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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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.

Reference

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

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

Tokyo Sonata shows Japanese society

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

I am writing about the film Tokyo Sonata. This movie describes the collapse of a normal Japanese family. Ryuhei is the father of the Sasaki family. One day, he was discharged from his company, because his company adopted cheaper Chinese workers. After leaving his company, he encountered a “soup line” which is to be rationed a soup in the park. There were many people who were homeless and wearing suits. He recognized that a lot of people were discharged and could not say it to their families. At the same time, he met his friend by chance in this park, and his friend was discharged 3 months earlier, too. Although it was a really huge impact for Ryuhei, his friend set him at ease. New job could not be looked for, and he could not say it. He went to Hello Work, but it was difficult to find a stable job. He was recommended unstable jobs like an unskilled laborer. He was puzzled what to think for his future.

On the other hand, the Sasaki family started to break down gradually, although he did not notice it. His wife Megumi is a really good mother, she supported their family and did all housework by herself. When the Sasaki family came back home, she always said “okaeri (welcome back!)”. One day, she found her husband standing in the soup line. Then, she recognized he had lost his job and had hidden this fact from the family. However, she reached the limits of her endurance at the moment of when she saw him working as a cleaner at shopping mall. After that, their house was broken into by a robber, who took her away. However, she was released from him soon.

Ryuhei’s son Kenji was in the sixth grades of elementary school. His hope was to learn playing the piano, but his father was against it. Therefore, he learned to play the piano in secret. But his piano teacher said he is a genius and he should go to music school. When Ryuhei listened to this, he got very angry and held Kenji down by force. It shut Kenji’s heart. Kenji’s older son Takashi decided to join the US Army without asking his parents’ permission, and he went to America.

In precarious Japan, families have their own role by themselves. Fathers have to work and to earn the money, mothers have to support the family and do housework, and children have to be good children. It is very normal thinking for Japanese. When their role is broken, the family will start breaking down. In this movie, the father lost his job, the sons did not depend on their parents. It is the breakdown of the relationship between human time and capitalist time. It is important to have a dinner with family. While they have food, they talk about myself and what happened around myself. It is good time to communicate with family. However, recently in Japan families often have dinner separately. No one in the Suzuki family talks about what happened around us for family. If everyone ate at the dining table, it was a silent place, which felt like a fish out of water. Family and economy are hope for Japanese, but it is not functioning these days. It is a serious social issue, and we have to try to solve it.

Reference

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

Planning a future with social ties

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 would like to tell you about my plan in the future. I have a small dream about work in the future, but it’s not clear now. I think I would like to get to work related to sports, because I love sports very much, especially baseball. Sports give me many collages and impressions. I can’t talk about my life without it. Additionally, I am a manager for a baseball club in my university, and this gives a sense of self-fulfillment. Therefore I support people who play sports as hard as they can, although I can’t express this in concrete terms. Also the Tokyo Olympic game will be held in 2020. It’s big news for Japan. I would like to take part in it in any way.

Next, I would like to have a good family. I would like to get married when I’m 26 years old, and to give birth to three babies. I would like to cope with both my work and housework very well. Japan has increased a nuclear family since postwar. It is linked to various problems in Japan. For instance, muenshakai, which causes kodokushi, hikikomori, and so on. My family lives with my grandmother, and my grandmother and my family help each other. I think it is my ideal. Also I will live with my parent or my husband’s parent in the future.

But I was sometimes anxious for Japan and future. As I read Precarious Japan, I remembered the past. When I was a junior high school student, I felt that I didn’t have an ibasho. It was very serious problem for me at that time. My best friend left the softball club I belonged to because she had a disagreement with our teammates. My role was to be an intermediary between her and the teammates. I heard from each of them about some abuses from my friend and teammates. It was so hard, also there was nothing I could do. Then I feel I don’t have ibasho. I was still a child mentally, so I didn’t understand how family is big and important for me. Even now I feel sometimes where my ibasho is. But I have friends with whom I can talk about my true feelings. They listen to my talk, also they were console a grieving me. The moment which I feel my ibasho is to be called by my name by anyone such as acquaintances. I think ibasho is unstable things especially for Japanese. Compare with foreigner, Japanese desire to make ibasho for themselves and dislike to be left alone. I think the reason why everyone have some anxiety for society.

In conclusion, I can’t expect my future and Japanese future, but that’s reason why I make plan and time. I don’t think I realize all of my plan, but I would like to do my best.

My dream in precarious 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.

by Narumi Ito

Anne Allison describes life in Japan as precarious. Many problems were revealed after the big earthquake in Tohoku, on March 11, 2011. For instance, hiseikikoyou, muen-shakai, kodokushi and ibasho.  People have the image of Japan: Japan is dark, unstable and liquid. People tend to have worries about their future because of these problems. I focused on job and ibasho when I think about my future. I will explain two things.

First is work. I want to get a job after I will graduate from the university, not a part-time job but a secure job. I think that a secure job has social security and a few vacations in a year. The most important thing that I seek in the future is where I can work until I retire. “Stability” is the most important thing for me. Not only me but also everyone may search for a secure job.

However, it is difficult for a person to get a job in Japan. After the collapse of the bubble economy and the Lehman Shock, many companies cannot hire young people for lifetime employment. People who graduated from university and have good skill cannot be employed. Nowadays, more than 50% of young people go on to university. It may cause worse a job shortage because graduating a university is natural and lets people concentrate on their educational background. Thus they may not get the job that they seek. According to some data, the problem of a job shortage is improved gradually but nobody knows how is going on in the future. I have to worry about my future job.

Second is ibasho. I would like to get married and have a baby. The family that I make in the future will become an ibasho for me. I think that ibasho is the place I can feel relaxed and comfortable, have relationships and be sought by anyone. I do not seek ibasho at work thus I cherish it at home. People may have ibasho somewhere, yet people who are afraid of ibasho are increasing in modern Japan. Japanese seem to worry about the relationships extraordinarily because they may think that building good and strong connection with someone can keep their ibasho because people may be able to find their own ibasho in the connections. This idea is usual for Japanese. Thus people who do not stay in their ibasho feel isolation, and the lonliness sometimes makes people kill themselves.

I have felt keenly ibasho once in my life. When I went to Australia to study abroad, I stayed at host’s house. I talked with the family every day and I love the family, however, I could not feel relaxed and was always tired. I did not know the reason why I felt stress. After I finished studying abroad, I went back to my home. Just then, I could feel relieved and feel comfortable. Thus I seek my ibasho in my future-family by this experience.

Modern Japan has many problems. It is complicated to have a secure job and have connections. The situation may become worse or better. I should keep up with the trend of times and defeat this problems. I have negative image of Japan in the future but I will try hard and be realized my dream.

Reference

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

Finding my ibasho in society

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 Yusuke Sugiyama

When I think about my future, I cannot imagine that what kind of work I would do, and what kind of people I would connect with. However, one thing which I want to value in my life is relationship with others. I want to place emphasis on a time, opportunity and ibasho which I can deal with others.

I was born in Kobe and lived with my family before I entered Ritsumeikan University, and it is my ibasho where my family and my friends who spent a same time for 18 years live. Then, I entered this University and I started to live alone in Kyoto, and all is new for me. Naturally there is no ibasho where I can really get comfortable, and it was not until I am away from a familiar ibasho that I understood the importance of family, friends and that is ibasho. Everyday life was terrible before I found my ibasho in Kyoto.

I think ibasho is one of the most important things in our life, and the people who cannot find own ibasho in society have possibility to be hikikomori. Maybe there are many people such them in present Japan. Now I have some important ibasho, it is indispensable for my school life. That is why I would like to place emphasis on connection with people in the future and also I will improve my communication skill for it in University life.

In addition, as my future direction, I would like to overcome a linguistics barrier and get an ibasho because people who live different countries have different ideas. I like the surprise which I feel when I realize new idea from different point of view, and so I would like to over the border, and find my ibasho. Also, I think that I can realize a Japanese precariousness and a good point of Japan. Therefore, I will go to a lot of countries in my life.

When I think about my future job, I do not have a concrete idea, but I want to earn enough money to be able to make a trip, play with my friends, and repay my parents for raising me so well. Indeed, Japan is an unstable society now and it might be difficult to get stable job, but if I am into such a situation, I will find my ibasho in society, and place importance on a connection with people.