A “normal life” is no longer “normal”

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 Marie Kosaka

First of all, I would like to spend a normal life in the future. However, what is a normal life for us? Some decades ago, it was seen as a normal life to graduate from university, get a regular job, get married, have a baby and watch your child grow up. Now, such a “normal life” is no longer “normal” for today’s people. Though the percentage of students advancing to higher education in Japan is increasing, whether we get a permanent job is not guaranteed. In addition to this, Japanese tend to get married later in life. Because of this, a normal life which was thought the general standard becomes an age-old idea.

So, I thought about my future plan. Firstly, I think that graduating from university and getting a regular job is still important point for my future plan because they are essential factors to become independent. Without them, I can not even live without my family. My parents have worked so hard since I was born, so I would like to repay the favor of them by becoming independent. Even though it is certainly not easy to get a regular job, I hope to recover employment situation in Japan in the future.

Secondly, “kodokushi” (dying alone) is recently a very serious social issue in Japan because of the lack of connection with each other, especially marriage. People who don’t marry in their lifetime are increasing, and they will feel alone after they retire from their job. It leads to “muen shakai” (relationless society) and “kodokushi“. I think that marriage is the most important connection in society. If I marry someone, I will feel less lonely and keep the social connection. In order to keep the connection with society, I would like to marry a person who I can believe the most. While I hope for new connections, old connections such as my family, old friends, and my teacher are also significant. Even if I become independent, I want to meet my family with my new family sometimes a year, and seeing my old friends and talking about how I am doing are also important things.

Finally, I can’t expect where is my ibasho in the future. However, I should be in the place where I am satisfied with, and play a role as a member of society. Though Japan is a very precarious at present and its future can not be said bright, I can change a situation around me by myself.

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