Tokyo Sonata and contemporary Japan

by Keita Sakato

The film ‘Tokyo Sonata’ is one of the nice films which shows recent precarious situations in Japan. Recently, the Japanese economy has not been stable. Some major Japanese companies have left Japan for developing countries, where they can hire a lot of workers with lower wages. Because of this, the domestic economics has no vigor and keeps declining. Most companies end up deciding to fire many incompetent workers.

One of the fired workers was the ‘father’ in the film. He was fired though did nothing about some punishments, because of the company’s circumstances. He was just the type of the fired workers who are over 40 years old and have no special abilities. Some companies think that they do not need the older workers because they have no long future. Instead of hiring the older workers who are expensive to hire, they want to hire many younger able workers. This is the situation of recent Japan.

After that, the ‘father’ tried to get a good job, which means that it gives workers enough money. However, it is not easy to get such job because there are a lot of fired workers in Japan. Of course, he could not get the good job that he wanted. When he visited a company to get an interview, he was said ‘Let me see your ability.’ It means that what ability he has for company, but he could not show anything. He was not hired by the company, of course.

To lose one’s job directly connects to own family, as his fired friend concealed from his wife and died in the end. The biggest difference between regular worker and irregular workers is the wage. Irregular workers have to work with lower wage. It means the family may be poor. In Japan, it is not normal and not proud that a head of a family is irregular worker, so ‘father’ could not tell it to ‘mother’. Nevertheless, it was known and ‘mother’ felt sad. The normal form of her family might fall to pieces.

To avoid such situation in the film, the government needs to guarantee a stable system for people. If the term that fired worker is searching a new job became so long, it will be the situation like in the film, so to create the situation that the fired workers can find and get a new job quickly.

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.

Can Japanese Women Serve the Nation by Serving Tea? The Jietai, J-Jobs, and Justice


by Robert Moorehead

Japan’s Self-Defense Force is joining the nation’s efforts to offer more employment opportunities for women, through this recruitment campaign. Women can get a “j-na shigoto,” or a j-job. What’s a j-job? Actually there are 3 j’s, so you know it’s good: Jietai (self-defense force), joyful, and job. “Won’t you try?” says one of the uniformed women, photographed lounging about.

If Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to recruit more women into the workforce are to be successful, employers like the Jietai might want to rethink how they treat women. Are they workers, or are they eye-candy? Can they help defend the nation, or can they answer the phones? Serve the nation or serve tea?

As Laura D’Andrea Tyson noted recently in a blog post for the New York Times, Japanese women’s employment rate is 25 points lower than men’s, and when women are working, they are paid on average 28% less for equivalent jobs. Japanese tax laws also penalize two-income families, and Japanese women face a greater “mommy tax” than women in any other OECD country.

Plus, not only is childcare rarely available, but the burden of childcare remains clearly gendered in Japan. Policy debates of how to enable more women to work discuss how women, and only women, can better work the “second shift,” balancing work and family. Such proposals ignore men completely, even though my male Japanese students often tell me they too would like to be able to have a career and raise a family.

What’s behind the move to get more women into the workforce? Japan’s aging society needs more workers. As Tyson notes:

These initiatives are not motivated by softhearted political correctness but by hard-headed economic logic. Japan needs to expand its work force, which is shrinking rapidly as a result of a sagging birth rate and an aging population. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Japan’s working-age population will fall by almost 40 percent by 2050. The share of citizens older than 65 is expected to jump from 24 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2050, when the ratio of the working population to the elderly population will be 1 to 1.

“Japan is growing older faster than anywhere else in the world,” the I.M.F. reports. Unless the nation can shore up its work force, it faces a long-term drag on economic growth at a time of soaring obligations for old-age entitlements.

My university classrooms are filled with intelligent, highly trained women who are looking for career opportunities that take advantage of their skills. They do not want to be asked to serve tea, or be expected to quit when they get married or have children.

They want real jobs, not j-jobs.

Keep Having Friends

by Kensuke Ikeda

I saw a documentary movie about young boy as undocumented immigrants on TV called “Nihon de Kurashitai: Huhou Taizai Kazoku no Kizuna” (We want to live in Japan: the bounds of family who are undocumented and overstay). In the movie the young boy said “please leave me in Japan, I cannot speak other language and I don’t have any friends in another country”. I realized uneasiness of the undocumented immigrants because his speech is so honest and so direct.

In Japan there are many undocumented immigrants, and some of them are children. They don’t have decision to leave in Japan or to return to “home” country where they have never lived. They should return home country by legal steps. Also, they force to return the country instantly. Japanese government takes care of undocumented people because they will do terrorism and have relation to group of drug peddler. I understand the stance of the Japanese government, but the legal steps are too tactless to ignore other undocumented immigrants who are useful for improving the Japanese economy.

These ineffective legal steps have the room to improve. I suggest that these legal steps are used by the Internet. If undocumented immigrants get approval of stay, they can stay in Japan as have been the way until now. However, they need long process to take the approval because the official apply is tiresome. If they can get temporary approval by the internet apply, they may need not to immediately return home county and they can submit their official document for immigrants. Also, if they cannot stay in Japan, they have some time for preparing to live other country, for example children can learn other language and adult can find the job in other country. The internet gives undocumented immigrants time to pass the legal steps.

However, the use of the internet for apply is dangerous because the apply may be not appropriate on legal. For instance, terrorist can make the stay time in Japan long, and then they can plan the terrorism without haste. In short, the crime people also have time to prepare next crime and escape. For this problem, the governments should strict for immigration by passport. To begin with, these crime people should not come in Japan. It is important that people who come in Japan are terrorist or not and drug peddler or not. Young undocumented immigrants deliberately make crime as overstay. I think the Japanese government should give them the room to think next life. They don’t need to lose their friends and their country.


“Nihon de Kurashitai: Huhou Taizai Kazoku no Kizuna” (We want to live in Japan: the bounds of family who are undocumented and overstay).2000. Fuji TVstation.

HP of Kayamori Office.

Against the Japanese policy on refugees

by Ryota Takatsuka

We learned about the situation of Japanese acceptance of refugees. According to the readings and materials which the professor gave to us, Japan accepts less than 1% of applicants. Although Japan has the third biggest economy in the world, Japan accepts by far fewer refugees than other developed countries. We have debate about question “Whether Japan should accept more refugees or not”. My answer is “Yes”. There are two reasons why I answered at the debate.

The first reason is that refugee can cover the shortage of labor especially in field that seek labor. Now, Japan is about to face aging society and decline of birth rate, so in some field, lack of young labor will cause vanish of job. Agriculture is famous example of this. Although Japanese self-sufficiency rate is lower than any other developed country, the number of young people who choose agriculture to work is decreasing year and year. This is why the age average of farmer is getting higher and agriculture is in danger to be disappeared in the near future. However, refugees can solve this kind of problem, because they come to Japan seeking job to live. I mean increasing number of worker promote people including Japanese young people to work in various kind of work such as agriculture. The more people come in Japan, the competition of job hunting will more hard and tough. Due to this people will be supposed to expand their eye to the industries which have not been gotten attention. This situation can help various kind of industry develop and solve Japanese current problem that lack of labor because of aging society and declining of young people.

The second reason is fundamentally, Japan is responsible for guaranteeing human rights of people all over the world by the Japanese constitution. Accepting refugee and supporting them in language and job hunting are duty of Japanese government. If Japanese government keep rejecting accept much more refugees like other country do, Japanese constitution has no power to guarantee the human rights against even Japanese people.

I feel strange that fact that Japan accepts fewer refugees than other countries. The trend of the world is globalization. Japan has to catch up with this trend by accepting refugee and admit the multiculturalism in society. The tie between other nations will be more tight and Japan start being flexible against diversity. Following this, Japan can find benefit in accepting foreign community such as immigrants and refugee in terms.

Individual Responsibility and Inequality

by Ryo Tanaka

Inequality has always been one of the common issues in many aspects of society, such as labor market and education. Here I define inequality as the situation in which an individual or a group of people is socially or economically disadvantaged for factors he/she is not responsible for. The idea that inequality should be reduced is based on humanitarianism that suggests “those who have suffered through no fault of their own should be helped” (Aguirre & Tuner, 2011, p. 55). But depending on what kind of inequality to look at, equalization could not contribute to growth. To take income inequality as an example, Kenworthy (2007) argues that “the smaller the income share of the rich (i.e., the less inequality), the less investment there is” (p. 29). The wealthy are expected to invest much of their money to accelerate capitalist economy. Otherwise, widened income gaps “may weaken consumer demand”, reduce “employee motivation and work place cooperation”, and “reduce the share of the population that is able to invest in higher education” (p. 29). Therefore, a certain degree of inequality should be kept to maintain economic well-being.

Now the question is how much (or what kind of) inequality should be kept to encourage people’s consumption, sustain people’s motivation to work, ensure opportunities to go on to higher education, and ultimately achieve the society that satisfies everyone’s will? At the same time, another big question is what should be equated? As mentioned above, income inequality should not be completely equalized because equal distribution of wealth is too egalitarian to encourage further economic growth. In order that individuals get higher standards of living and the whole society grows economically, individuals should be responsible for their own effort and every outcome of their effort. In this sense, they are even responsible for inequality of income.

At this point, inequality of outcomes is individuals’ responsibility. But it should be noted that they become really responsible for outcomes of their efforts as long as they are given opportunities to make efforts. For instance, if they have no access to school, simply they have no chances to make own efforts and expect responsive outcomes such as graduation degrees and other qualifications. Equal opportunities to learn should be guaranteed for everyone to allow everyone to participate in the given society.

In summary, I discussed how much individuals are responsible for their fate and the nature of inequality in relation to individual responsibility. At least they are responsible for outcomes of their effort including test scores and the amount of income. However, they become responsible only if the opportunity to make their own effort is given. By “own effort” I mean a certain amount of effort that an individual needs to make depending on his/her prospect about what he/she wants to achieve. In other words, everyone should have the right to decide how much effort he/she makes. If an institution like school controls how his/her make an effort for his/her own sake, it would manipulate the outcome of his/her effort. He/she then has no idea about how to be responsive to the outcome that does not depend on his/her own effort. Therefore, equal opportunities to make own effort are more essential than immediate financial control like redistribution of income. Inequality of outcomes is OK; inequality of opportunities is not OK.


Aguirre, A. & Turner, J. H. (2011). American Ethnicity: The Dynamics and Consequences of Discrimination (7th edition). New York: McGraw Hill.

Kenworthy, L. (2007). Is Inequality Feasible? Contexts, Vol. 6, Number 3, pp 28-32.

Bridging the digital divide

by Yurino Kawamura

The digital divide is creating a huge loss of opportunities for those without Internet access. As we have learned in class, or in fact, as we have been currently enjoying benefits from our PCs and mobile phones, access to the Internet enables people to stay in touch with the latest information throughout the world. Exposure to cultures from other countries would affect peoples’ lives and ways of living.

As we have learned, Internet access tends to be available only for residents of affluent countries, or to limited rich people in developing countries. The average citizen would be located on “the lower side” of the digital divide, unable to reach for latest news or cultures. To ensure all citizens high-speed Internet access, countries must possess enough budgets for investment. However, data indicate that the countries with a high percentage of Internet popularity tend to be affluent.


Figure 1. Relationship between percentage of individuals using the Internet and Gross Domestic Product per capita

Figures 1 shows the relationship between the percentage of individuals using the Internet (ICT, 2009) and the gross domestic product per capita (World Bank, 2009) of 204 countries worldwide. As seen in the figure, the more residents have access to the Internet, the higher GDP per capita a country holds. The correlation factor between them, which shows the relationship between the two factors, was 70.8%. This means that there is a strong relationship between the Internet access and GDP per capita. It is said that same kind of link exists between the literacy rate and GDP per capita, but according to a calculation, its correlation factor is only 36.6%. This indicated that the effect of the digital divide is stronger than that of illiteracy.

Establishing high-speed Internet access throughout a country is not an easy task. Developed skills and much investment would be required, which would be a tough burden for developing countries. What I am concerned about is that would lead to an even larger gap between the affluent countries and poor countries. Difference in economic power of the countries would enlarge the digital divide, which would make rich countries even richer.

It is easy to predict that this relationship will lead to very unfair opportunity for people within developing countries. Supports to build high-speed Internet infrastructure and teaching Internet literacy would be very important. The data indicates that its importance is equal to or even higher than that of elementary education. Although relatively high cost will be required for technology investments, strong support is required to maintain equal opportunity for people on the other side of the digital divide.


ICT (2009). Free Statistics. Retrieved from

World Bank (2009). World Databank. Retrieved from