Solving social problems in Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yuko Hiromori

Today’s Japan has many social problems, for example poverty, unemployment, suicide, and so on. Especially unemployment is very serious and important problem. A movie, Tokyo Sonata, described the collapse of a family in Tokyo. They usually live a peaceful life every day until the father, Ryuhei, is fired by his company. In Japan, if we are not a regular employee once, it is said to be very difficult that we again get a job which is equal to our previous job. So if we want to get another job, we have to have patience with the severe labor condition—low salary, insufficient social security, unstable employment and so on.

The condition of family finances has a direct connection with children’s education. In wealthy families, the parents can let their children go a private school and go accomplishments. In the movie, Ryuhei’s second son wants to go to piano school but Ryuhei cannot allow him to do so because of his lost job. Allison says in her book that parents who are rich let go their children to a cram school and they enable their children to acquire a good school background. In Japanese society, when a person enters a company, their school background is a factor to judge their ability. Some parents believe that the better their children’s academic background, the easier they enter a famous company, get a high salary, and secure stable employment. Children in such environments can start the school competition to get better employment environment and win the competition.

It is clear that irregular employment contains some bad factors—low salary, unstable employment. However regular employment has problems too. Indeed, regular employment is more stable compared to irregular employment. But in return for the stableness, regular employment is needed a certain extent responsibility in the work. In other words, regular employment has to be needed a lot of work. For instance, a Japanese man, he is an office worker, worked hard every day till late at night. It was not long before he led to his bad mental condition. It is said this condition depression. In case of suffering from the illness, there is possibility that a patient may have to take a rest or resign his office. If the patient lapsed such situation, it is difficult to return to his office again. Things which the worst possible is karoushi (death from overwork).

Tokyo Sonata described the weak relations in families through Japanese social problems. Also, Alison argued that the weakness of human relations in Japan gave rise to muenshakai. I think the two things have common factors, in short, human relations. So, I consider that the change of it is a clue to improve Japanese society.

Reference

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

The connection between Tokyo Sonata and precarious Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yume Furumura

Tokyo Sonata is a movie which shows a breakdown and a bit of hope in an ordinary family in Japan. There are a lot of messages of this movie, but I’d like to analyze it focusing on “ibasho” and “jiko sekinin” of the ideas in Anne Allison’s book, Precarious Japan.

Allison writes “If only we have hope and respect, we can live. But without a secure means of existence, many today have no place or sense of home at all [ibasho].” In this movie, each member of the family looks for their own “ibasho”. For example, Ryuhei (the father and husband) lost his job, but it was the only ibasho for him. Then, he starts to pursue his new ibasho. The other members of the family also search for it. However, Allison has doubts about Japanese’s having problems of “ibasho”. She says as follows, “instead of finding shelter for their dream making, many feel exiled but not to anywhere else as much as to nowhere at all?” It does not necessarily mean that all Japanese don’t have their house. However, if it is a form-only house, it doesn’t occupy their mind. In fact, the family of the movie has a house, but it is just the house for them. It was not ibasho.

The older son loses “kibo” (hope) because he cannot find a good job and believes that he will never be acknowledged by society in Japan. The son got tired of the structure of Japanese society, kakusa shakai. Therefore, he decides to be a soldier in America for finding a new ibasho and for his family. Ryuhei was strongly against what he tried to do. However, the son went to America with “jiko sekinin” (self-responsibility). According to Allison, “Couched in a rhetoric of ‘quality of life’ and ‘living independently,’ this turn to individual responsibility (jiko sekinin) and return to family or household is the signature of government attempts to privatize care and cut back on state spending.” Even if the son dies in America, the government of Japan wouldn’t do anything, because it is his (the son’s) jiko sekinin. In fact, Megumi tried to confirm her son’s safety, but she couldn’t do even that. If I were in the son’s shoes, I would probably think that whatever the outcome, it is better to go to America than live in disgrace in Japan.

I was surprised at the close connection between the movie and what Allison’s book says, because it is a Japanese who made the movie, and it is a foreigner who wrote the book. Japan has been thought as a rich country by people in other countries. However, a lot of Japanese feel that they are not happy now, and the perspective of the future of Japan may start changing. I want Japan to be the society that all of the people can have hope, and I expect the hopeful story will be made next.

Reference

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

Tokyo Sonata: a look into precarious Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marina Furuichi

Tokyo Sonata” is a film which describes a breakdown and a faint ray of hope in a family. The outline of the story is this: In Tokyo, the Sasaki family lives in a town. Ryuhei, the father of the family, is fired, but he can’t tell his family the fact. His two sons also have their own secret. In addition, one day, his wife Megumi is drawn into involvement in a robbery. In these situations, however, little by little, they begin to find a faint ray of hope while all the family has each their own feeling. In this movie, some parts of recent precarious Japan which Allison states such as jikosekinin is depicted. I will states the review in terms of jikosekinin, kodoku, and mendōkusai which are the issues that Allison states.

First of all, I’m going to state my analysis of the movie in terms of “jikosekinin”. In the beginning of the movie, father, Ryuhei, is fired because the company decided to employ Chinese workers who work for a smaller salary than Japanese. In the scene, after the company tells that he isn’t needed in the company, his superior says, “What can you do for this company? Do the rest by yourself.” I think the line is one of the best examples of idea of “jikosekinin”. As the movie shows us a negative side of “jikosekinin” in Japan, I think they easily abandon people who is not useful by using the word “jikosekinin” because especially, Japanese company place great importance on their benefits. Government also imports on their policies such as “privatizing more and more of (what once were) government services under the banner of “individual responsibility (jikosekinin),” as Allison (2013, p52) states.

Second, I will state my analysis of the movie in terms of “kodoku” and “mendōkusai”. There is a scene which Kenji who is a younger brother talks with his piano teacher. He learns the piano without saying it to his family. One day, he happen to learn that the teacher decided to divorce. Then, he says to her, “I understand you. There is more time I want to be alone than that with someone. I have to be worried about hurting someone when I’m with someone.” In this scene, I think people who choose “kodoku” to live in easier human relationships without “mendōkusai ningenkankei” is described. According to Anne Allison (2013, p100), “young people say marriage is mendōkusai [a nuisance]; they’d rather protect their money and time for themselves.” There is a link between the scene of the movie and the passage in Allison’s book. I think that both of them refer to that there are many people who want to be alone to run away from “mendōkusai ningenkankei” in Japan.

Reference

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

Social relations with Robi and Tamagotchi

A Tamagotchi Connexion V1

A Tamagotchi Connexion V1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marie Fudaba

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison mentioned “prosthetic sociality”. Prosthetic sociality means electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication and affect. It is percolating in the social gap left by the weakening of human ties in the family, workplace, and community in Japan today. In Japanese society, the attenuation of human relations becomes a serious problem and the number of people who enter prosthetic sociality seems to be increasing.

The author mentioned ‘Tamagotchi’ as typical example of it. Tamagotchi is the virtual pet that came “alive” by hatching, an egg on the electronic screen that grew to adulthood by feeding, playing and tending to do it like a “real pet”. It is popular for people who feel lonely without human connection because it evokes an intimate attachment in humans and it has healing power. The author called such an electric good that offers an intimacy premised on care and built into technology “techno-intimacy”. She is optimistic about it because there is a constant sense of connection and an expectation of instant communication, it effects good impact people who have the weakening of humanities.

I agree with the author’s opinion that the number of people who rely on prosthetic society is increasing because they feel attenuation of human relations, and her optimism for it. Actually, an annual lifestyle white paper written by the Japanese Cabinet office shows a dilution of human relationships in the family, community, and at work. Particularly in the family, people don’t have time to spend with each other. Under modern capitalism, the father and mother are working for long hours every day, they spend no time with their family and it makes their children lonely. Moreover, many children often tend to go to cram school or individual enrichment courses so they can work in a good company in the future. They also spend a lot of time on the internet and playing electronic games at home. Ties between children and parents all get weak, and they must think they don’t have ibasho and feel lonely. In work, Allison mentioned there are many people who don’t get on with the people at work, and they seems to feel a lack of communication.

In this situation, techno-intimacy can help them from a lack of human connection. For example, there are ‘Robi,’ which is a robot that can communicate like a human because it is a therapeutic robot. Moreover, Japanese engineers are putting a lot of work into development to establish a ‘heart-to-heart relationship’ to become closer, like with friends, between people and robots. If that development can be implemented, it might decrease the number of solitary persons or the number of solitary deaths from now on. Therefore, I agree with Anne Allison’s opinion and am anticipating its future development.

References

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

Japanese Cabinet office HP, annual lifestyle white paper. http://www5.cao.go.jp/seikatsu/whitepaper/index.html

 

Japanese issues in “Tokyo Sonata”

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Tomohiro Doi

In class, we watched the film “Tokyo Sonata.” This movie showed issues in Japan. A man was fired and he looks for work but he cannot find it. In his family, he tried to hide that he was fired. And his family became hopeless and worse than ever before. Then his family members broke up and relationship of that became weak. He frantically tries to bring his family together. However, his family still broke up.

I think this movie shows the modern Japanese society faithfully. The minority which is no job people and fired people are despised by the majority. A certain people were driven to suicide. And then I think this movie displayed not only unemployment but also all problems in Japan.

In Anne Allison’s book, Precarious Japan, an important issue in Japan, especially the breakdown of family is described and it is connected with this movie. Allison interviewed the Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko. She argued about this problem appropriately. She said that the Japanese stereotype that is male work outside female stay at home as housewife has broken down. Therefore the male as breadwinner broke down. And the man’s family corporate system has ended little by little.

Allison said that the family corporate system linked a particular structure of work to one of family and home. However, this system have changed. In this movie “Tokyo Sonata,” the man behaves as a breadwinner male and worries about himself authority in family. But he was found out to be unemployed and work as a non-regular employee. Allison wrote about hope for the breakdown of family. In this book, it was about Tamura Hiroshi, who is a Japanese talent now. In his middle school student time, his family broke down. In his family, his mother died two years ago and his father brought up his two children. However, he could not work and he abandoned his two children. In the movie, father could not work and looks like to break down his family.

Now, the break down of family could connect with a case. In these days, a certain man divorced and broke down his family. And he was not able to bring up his son and to kill him. Like this, like “Tokyo Sonata,” this breakdown of family may connect with a crime and disintegration of relatives.

Double-talk of the policy: will 200,000 immigrants be superstars for Japanese working women?

by Minako Sanda

In the 1980s, as Hobi neighborhood in Aichi prefecture and Icho neighborhood in Yokohama started to accept factory workers from China and Brazil and other countries, Japan pretty much seems to be getting there – opening up the closed door to the immigrating employees and becoming one of the multicultural nations. Certainly, 30 years after the good observation of such areas of immigrants, Abe is aware of the resistance to immigrants.

“Whether to accept (more) immigrants or not is an issue relevant to the future of our country and the overall life of the people. I understand that (the government) should study it from various angles after undergoing national-level discussions,” (Abe, according to Kawai 2014)

What Japan’s Prime Minister suggested the Lower House Budget Committee has created debates among Japanese citizens to reconsider what Japan is and will be like. Could this be finally a chance for a socially homogenized nation to learn the impact of multicultural immigrants?

Well, if you look at the reality of Japanese society, people can tell that acceptance of immigrants can do very little, if any, to help Japan’s current social issues such as declining birthrate (1.35 this year) and working populations, and a higher welfare burden for the younger generation. I personally believe that merely accepting immigrants who look for any form of employment will end up more expensive than what nation can benefit from the labor work immigrants provide. “Accepting domestic helpers and babysitters” should be discussed after developing solid system to support current working parents.

For example in the area of medical professionals and construction workers, where the declining number of workers is severe, it is not the occupations that are essentially hard, but it is rather there is not enough social welfare to support overworking people covering up for the lack of population. Without a development in social structure, immigrants may end up being thrown into the society without language skill, or no professional occupation after being a factory worker or a babysitter. Even when immigrants get jobs in the name of training, there is currently no support after they are done with the term, no JSL is provided for them. Therefore, this can easily lead them to unlawful employment and illegal stay afterwards. Whether government targets immigrants who are highly-skilled professionals or low-educated factory laborers, what both need is the same welfare, place to live, language lessons and support for their own family. If they want more professionals from abroad to move into Japan, they are inevitably asked to attract them by leveling up the current treatment that separate foreigners from original citizens in terms of employment, education and welfare.

Regarding the acceptance of babysitters and domestic helpers, I think the politicians lack analysis of the Japanese family structure and tendency in putting pressure on women to take care of domestic chores. Having the national policy to internalize the daycare of elderly and house work, and the Japanese nuclear house, all of which are essentially run by women, made women responsible for all family matters and did not allow many wives to go out to work full-time. From this history of family-based nursing and education system, women not only suffer from the physical fatigue, but also the social pressure on them to be the good glue of a well-balanced family. Currently, women who work after getting married and giving birth are increasing, but policies hardly catch up to support them (which is strange, working women is never a new idea before and during WWII, thus society without doubt forced women to stay at home), and now the solution for this is all brought by immigrants nannies and domestic helpers, not a new feminist policy.

Thus, solution to the lack of working population and declining birthrate is not as simple as counting immigrants in. What Japan essentially needs is to face the fact that a better policy to support parent to raise children in Japan, development of better welfare for the area of occupation where there are severe lack of professions, rather than begging immigrants for the quick solution to magically boost the labor population.

References

Kawai, M (2014) 15th May. The skeptical idea: the structure to accept 200,000 immigrants per year. 移民「毎年20万人」受け入れ構想の怪しさ Retrieved on 2014. June 19th from http://seiron-sankei.com/3226

Who needs a husband?

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 Zhang Shiwen

Work is more loyal than a husband, I think. My ibasho will be my work in the future, as well as my ibasho is my university now. The reason is simple, because if I am not a student or a worker in Japan, I cannot continue living in Japan. Moreover, I can feel that I am valuable when I get a good grade in test or I am needed by my friends, such as having a party after school or going for a trip together. In fact, when I was a student in language school, I was living like a hikikomori (Allison, 2013). I felt pressure from teachers that they want me to go to a good university. On the other hand, I did not have good friends and could not have communication with Japanese. I preferred staying in the dormitory, but I felt so lonely and meaningless at that time. Due to that, being a university student really made me comfortable and my life meaningful. Therefore, my ibasho will be my work which will give me the same value, I hope.

However, if I work in Japan, my work will betray me if I do not have a husband. 10 years later, I will be 30 years old. According to Heikinchokonneirei (n,d.), it is known that 40 years ago in Japan, I should have married by the age of 24 years. However, will it be the best time for me, a 30 years old woman 10 years later, to get married, or it will be later?

What’s more, I have watched a Japanese drama that the main character, a 30 years old Cabin Attendant who was working in a big airline company, was fired at her best period in her career because the company would pay more money to new, young employees. It means that although the situation of women employees is becoming better, women and foreigners like me are the most precarious people in Japan, as Allison (2013) notes. Due to this, even if I want to continue working, from the view of company, they may get more benefits from hiring an unskilled, low-paid youth than me, who is high-paid and skilled. Also, unmarried is looked as irresponsible to the society. Therefore, for women working in Japan, it is hard for them to say “Who needs a husband”, because the society, where the shoshika (low birth rate) is advancing, need women to have husbands!

My other ibasho is my home with my parents, so I hope to have a job which can make me come and go from China to Japan. My parents have no wish to live in Japan, but I should take care of them after they retire. Due to this, I am not sure where should I live after I retire. Therefore, if I work for a Japanese company and pay pension contributions to Japanese government every month in the future, but I finally decide to go back to China, I cannot take back all insurance money I have paid, and also I cannot enjoy the Japanese welfare system. At the same time, the Chinese government will not provide me social security because I have not paid for the Chinese pension system, so how can I feed myself after I retire?

The situation will be better if I can take the right of permanent residence, while it is not very easy. However, a quick and easy way is to marry a Japanese man, which is also recommend by my parents. Therefore, is it good for foreigners to have a Japanese spouse? From Appendix A, it is known that the foreign wives are twice as common as husbands. I believe that most of them are married by love, but some Chinese wives I have known cannot speak Japanese well and seldom have Japanese friends. Caring for the children and their house are the only things they need to do.

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

Appendix A (Retrieved from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/1190.html)

In conclusion, it will continue to be hard for women in Japan to be independent from the social or familial role, as Allison (2013, p.22) notes. On the other hand, the pressure of managing both work and family became larger. Women are encouraged to work hard but precariously, and at the same time, they are blamed for not marrying.

I think it is very important for women to marry and have a family, but it should not be done for  the society or family. I means that we relay on our family for spirit,but not for pressure from parents, companies, and the society. Therefore, the government should provide an environment for women to make better choices for themselves and by themselves.

References

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

Heikinchokonneirei no Suii [The change in the average age of marriage]. Keikon Rikon deta.Net [Marrige and Divorce Net.] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.kekkon-data.net/marriage/cnt/heikin_shokon.php

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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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Discovering the importance of 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.

Anonymous student post

Anne Allison views the problems Japan faces from a lot of perspectives. I am very interested in topic about human relationship and ibasho. Therefore I want to think about it related to my experiences.

I became a university student one year ago, and I began living by myself. What I felt strongly in my university life as a freshman is that life consists of a continuance of acts of choosing something. Because I can choose almost all things by myself, I have to take responsibility by myself. I have had more time to face that by myself and imagine my future since I had such an idea. When I think about my future, that is almost shushoku and shukatsu, I often talk to myself what is most important thing in my life at the same time, because I consider future plan is deeply connected with what I value. In thinking about that, I realized that my view on the family has changed so far.

In short, it was not until I left my hometown and lived alone that I understood how valuable my family is. I knew that the greatness of my mother who raised me and my brother by herself with working every day, and how much I have been supported by family for the first time. If I am worried about something, my family always listens to my worries and gives good advice for me. My family accepts and loves me no matter what I am, and filled with my desire of recognition absolutely. I was sure that family is ibasho for me after reading Allison’s paper.

As Allison says, current Japanese society is unstable, liquid and precarious. Human relationships get to be thin more and more, and many people seek their real ibasho. I know it is important to have a “good” job and earn much money, and praised by many people, however, it is more essential to get deep human relationship and feeling of spiritual satisfaction in like there society.

I have not decided concrete my future plan and what I choose as my occupation yet. However, I have the core of myself, that is, I want to be a person who can be proud of myself to the family and protect ibasho. Moreover, I also hope to become a person who can support someone as one of their

Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ibasho.

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Family would be 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.

Anonymous student post

I hope to get a job as a regular worker and get married and have children for my future. Actually I have only indefinite work plans for my future, however I really hope to get a job in which I can communicate with many people because it will bring me up to talk with all sorts of people. It would make me feel narrow and uncomfortable if there is only one or two ba for me even now. My life is full and enjoyable because I have several my ba, family, friends, relative, university, workplace as a part time. All of them help me differently to have great every day and any one can’t lack in my life. Therefore I hope to get married and have my family and keep working while I can work.

Family would be my ibasho. I consider ibasho as where I can show my everything and don’t need to pretend to be tough. Family is the most suitable place to be ibasho. That’s why I hope to get married and have a family. My mother works part-time and she welcomes me whenever I come back home from school, therefore it is difficult to imagine both mother and father working full-time. However I hope to raise children and keep working. I’m not sure it would go well because I’ve never experienced the family I hope to have in my future. My father and mother are almost typical a husband and wife, my father is a sarari-man and works to support my family, and my mother is a part-time worker and does all household work.

The media often says it is getting difficult to raise children in Japanese modern society because of the insufficiency to guarantee child rearing. It is one of the serious problems that the number of children who need to go to the nursery school exceeds the actual number of the children that nursery schools can accept. It can be said that one of the causes of the declining birthrate in Japanese society is related to lack of satisfaction with such guarantees. I hope there will be a better society in which to raise children, and that the birthrate would recover.

I’ve thought family would help me anytime, even though some people consider that having family might bring more risks than staying alone. I would like to get married and raise children while continuing to work because my family would be my ibasho and working would give me the strength to get through my life.

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