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.

Advertisements

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/

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.

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.

The importance of ibasho

Anonymous student post

English: Inside a Maid Cafe in Den-Den Town, O...

English: Inside a Maid Cafe in Den-Den Town, Osaka, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that the concept of “global affective labor” means job related to moods, feelings and attitudes such as maid cafe, hostess or cat cafe. It has some effects on our emotions such as healing, moe or relief. I think that there are original examples in Japan. At first, “maiko” is a geisha who learns or receives training in Japanese dance or song. They wear kimono and make up whitewashed. We are entertained with Japanese banquets. This is a traditional culture in Japan.

Next, CA (cabin attendant) is an occupation that works in an airport or on a plane. Many of them are beautiful or pretty women. They wear short skirts or stylish uniforms. They usually provide passengers drink and food with smiles. So they take care of passengers during flight. These jobs usually need some selections, many trainings or practices.

There are many imaginable reasons why people pay for affection from those jobs. I think that people want ibasho or to escape the reality. It is involved in some factors such as thin connection to family or friends. They may not have ibasho where talk their daily life or some distress and to find them necessary. Everyone needs ibasho, identity, affiliation. As a result, they go to those places to heal their feelings. It may lead to thin connection to other people. In addition, they may feel the connection to other people is “mendokusai”. Anne Allison (2013) also says “the breakdown or liquidization of the relationship between human time and capitalist value at the level of the (re)productive family home”. I agree with her analysis. As time passes, the various trends change in Japan. For example, there is the trend toward late marrying or not marrying recently. Young people think that marriage is mendokusai. Thin connection to other people may cause this feeling. The family corporate system also has changed. Both women and men work recently. As working every day, they need to care give or raise children. Some children tends to eat pre-pared dishes alone at home. As a result, there is also less communication between families.

I think that existing many global affective labor is related to relationships or connections to family, friends or other people. In addition, ibasho is also related to these sources. I think that ibasho is important for us. “Japanese are living more solitary existences, apart from others [tanin]. Communication is lacking these days.” So it is caused thin connection to other people. We have to rethink our relationships and this problem.

Reference

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

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.

Virtual affective labor: Looking for love in the virtual world

by Katsuya Nagasawa

The demand for affective labor is increasing all over the world, especially in developed countries. For example, many Filipino and Chinese caregiving workers spread in the world. It is because people lose the peace of mind in exchange for getting satisfaction about usefulness. Therefore, the society have gotten truculent and people came to want the calmness. Then, people start to go to cabarets, host clubs, and maid cafés. I think the trend is remarkable in Japan.

As Allison argued, in modern Japan, there are enormous problems such as killing family, bullying, unemployment, hikikomori, the gap of salary (kakusa shakai). In addition, female and youths are in the bottom in the society. Allison explain that as “the collapse of Japanese democratic system.” These problems made the precarious society and even the collapse of family. People cannot depend on other people, sometimes even their family, they visit affective labors because they can get the emotional feeling but formal feeling by paying money.

I think 2-D world is also affective labor. As Allison argued in the book, “otaku” gathered more than 2000 signatures about marrying a 2-D character, and there is a word for this, “nounaikanojo” in Japan. In the virtual world, 2-D characters never depress people, they contact with real people in friendly ways because they are programed to do so. Therefore people who are not good at making relationships, for example “otaku,” tend to sink into the virtual world. I think 2-D world is a form of virtual affective labor.

In the past, the era that there were no computers, people had to make relationship only in the real world. However, because of the appearance of the virtual world, people face to the computer, and some people think making a relationship is “mendokusai”. According to Allison, the effect spread to the marriage problem. People who think making relationship is “mendokusai” think marriage is also “mendokusai”. In modern society, people came to pay for affective labor to get comfort rather than trying to get along with other people because it is “mendokusai” to do argument, to disappoint in love. They chose that the effort replace into their money.

If the situation that people depend on the 2-D world or affective labor continues, we will depend all of our life on robots, as Allison writes. I think affective labor can never replace our family or friends, and we cannot live in the virtual world literally. Therefore we have to hold more real relationships. Depending on the virtual world is not equal to coexisting in a virtual world. We have to search for the way to coexist.

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.

Japanese fixed concepts and weak relationships

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Misaki Kosaka

First of all, while Anne Allison’s book refers to the homeless and they have merely lost their home materially, Sasaki Ryuhei, who is a main character in the film Tokyo Sonata, has lost his home space mentally. That is, he has no place inside of his home. After WWⅡ, family roles in Japan have been rigid, such as “sengyo shufu” or the breadwinner of the family. Especially, the fixed view that a husband should work very hard for his family is an idea accepted by most Japanese. Ryuhei could not tell his family the fact that he was fired due to this fixed idea. He acts as if he is still working, wearing his suit and having card holder after his dismissal because being at home without any jobs of a husband is often recognized as ashamed things in Japan. Ryuhei’s former classmate who was fired like Ryuhei was even sets his cellphone ringing in designated time. They were afraid that people around them, especially their families, find out they have lost a job. Husband or father in Japan have to be just existence as people imagine. Ryuhei rejected a work as cleaning man and hoped a work people there wear suits at first, then it is also a kind of the fixed concept of people in Japan or himself.

But such an idea is not only a cause of not telling the truth but also of a weak relationships. In Allison’s book, Japanese tend to seek their identity at workplace and have few connections with their family or neighbors. The characters in this movie also put their place on workplace, so Ryuhei would feel to take away “ibasho” when he lost his job, and he could not tell the truth his family because of disconnectedness and incommunicativeness. Allison says that this family is “ordinary” in Japan.

In this movie I was most impressed by the scene that the family gather and start to eat a meal. This scene seems to be ordinary family’s life, but I felt something strange because although they are sitting in front of same table, they hardly talk each other. We generally think that they don’t need to gather for a meal if no one speaks, but I guess that sitting around the table with one’s family keeps a few relationships, and it may be only evidence that they are “family” even if nobody speaks. This strange sight can be seen in any Japanese home. Japanese are losing a spiritual home.

Reference

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

Needing human relationships in Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Haruka Ichikawa

Many problems have occurred in modern society in Japan. For example, issues in human relations continue to increase. It is considered that the problems of NEET, hikikomori, and kodokushi are also social problems in Japan. These social problems is called “muen shakai”. This represents one side of Japanese society which single-person household increases, and the relationship between people is becoming weak.

In the movie Tokyo Sonata, muen shakai was drawn heavily in the ordinary nuclear family. By Ryuhei (father) losing his jobs, family relationships begin changing. Someone else of his family start having a secret from each other. And because they no longer speak to each other, family relationships go thinner. In modern society in which relationships with family and the neighbor is very weak, we would have become not to know if we do not speak to each other whether who, when, where, and what we are.

The severity of the present employment was expressed with the scene in which he hunts for a job. He lost one of his ibasho and his social position. It is not necessarily that everyone is able to do they work they want. Like Ryuhei, by losing their jobs suddenly, some people work in non-regular employment. Non-regular employment is unstable and has lower income compared to regular employment. But there are problems with regular employment. For example, karoshi. As a result of being forced to work without holidays and long overtime, in the mental and physical burden, workers succumb to death from sudden cerebral hemorrhage or heart attack. Even when death did not come from overwork, some people are driven to suicide by the stress and pressure. I think in order to prevent suicide, it is necessary for their mental health to be supported by the power of family. It is also considered that support of the Japanese government becomes necessary in economic terms.

When I saw this movie, I wondered not that we have to care about our appearance and views like Ryuhei did, and that should not be put off the idea and feelings of family. The family woke up little by little in the end, and it went toward a good direction in this movie, but some families can lead to divorce once they no longer go well. I think that it needs communication, having common understanding of what is important for them, and making an effort to build relationships each other before the relationship is broken.