Precarious life for Japanese women at work

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

This time I would like to think about how is the current precariousness of life in Japan affecting my plans.

After graduate from Ritsumeikan University I would like to get a job. To get a job, I have to do job hunting but there is a “ikizurasa” for woman. It is said that women have much difficulty when they do job hunting because many of the companies think that women tend to retire after they get married, or have children. The companies don’t want to hire people who clearly quit job because no matter how supervise women, it will be absolutely nothing. But there are many women who will not get married or have children. So I think there is a unfairness between men and women, and it will be a “ikizurasa” for Japanese women.

Even if I write this way, I think I will quit job when I have children, and it is related to “ikizurasa” because I believe there is “ikizurasa” not only in the society but also in the company. There is a system that men/women can take a childcare holiday for several weeks whenever the employees want. I think that it is a good system for everyone who got children because you can take care of them, not to abolish or leave them in grandparents care. However, if you take childcare holiday, you will fall behind to the same period. I don’t think that falling behind to the peers is a bad thing, but most of the companies regards the employee as lacking of the ability. But there is a bad aspect to take a childcare holiday.  After I take the holidays, it will be difficult to get back to the job because I would not know how was the company going on during I take the holidays. I think this means that l will lose my “ibasho” in the company. I regard “ibasho” as the place where I can get comfort both physically and mentally. I have a image that companies change very fast so even if the employees take holidays for a while, it will be difficult to catch up the work, and surrender will be changed.

After I raise up my children, I want to open a small English private cramming school in my house. These days, we have variety of jobs nothing to do with gender. I think this is a improvement of “ikizurasa”.

Above all, these are my life plan and thinking. I want to find my “ibasho”.

The blessed few in precarious Japan

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 Atsushi Amemiya

When you look for regular work, you will find two kind of jobs. The first type of works is a public officer who is employed by a nation or a local government. The second one is a laborer who works in a private enterprise. Here, I’d like to talk about a public officer in Japan.

Although a public officer had been not a so popular job before the Bubble collapsed, it got first place in many Japanese rankings of dream job after the Bubble collapsed. Actually, I also consider it as a place of employment after graduate as same as many other university students in Japan. Then, why is a public officer so popular in Japan? I think there are three reasons.

The first reason is that a public officer is one of the most stable jobs. It is hard to think that Japan come to a collapse. Moreover also, since the Japanese Government and a Japanese local government adopt a seniority system, a public officer increasingly earn much money as he or she grows older even if he or she produces nothing.

The second reason is that a working conditions of a public officer is relatively better than most of private enterprises. Especially, for women, I think a public officer is one of best jobs in Japan. This is because according to the National Personnel Authority and Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, a job separation rate of women after a marriage is about fourteen times as high as the rate of female government officials after a marriage. A job separation rate of female government officials after a marriage is just 2%. It is surprisingly low.

The third reason is that non-Japanese cannot work as a public officer with few exceptions (a foreign resident of Japan, professors in national or public universities and so on). Now that a market is globalized and Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate, it is time to receive foreign workers from the world. Actually, Prime Minister Abe considers a foreign worker policy that Japan receives 200,000 foreign workers annually. Then, if this policy is carried out, unemployment is growing rapidly in the various fields of industry. However, public officers do not lose their jobs because foreign workers cannot become public officers since they do not have Japanese nationality.

In conclusion, I can affirm that a public officer is one of the best jobs in precarious Japan for the above reasons although I’m not sure that a public officer will be a stable job in the future. Of course, there are institutional weaknesses of a public officer. For instance, the young cannot earn a lot of money even if they produce excellent results in their jobs because of a senior system. However, I think public officers are the blessed few, bearing the weakness in mind because their life was guaranteed by a nation or a local government even in precarious Japan where a lot of Japanese feel a sense of despair.


General Equality Bureau Cabinet Office (2013), Danjo kyodou sankaku hakusyo (A report of gender equal society) Retrieved from:

The National Personnel Authority (2011), Josei kokka koumuin no saiyou touyou no gennjoutou (The present condition about employment and promotion of female government officials) Retrieved from:

The state of modern family in Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Tokyo Sonata is the story of modern Japanese family. The family consists of four persons, the father Ryuhei, the mother Megumi, the older son Takashi, and the younger son Kenji. This type of family is popular in modern Japan, called kaku-kazoku. The film tells about the present state of Japanese family and from a breaking down to a rebuilding of the family.

In the opening of the film, the father gets fired from his company and the company employs a Chinese person instead of him, because Chinese workers work for cheaper wages than Japanese workers. Therefore, he lost his job and he couldn’t get income expect for a retirement payment.

After he lost his job, he could not say it to his family and he pretended as going to his company everyday, because he had a pride as a father of the family. In middle of the film, the story continues on with the breakdown of the family. The younger son started lessons of piano and he was recommended entering the music school from the piano teacher, but he refused the proposal because he thought his father opposed to this. Then, the father went to a Public Employment Security Office to get work  and he finally got a job as a sanitation worker in a shopping mall, but even this he hid from his family.

In this point, it can see that he regarded the people who lost jobs and work in low wages as embarrassed. One day, when the mother was home, she was attacked and taken as a hostage by a robber. The some day, the father had an accident and he was injured, and the younger son was arrested by police officers because he got on a bus without paying the fare. The next day, they came back home separately. After in this time, the family began lunch on one table without talking and asking, so anyone knew the events happened for themselves. In the end, the parents went to a music school because they see the physical skills test of their younger son to enter the school. The son showed talented performance and audiences was attracted by his recital. At last, the parents and son left the school after the son’s wonderful performance.

I think this film shows the state of modern Japanese family and economy. Anne Allison said the state of family is changing and breaking down. This phenomenon relates to not only people’s way of life, but also even economy. In this film, a Japanese worker lost job because Japanese company promotes employment of foreigners. It caused by globalization and cut in labor costs. We know there are many people who lost job or home and it becomes the problem in Japan but to improve the problem complex and difficult because many facts connect to this. But the ending of film, the breaking down family rebuilds little by little. Anne Allison also said the most important things for people are economy and family because these make ibasho and support the life of people Therefore, in conclusion, family is important place for people and to keep peaceful, but to that end, people should need the stable economy in Japan.


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

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from:

If I am earning minimum wage

Anonymous student post


In recently, the pay differential between the high-income earner and the low-income earner has widened in Japan. For example, low-income earners are day laborers, temporary employees, part-time workers, and so on. If I am earning minimum wage, I think I will have a lot of struggles.

First, my working hours will be very long. The labor standards law say that people work an eight-hour day. But many jobs don’t keep to the law actually. When I did part-time job at a Japanese bar, I really felt it. I worked longer than 8 hours in a day, also my wages were not high. If I am a day laborer and temporary employee, my income is not really stable and I can’t expect when I might lose my job. Second, the working environment is not good. Do you know 3K roudou in Japanese? It is defined as Kitsui (hard), Kitanai (dirty), Kiken (dangerous). It is a very low wage, but very hard work.

However, I have to pay a lot of money to live. For example, there are house rent, fuel and lighting, food expenses, and so on. If I lose my job, I can’t pay that. It is very hard for me. Therefore, people who don’t have a home has increased these days. According to Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, the number of net café refugees has increased recently. “Net café refugees are people who are essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafés or manga kissa (comic book cafés)” (Anne Alison, 2013, p44). In net cafés, we can sleep, drink juice and soup, watch TV, take a shower, and so on. In addition to that, there are many private rooms where I can cover my face, and it is very low price to stay overnight. They acclimate themselves to that environment, also I think they become feeling comfortable.

If I am earning minimum wage, I wish for giving relief from government and society. If the government raises minimum wage only, I think I can’t have a comfortable life. Japanese government carries out policies on social security, but it is not enough. Part of the people who need social security can’t go on social security now. I think Japan has an increase in the gap between rich and poor. I think Japan should impose a tax on luxury items, because the number of people who go on social security is increasing. And we have to improve the working environment from now to the future.


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

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The future is fluid and invisible

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 Kota Yanigadani

The future is not fixed, it is fluid and invisible, but still we can have a plan on our future and even try to realize the future. My future is after working at some professional workplace about security or conflict resolution, working, as a world citizen, to reduce violence in the world, correct injustice, and thus end poverty in the world. Therefore, in this post, connections between my future plans and Anne Allison’s vision of Japan are mentioned.

First of all, the current precarious condition in Japan does not have a big influence on my plan superficially. According to Allison, the mainly aging population, people in solitude in  gray zones, lower positions for women, and the typical company employment system are precarious conditions in Japan. On the aging population and seniors, I do not think the truth is so serious because technology is progressing rapidly. Robot industry can solve work forces in the future, and robot can be the catalyst for people and seniors. From this point, I do not think these are related to helping people suffering from poverty and violence. Also, the typical company employment does not have an influence on my future, because as today’s plan, I do not plan to work as a company man.

Second, my ibasho is actually my family and university. University is ba for me to prove myself, and I always feel comforted by being at home. However, what makes my identity is not my nationality. Recently, I have felt as if I am a cosmopolitan, which means I have strong global, world citizenship. To put it simply, while my ibasho is my family and ba is my university, my identity is not Japanese, but world citizen.

Finally, still I have more habits as Japanese compared to other nationalities, and Allison’s view on Japan is really common to me. The most similar vision is that Japan has a strong vertical relation among people. For example, when we meet people being older than us, we usually use keigo, which is polite communication tool in Japan, and we use more polite keigo when we talk with boss in our workplace. When I met president of our company at my workplace, actually I had the most polite posture and used clear keigo.

In addition to this, there is common system in Japanese company called nenkojoretsu, which Allison mentioned. This system is the longer you work in a company, the higher position and salary you can have. However, recently due to this system, a lot of people, especially young people have been fired and some bosses are really incapable, since they do not have much experience of competing for survival in their companies. I believe the system of vertical society and nenkoujoretsu have given rise to one kind of precarious condition in Japan today.

In conclusion, a unique style of society in Japan actually has an impact on my future plan, even though that seems this impact is not a big deal. Family is my ibasho, which should be common to many people. Given the company, because it is too typical to be a company man, working as a salary man is not first-choice for me as I said. Basically, I do not want to end my life too normally, which is to work in a company, to have a family, to see grandson, to end life happily. Instead of this, I always think I would like to make some change, or do some big things, which led to my quite big future plan. In that sense, some condition of Japan like Allison said might have a big impact on my future plan.

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Seeking security and social relationships

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 Ota

I hope that I will spend my life with enough money in the city, and I can have a family and a particular job with security. Although Japan is in a precarious condition now, I would like to live by getting along with people around me. I show my future expectation with three points. First, I talk about having a family. Second, I will get a general job and take a stable salary. Third, I expect relationships with people for my bright life. I desire that I get a regular job and have a connection with people including family.

To begin with, I will marry a man who can earn a stable salary from my late-twenties to thirty because I would like to work in society, and not depend on the income of my husband, and have both of us support our family. And I will have up to two children because bringing up a child costs plenty of money. It is difficult to earn enough money to take care of many children in such a bad economic condition, for example rising taxes, and declining salaries. Moreover, I may not have time to take care of my children due to my work, because Japan does not have sufficient circumstance so women can manage both working and childcare. My plan almost refers to Anne Allison’s vision: “The overall social trends are away from marriage and family” (Anne Allison, 2013, P.33). Therefore, I hope that Japan can become a society in which it is easy for women to do that in the future. If the condition is improved, the overall social trends will change better.

Second of all, I desire that I get a job as a regular worker with secure welfare. According to Anne Allison, the wage disparity between regular and irregular employment exists in Japan. Although being hired as regular one is good, removing the disparity is the best. My finding job may be difficult. As Anne Allison wrote, it is hard for youth to get a job because companies tend to hire senior workers. This has a big influence on me because I heard about my acquaintance’s hard job hunting.

Finally, I make connections with people such as family and neighbor in order to prevent solitary death, and have my family look after me when I age. My ibasho arises in such relationships. In my opinion, ibasho is the space and place which needs me, so workplace and family is my ibasho.

In conclusion, the current Japanese unstable situation has a big impact on our future. In particular, the bad economy leads to various problems, such as rising taxes, reducing wages, and even family style. So I will work hard to support my family and I hope that Japan become the place which women can do more easily both job and childcare.


Anne Allison (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University Press. (pp. 1-42)

Finding strength and joy in 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 Katsuya Nagasawa

I am not sure that what I am going to be in the future. However, I have an ambiguous idea for my job. I want to get a stable and typical employment job. In addition to that, I never want to get a McDonaldized job, which is monotonous work. These desires sound easy, however, it is very hard to get a job which has these factors. According to Anne Allison, job hunting became hard thing because of the collapse of the bubble economy. Then, the situation of employment has gotten worse. The number of hiseikikoyo (irregular, contract) workers has increased, therefore we have to be so eager to be typical employment worker. I do not know where I will get a job, I may work at countryside, or in foreign countries. Working is important thing, however, it is not the best thing for me. I think the best thing for me in my life is to find my ibasho.

My ibasho is time or space with my family and my friends. My ibasho makes me feel free. It is needles to say that it is better to be always at my ibasho, however, most of people cannot be. I think, at least, I want to feel my ibasho in my heart. Only I know I have my ibasho, I can find joy in my life even if wherever I am. When I was just a freshman, I did not have any friends. I was depressed and sometimes thought I had no place at my university. However, I overcame this by thinking about my hometown and my friends. Then I could made friends and find my ibasho at university.

If I have an ibasho in my heart, I can make new ibasho in my new stage. I think ibasho is not only space I feel at home but also space I can go back. The more I make an ibasho, the better I can make my life. Therefore, I think I can get happy by finding at least one ibasho. However, Allison said that modern society in Japan has a problem with the number of hikikomori people increasing. I think they do not have any ibasho even their parents. This problem is related to the depressed mood of present Japan. If I could not become to feel my ibasho, I might be hikikomori. Ibasho affects my life heavily.

In conclusion, I want to get a stable job in precarious Japan, and find my ibasho there. I believe that finding ibasho makes my life better than any other thing.


Anne Allison (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University Press. (pp. 1-42)

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.

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.