Kyoto Kokusai Hotel as a bell girl. Bell girls and boys are educated to have good customer-service skills. For a fine example of it, we cannot show our real feelings directly especially negative feelings such as anger, displeasure, and so on. We have to smile all the time except settlement of complaints and when a complaint is lodged, we must not take a defiant attitude toward guests and have to say sorry to them continually. If a surly person comes, we fawn upon. If guests want to talk to us, we have to talk to give our sympathy to them. Those facts can be interpreted as that I sell “affection” to guests. Then, I guess that guests must be comfortable because they are deluded that they are respected, pleased, and not being denied by us.

Anyway, “global affective labor” does many services more than that I mentioned about my part-time job. For instance in Maid Cafes, staff members who wear maid costumes must massage customers’ shoulders or ears to make guests comfortable. Such services have become more common in Japan lately. There are many kinds of “affective services” as well. A lot of foreign media draw attention to it actually. Therefore in foreign countries such as Asian and European countries, those kinds of cafes are becoming widely known.

In addition to Alison’s opinion, we can say with fair certainty that those forms of affective labor were born from Japanese traditional spirit. It is “OMOTENASHI” spirit. The spirit deeply rooted in Japan from of old. Of cause we can be proud of this because this spirit has supported the Japanese economy and society for long time. I read many foreign articles and news that praise this. However, lately Japanese society has been absolutely unstable and many people feel uneasy about their relationships and so on. Then, too many services like Maid Cafes have grown in society to alleviate tired people’s minds. And people noticed that relating with this world is more comfortable and happier than the real relationships because it is easy and not tiresome. Ironically, by connecting this great Japanese “OMOTENASHI” spirit with recent people’s feeling that is uneasy one, those affective works have spread and people feel real world is tiresome (mendokusai).

As stated above, I strongly agree with her opinion.

Reference

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

Konseputo café, naze hisokani bumu? [Concept Cafes, why is it in boom? ] Yahoo JAPAN news Retrieved June 3, 2014 from http://zasshi.news.yahoo.co.jp/article?a=20140507-00010000-bjournal-bus_all

Can We Start Over Again?

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

We watched Japanese movieTokyo Sonata” in the class. This movie strongly appealed to us that how the Japanese society is. In particular, it focused on one family which is a normal one in Japan. But existing problems which brothers had have come to the light and their father was fired. In other words, one trouble causes another one. Their mother suffered from them. And all of them seeks their new ways in this story. As the most interesting point, they not only act as members of a family, but the film shows the actual example that Japanese people have now.

I can say that this movie relates to Anne Allison’s book deeply. In short, this shows how Japan is precarious. For instance, their elder brother was like typical young person of today in Japan. Like Allison says, many young people do not have hope or dream for the future. And they do not know what they want to do or should do. Finally he joined the American army in the movie. Moreover, their father who was fired by his company was also important. He met with some misfortune; dismissal, the death of his friened who was in the same situation, coming out of his dismissal and being a contract worker. Halfway through the movie, the family seemed to be about to split. However, they wanted to start over again in spite of such a bad situation. But I have a question. Can the loser really start over again in Japan?

In the movie, they understood the situation they were in and stood together again. But how is it in this real world? Now Japanese society is regarded as a strict society. In terms of failure, if someone makes some mistakes, he/she can not get over them. So people try to avoid the risk and seek safe lives. When such lives collapse even if they are safe, they fall in panic. Many Japanese will try to hide the fact if they lose their job. In the movie, in fact, several contract workers were wearing suit before working despite they did not need to wear. This scene means Japanese care too much about appearance. They never want others to know the dismissal.

In conclusion, I think Japanese society have to be more tolerant. Of course, I know that people are too tired to give a helping hand to others and all they can do is to support themselves. So we must aim to let this society be like that. And then loser will try again easiliy. Failure is not big thing.

References

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

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from: http://www.mediafactory.co.jp/tokyosonata/

Tamagotchi, prosthetic sociality, and starvation in Japan

English: My very own Tamagotchi.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Masanori Takino

Author Anne Allison created the concepts techno-intimacy and prosthetic sociality when she heard “if I don’t feed it, the dog dies. It’s utterly dependent on me.” (2013:101). The definition of prosthetic sociality is “electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continuously plugged into circuits for information, communication and affect” (2013:101). Allison mentioned that in present Japanese society, family ties have become weaker and weaker. Tamagotchi can describe how the Japanese family ties is in the present situation. As you may know that, to keep the game of the Tamagotchi, the player has to keep feeding until the pet in the screen died. Someone have to continue feeding the Tamagotchi so it will not be starved.

Techno-intimacy or prosthetic sociality is, of course, an issue in the present Japanese society. One of the example is the starvation incidents (2013:103). As the author pointed out, “the incident has triggered warning bells all over again of the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity. A situation of life and death, of mendo (care of daily living) coming undone.” (p.p. 103). Weakening the ties with own family and community has been outstanding by the incidents.

The ties with the family, community have been loosened by the changing of society. The author criticized the starvation incidents by using the word “heartlessness.” It cannot make sweeping statements, only the word, “heartlessness”. There might be the other reasons of the incident of starvation having happened. For example, about the feeble connection with the neighborhood, even if the people live in the same apartment, they are not figured out who lives in the next to their room. Can people borrow or give money to people who do not well? Of course no, people cannot do such things to who do not know. It is far difficult to depend on easily. Moreover, those incidents should not be blamed the around the people or the community, but also the victims themselves. “Of hesitance in seeking out help even by those in dire need” (2013:103), if the issues which the people faced were too serious, they should rely on their relatives no matter how slight their connections were. Therefore, the problems cannot deal with only the word, “heartlessness.”

Reference

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

Modern gender roles needed in Japanese families

English: Picture of a Japanese family, showing...

English: Picture of a Japanese family, showing a range of ages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Since the past, Japanese traditional family members have had a unique and typical style in their family. What I mean here is that fathers have to work for keeping their family, mothers have to do housekeeping all day long and every day, and children have to study hard for their future and help their mothers. Today, I am going to mention about Japanese traditional family, especially mothers’ roles, and then I will pick up Anne Allison’s opinion related with those family and discuss it.

To begin with, I would like to talk about what Japanese traditional family is. In postwar Japanese society, playing roles have been meaningful. As I mentioned above, the fathers’ role is working hard, the mothers’ role is doing housekeeping all day, and the children’s role is studying hard. Especially, “mother” is a significant role in Japanese family. The reason is that a mother is actually like a robot, that helping and render great service for her family members. To tell the truth, for example, my father and paternal people think that women should be like the robot, so they do not like women’s working in the society. Whenever I visit to my paternal grandfather and mother, they usually tell me to be a woman who just do housekeeping for men. However, in my opinion, they are too old and somewhat crazy.

Here, I am going to show you her opinion about Japanese family system. In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison picks up an interview with the Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko in July 2008, who says that the modern nuclear family does not fit new capitalism at all, even though many young people still harbor desires for its anachronistic gender roles. The gender roles mean to be a stay at home housewife (sengyo shufu) and breadwinner male (daikokubashira). Moreover, the author says “ the era of the family-corporate system has ended”. What she want to say here is that we need new ways and resources for caregiving.

I strongly agree with the idea that the era of old Japanese family has ended. Now that not only men but also many women work hard in this society every day. That is why housekeeping is not a work that only women do, but everyone should do it together or in another way in the modern society. In Japan, gender roles have been one of the most important things, so it might be difficult to change those. However, I think it is time to change those stereotypes and create new system.

Techno-intimacy in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

Japanese society has been changing due to the precarious economy or depression. The number of youth who are not good at communicating with others is increasing. Such young people tend to feel lonely easily and become psychically and socially withdrawn; “referring to the phenomena much in the news of youths who literally take themselves out of school, work, or human circulation” (Allison 2013:81). Moreover, with regard to marriage, they think it is mendokusai [a nuisance] and they want to protect their money and time for themselves (Allison 2013:100). Then, the change of such as poor skills of communication or thought of taking care of someone makes a new concept. It is called “techno-intimacy” by Anne Allison (2013:101). In this blog, I will show three points. First is an explanation of techno-intimacy, next are examples of it in Japan, and final is my opinion.

To begin with, the concept of techno-intimacy was generated by problems of human relationships. This means that a human has attachment to a presence which feel lifelike. Tending to a child, a pet or something is regarded as mendokusai (bothersome) today because of many chores. This connects to the thought that young people are unwilling to get married today: “the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison 2013:101). However, since the game of taking care of digital creature had been discovered, producing such a creature came to evoke an intimate attachment in humans, which Allison calls “techno-intimacy.”. Although the play is multifaceted and complex, it becomes to foster drives of attachment that read the nervous system as if humanly interactive. According to Allison, kids who grow up practicing social intimacy with such a technological friend will be the user of care robots when they get old, which will be more likely alone. As above, the condition ―“electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication, and affect” (Allison 2013:101) is called prosthetic sociality. This is penetrating the sociological gap left by the weakening of human bonds in the family, workplace and community in Japan recently. According to Allison’s book, the anthropologist Katsuno Hirofumi has discovered that being able to have a companion makes people pleased even if it is not real human. A heart to heart relationship between human and robot is important to the heartlessness in humanity.

Secondly, in Japan, we have many games as a techno-intimacy. For example, Tamagochi or Nintendo 3D game software’s ones―the virtual pets, or pet robots like dogs or cats. Also, dobutsu no mori (a forest of animals) is a good seller game in Japan, which user has a village, makes residents and has them get along with each other.

Finally, I agree with Allison’s analysis that “the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity” (Allison 2013:103) brought the tie of heart to heart between humans and robots. Because the fact that care of daily living is regarded as mendokusai things and techno-intimacies comfort people exists. In addition, in my opinion, I thought that Japanese tend to have an attachment to unreal creatures like techno one is the influence of a national anime “Doraemon.” He is a robot and can communicate with humans. As almost all Japanese watched this in childhood, people may have little reluctance to make a friend with robots or other techno-intimacies.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (pp.77-82.100-103)

In Search of Muenshakai

by Atsuko Omura

These days, there are various kinds of cafés in Japan. For example, in a snack bar, customers select their drinks and chatted with neighborhood friends and the master. Thus, people offer foods or drinks, chat with customers and receive them warmly. Allison defines them as “global affective labor”. The Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko pointed out that global affective laborers do not only sex work but care work, as seen in the recent migrations of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers into Japan (Allison, 2013, p.99).

Densha Otoko

Densha Otoko (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

In Japan, maid cafés or imoto café have been popular in Japanese culture after the vogue of Densha Otoko and Akiba. And otaku culture has begun to spread. So many crimes have happened every year. For instance, the master hires girls who are so young. In general, the pay of global affective labor is higher than that of other jobs. In fact, the pay of a girl’s bar in Umeda, which is given in Townwork is about 1,100 yen per hour. Most pay of many places to eat in Umeda is from 800 yen to 900 yen, so the pay of the girl’s bar should be so attractive for young girls.

Young girls begin to work at the maid café, imoto café, girl’s bar and so on, drink sake and chat with customers. They are so satisfied with earning easy money to be able to play or buy many things only chatting with customers. However, these work are dangerous. Many cafés are situated in amusement areas―for example, Kabuki-cho, Namba, Umeda, Gion, and so on. At night, many people come and go. Many crimes tend to occur in these areas, so they may be implicated in a crime. And working at night may prevent the ordinary lives of students―getting up and going to schools in the morning, taking lessons in their schools, eating dinner with their families at home, and sleeping at night. So we should stop hiring young girls.

I think that the reason why people pay for affection from maids, hostesses, and other sources is that people want connection with other people. These days, it is said that Japanese society is “muenshakai”.  Everyone struggles and lives each life frantically. So I agree with Allison’s analysis, and not only the Japanese government but also the individual citizen should think about social problems in Japan and try to solve them.

 

Reference

 

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

 

Affective Labor: Maid Cafes and Social Change

Anonymous student post

Now in Japan, there are many people performing affective labor, such as caregivers, flight attendants, and so on. It is the labor that it does not need only physical labor and brainwork, but also emotional control. Anne Allison argued about global affective labor in the fourth chapter of Precarious Japan. Japan actively accepts the migration of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers. However, Allison pointed out problems that they are not allowed to enter “Japanese” homes, must pass a rigorous exam, and wages for care work remain low as well.

Working in a maid cafe is also a form of affective labor. The customers do not come there because of the food. According to Allison, they look for shokuraku kukan, which is homey and relaxed space of eating. It is essentially expressed a place where the family gets together, however, after the burst of the bubble, the form of Japanese family radically changed. Because the number of two-paycheck families increased, and it became difficult for the family to eat dinner together, the number of children who must eat dinner alone increased. Then, at the maid café, the customers of maid cafe enjoy eating food and communication with pretty maids, and their performance. Besides maid café, kyabakura (hostess bar) and idol and so on are also affective labor. Customers pay for communicating with the workers.

This is related to people thinking that real relationships are mendō (troublesome).

Now in Japan, people tend to get married late or not to get married in life. Allison said this is because young people think marriage is mendokusai. In addition, I think many Japanese people sometimes feel relationships with others are a bother, for example, when they worry about others too much. I think it is relaxed and comfortable for them to communicate with people such as a hostess. Those who are usually lonely also want to the relationship at the kind of shop.

Allison said “it is breakdown or liquidization of relationship between human time and capitalist value at the level of the (re)productive family home that marks the form of precarity and unease experienced in post –postwar Japan.” I agree with her analysis. It seems that modern Japanese society based on capitalism does not necessarily meet the modern family. The social progress of women is being developed, but social system for supporting it is inadequate. This brings collapse of family, and lack of relationship, and the demand for affective labor will increase.