My precarious future and minimum expectations of my future

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

Some people say that college days are summer vacation in life. Now, we, college students, have enough time to do various thing: such as study, part-time job, volunteer activity, finding lover, enjoying a club activity, and travel. However, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future: How will be my future? What kind of job will I take? Can I get married? Is my anxiety related to the social situation in Japan?

I believe that there are very strong relations between young people’s uneasiness about their future and current precarious situations in Japanese society. In the bubble economy period, young people could more easily get jobs and decide their future course, because the national economic condition was better. Yet now, owing to deregulation, privatization and the bursting of the bubble (Allison 2013), the circumstances are completely different.

I was born in 1994, after the bubble, and am now 21 years old, but I have not decided what I want to do in the future, especially my occupation. Actually I wanted to advance the science course since I entered this university, so I do not know particularly what kind of job can we, the students of this faculty or this university, take. Even though we have much greater choice of occupation than before, the employment situation is not good. It makes us young people keenly realize the importance of deciding our lifetime occupation. Maybe I will take a stable straight road because I want to realize secure position, although it gets much more difficult.

For me, marriage is a more difficult problem because I had never thought about it deeply. Meanwhile, some of my old friends, who are just my age, have already gotten married, and what is more, had children. Most of them are high school graduates and are now working. I sometimes worry which is happier or better for Japanese society. However, I vaguely suppose that I will be married before I am about 30 years old and have children before I am about 35 years old. There is no ground, but I think I am an ordinary man, and this is the present average (Japanese Cabinet Office 2012). I like children and am interested in child raising, so however busy my job will be, I will be ready to help my wife in child raising. Although I can have expectation like this, precarious situation in Japanese society makes the realization of my expectation harder. In “muen shakai“, the relationless society, it is difficult even to find a spouse and to do child raising normally.

In conclusion, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future but I had never thought about it concretely. Thanks to this occasion, I have my expectations for my future. However, it is very precarious and it is inevitably minimized by the social situation. I believe this tendency is not only for me but also for all present young people in greater or lesser degrees. As Allison (2013) described, there are still many problems in Japanese society. These are the negative harvest of Japanese history since 1945, when Japan became the defeated nation of WW2. Most of the problems are now old-fashioned for current society and get maladies. We have to improve them for both Japanese future and our bright future.

References

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

Japanese Cabinet Office (2012) Japanese child-child raising white paper

 

 

 

 

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Ibasho making as an Ibasho

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

In the future, I would like to work to improve human relationships. It pains me to see relationships that are not going well. Whether the relationships be strained or simply non-existent on the personal level, national level, or global level, I would like to do what I can do to help them improve. There are many ways of going about this. I strongly believe that a certain openness is required between people and nations for truly positive relationships to take place. This is why I would like to spread the message about different issues. Some examples of the things I would like to spread the message about are the U.S.-Japan relationship issues including the issues in Okinawa, the sex-trade occurring abroad and in Japan, and the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is made worse when people fail to understand what has happened to the person affected by it.

However, I believe that people are afraid of the truth in some of these issues if not all of them. Therefore I feel that doing this sort of work will certainly make me a precarious worker for certain if not worse than that. There is not be a big business for “whistleblowers” when the economy was booming, much less in this stagnate economy. However, despite the lack of market, this is a highly needed work so even if it in only my side job I think this sort of work will be a very important part of my future.

I strongly believe that this sort of service to one’s community outside of the work place as mentioned above can not only benefit the community, but also benefit the one who serves. This is because people can bond over a common goal. This provides an ibasho. One of my many ibashos is the student organization I work with to try to make a positive difference in this world. We work together to put on community festivals for the purpose of community-building and hold awareness meetings for jisatsu (suicide), hikikomori (life in seclusion from other), or futoko (chronic absence from school), among other activities. In the case of my student organization, there are 7 of us from 6 different universities throughout the Kansai area. We have all different goals and interests outside of the group from photo journalist to lifesaver to flight attendant. However, working towards our goal to provide ibasho we have also created a vital ibasho.

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”.

Precarious State Casting Shadow on My Future Vision

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 Momoka Murayama

First, I would like to make my goals and aims for the near future clear. As a university student, I strongly wish to gain the capability to think critically and logically through various experiences and being able to analyze one object deeply and globally from the various angles are the capabilities I aspire to acquire. Having those ability, I strongly wish to work as a career women in the future. I am interested in working with workers from different countries who have different thoughts and cultural background. I believe that working in this kind of environment would allow me to grow and to widen my views. Since I was a high school student, I have been interested in interpretation and translation. Although it is still vague, I wish to become a bridge to connect Japan with the rest of the world making the most use of English skills I will have acquired by then in this globalized age.

However, when I imagine my future I always become anxious because several social problems in Japan cross my mind. Here, I would like to focus on the gender issue. I see this as a sever issue and for me it is problematic since my future plans and goals may be affected by this issue. As a woman, I strongly wish to get married and have children someday. However, it is difficult to dispel my misgivings that I might lose a job after child-rearing and have no place to return. In spite of high level of education in Japan, employment rate of women is low compared to that of western countries and I feel that the Japanese government and society are not using potential power of women effectively. This is one of the Japanese precarious aspects. As Allison (2013) have mentioned in the book, the number of working women has increased over time, however, many of them have no choice but to leave their workplace when they get married and have a baby, and in addition, they are mostly irregularly employed.

This book talks about “ibasho” and we have discussed this in class as well. “Ibasho” to me is where I feel comfortable and it is where you could feel that you are not alone. I suppose most of the people find “ibasho” when they are with their friends and family members. However, in my opinion, it is also important to have “ibasho” at your workplace. On the other hand, companies should provide “ibasho” to workers. Workplace should be somewhere that makes you motivated and feel that you want to contribute to where belong to. It should be a place where workers can return anytime. In that sense, Japan needs progression and creating “ibasho” in society under stronger social relationship may be the key to get out of present precarious state.

Reference

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

To deal with the precariousness

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

As Anne Allison described in her book Precarious Japan (2013), contemporary Japan is unstable and filled with anxiety. I have felt the precariousness of Japan and I have been struggling to decide a certain future plan to survive in the precarious social condition since I was a high school student. Though I have not reached any concrete future plan yet, I have found the way to help myself. It is having many qualification and much specialized knowledge.

Today’s labor system in Japan is changing rapidly. After the collapse of economic bubble, the employment situation is becoming more flexible and more unstable. According to Allison (2013), one-third of labor forces were registered as irregular workers in 2012. Besides, the former protection for workers of “Japan inc.” such as a permanent employment system and a seniority-based wage system almost broke down and a new strict evaluating system started to be introduced in many companies (Allison, 2013). Considering this situation, Japanese companies may come to require people who can be immediately effective like the company in the western countries, and all workers will be exposed to a harder competition in the near future. In my opinion, to survive in this hard competition and to get close to stability, I must have expert knowledge or be qualified as a specialist. Certain techniques are also helps for improving career.

So I want to have some qualification or learn specialized knowledge in the near future and get a specialist job. Now I am interested in some kind of qualification. However, these are much different from what I am majoring in. Moreover, I do not have enough time to study for the qualifying examination now. When I really try to obtain the qualification, I may study in two schools or enter a professional school after graduating from Ritsumeikan university. However, it costs much money and time. So it increases the burden of my family because I cannot spend so much time to earn money now. Therefore I still hesitate to take action and keep this idea to myself.

In the contemporary precarious society, there are few absolute things. For example, it is thought that public employees is stable. However, because of aging society, tax revenue will decrease more and it may influence the stability of public employees. Therefore I think it is better to having means to earn money as much as possible.

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.

The generation that doesn’t have dreams

by Misora Ohara

I was born after 1991, when the bubble economy burst. We called the bad situation of Japanese economy after the bubble burst “Heisei Fukyo (recession in Heisei).” In addition, sometimes people called children who were born under the Heisei Fukyo the generation that doesn’t have dreams. I was born in this very generation. Therefore, some adults who especially experienced the bubble economy may regard me as a student who doesn’t know dreams. However, I don’t think that we don’t have dreams. This is because I have a dream, and my friends also have their dreams.

In my opinion, the reason why adults call us the generation that doesn’t have dreams is not the fact that students actually don’t have dreams but the difference of the way of thinking about dreams. Adults who experienced the bubble economy think dreams as the situation that people can gain whatever they want, especially expensive material things, such as cars and houses. Also, they know how to get everything what they want and how happy they are after they got everything.

On the other hand, we tend to regard dreams as future plans or jobs. For our generation, dreams are for the future. This is because whenever we talked about dreams in school or family, we were always asked “What do you want to be in the future?” It means that dreams stand for what we want to do as jobs in the future, for us. In addition, the future plans and jobs are based on stability. This is because we only have the experience of recession in Japan. We don’t know how satisfied many Japanese were in the bubble economy. We only heard the story at that time from our parents or teachers.

Besides, after we were born, a kind of track was already established. It means that the course from birth to death was already decided. For example, many students tend to think that they should go to a good high school, enter an intelligent university and get good jobs of famous companies for the high salary. As a matter of fact, in my experience, I haven’t met any friends who want to be comedians or artists. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get those kinds of jobs. However, almost all of us easily think that it is impossible.

In conclusion, the reason why we are called the generation who don’t have dreams is the difference of views about dreams. Actually, we have dreams. However, the dreams are different from what adults indicate. This is because we hope the steadiness for the future.

Balancing career and family for women in 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 Momo Nakamura

How should Japanese women who want to have both a career and family, including children, live in current Japanese society?

This is the ultimate question for me since I am one of the women. In my future, I want to study conflict resolution or peace building in graduate school and have work that require what I have studied. Although I don’t know whether I will stay in Japan or not, it is clear that having a child is very difficult after the age of 30. That means women who want a child have to marry at least by 30.

Marriage is the first and maybe the most difficult part. Of course they don’t have to marry to have a child, however, many of them must be in need of a partner because of the unstable situation of the Japanese society. Raising a child costs a lot and takes time and care, so it will be really hard to do it alone. Those who can prioritize one thing, having family or career, won’t have such difficulty but for women like me, it will be a matter of chance to find a partner while working hard.

I can think of two reasons why I want to marry. One is the stereotype that exists strongly in Japanese society that women’s happiness is to have children and their family. I agree to some extent. It will become a new and fundamental “ibasho” where I can relieve and be needed. Second is about future income. If I became a person who works for peace, I can easily imagine that I don’t have so much income. This is why I need someone who has another way of making money. These two reasons show that although I’m aiming to have a new type of life, I’m still trapped to the old and traditional values and needs.

Second difficult part is the relationships between relatives and neighbors. It is important to maintain good relationships with people around us. We can have various kinds of security we need as families from the relationships that Japanese society have had for a long time in history, and it was mainly women’s job to make the relationships. However, having a new kind of life can make it difficult to have the relationships. When both parents work regularly, there is less time to spend with people around them. Also, people’s way of thinking seems to be changing. When I started to live in Kyoto, I thought I have to go to see my neighbors to say hello, what many Japanese do when they have moved to a new place. However, my parents disagreed because it may be dangerous to tell my neighbors that I’m living alone. Some connections that were seen as a security are now seen as something different. In this situation, it requires active approaches to bring back the security.

I often think of those problems that may occur when I try to realize my dream, and it is deeply connected to the society where we live. Although it is difficult, I want to keep challenging and this type of life may one day become a normal way of life.

Imagining my future, with worries and hope

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 Chizuru Kobayashi

My future plan is to get married before I am 25 years old and have two babies. I hope they would be one boy and one girl. After my children enter kindergarten, I will get back to a job. I really have no idea what kind of job I will get in the future.

There is one thing that I want to do with my future family. That is travelling somewhere once a year with a whole family. On the other hand, there are a lot of things that I am worried about the future. If I fail to get a job, this can cause having not enough money to raise the children. Quite a lot of money is needed to get children to go to an university.

In my opinion, these worries are caused by instability of recent Japan. After the bubble economy, Japanese economy was so awful that a lot of people lost everything, such as their home, money, jobs and also future plans. Since then, it got too difficult for young people to get jobs. Actually, my brother is struggling to get his job.

I found that some of my friends go to a developing country to do volunteer or go abroad to study foreign language not because they want to achieve their ambitions, but for the interviews when they are job hunting.

It is ridiculous to spend money for job hunting. I believe that university is the last time that students can do what they want to do. After they get a job, there will be no time to what they want to do. If they want to do a part-time job, it is best to do the part-time job till they get enough of it. Maybe doing volunteer is more profitable than doing a part time job while they are university students. However, there is no need to do what they do not want to achieve.

In this stressful Japan, the place where people can feel really relax, called ibasho, is so important that is very needed. My ibasho is my shower room. The time when I am taking the bath is the most relaxing time for me. In conclusion, finding the way to solute instability of recent Japan is the most thing that young Japanese face.

Finding my ibasho in the future

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 Natsuki Suzuki

Ibasho is a place where I can stay comfortably and where I can allow to stay whenever I want. Ibasho means both rooms (places) and human relationship. For me, it is wherever people always accept me (wherever is ok!), but mainly my family, relatives and friends. Also, my home, hometown and school (current and past) are my ibasho.

The work I want to do in the future is directly connected with my opinion on ibasho, because I want to create a comfortable society where everyone has their own ibasho. I feel Japanese society and relationships are too tight and cold, and I wish everyone has more tolerance. There are some organizations that work for people who need ibasho. For instance, counseling at Tohoku, gathering for women or sexual minorities and café that thinks about peace. I respect those organizations. At first I was thinking of my future plan working to support developing countries and resolving war. Such my vision came from a wish that I want a peaceful world. However, one day I realized that Japan has also many serious problems such as disconnected people and high suicide number. That is, current precariousness of life in Japan affected me to stand up for changing Japanese society. Japan was less peaceful than I thought, and I hope someday I realize world peace from Japan with wonderful members.

My vision about relationship and family in the future is very flexible. I don’t care whether I get married or not. I also don’t care about the age, but if I have a child, I’d like to get married under 25 years old because the younger is the better to have babies as ability. If I get married but don’t have a child, I prefer at the age of over 45. It’s just because I’m worried about my elderly life. I want broad and worldwide relationships in the future (and also now) since it may be important for my job and it’s nice to learn many things from friends. In addition, I want to have good relation with my family, relatives and old friends for life long. I will try to have contact with them however I’m busy. Also I take it as necessary to have connection with neighbors because it affect my life quality. Allison points out about contactless in page 20, but I will always be positive to have koryu. In every relationship, I think it’s important to have face-to-face connection. More and more people came to use SNS and it’s a good way to keep in touch with friends, but still actual meeting is the best. Also, Allison points out about contactless in page 20, and I think connection with neighbors is necessary for my good living.

Allison’s view of Japan is interesting and true. For example, I heard that hunting a job is so difficult, and some of my friends tend to be hikikomori. Those examples are not difficult to find. There are more issues in Japan other than Allison says in the text, such as extreme (wrong) nationalism, however, Allison’s vision of liquid Japan agrees with my experiences and view of Japan. I think it is the cause of most issues she points out.

Liquid Japan is a result of neoliberalism, which means many problems are regarded as personal one (just in one aspect). Losing in this world is because you didn’t have talent or ability that the society requires, and it’s jikosekinin. Therefore, most people don’t try to solve its system although their “personal” problems even though the problems come from social structure. In addition, many people have serious problems that others can’t or don’t help because of jikosekinin, so they are likely to lose their hope. Such people can be found everywhere around me. I think now Japan came to a turning point to change the way how the government, companies and lifestyle are. People who are struggling with their personal problems usually don’t afford to think about others, but I believe they are the main actors who stand up together and change current problematic social system.

Reference

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