Global affective labor and Japanese society

by Mizuki Watanabe

Anne Allison refers to “global affective labor” in her book Precarious Japan. In this blog post, I would like to write about “global affective labor” and Japanese society in Japan.

In the beginning, we will define “global affective labor”. According to Allison, it’s is defined as workers that sell “affection” to customers. For example, Cat Cafes, Maid Cafes, and so on and we can see those examples in her book. Also “global affective labor” has globalized. Therefore we can see laborers performing it in foreign countries. Moreover Allison mentions that people pay for affection from those services. And she thinks it is related to people thinking that relationships are tiresome (mendokusai) as well.

As we can see in Allison’s book, it is “easy” for customers to visit those kinds of shops because they do not have to be in trouble any more. If people visit Cat Cafes, they need not have own cats. Keeping pets is tiresome (mendokusai) because we have a responsibility to look after them as their parents. If they visit Maid Cafes or Host Clubs, they need not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Going together with her or him is tiresome (mendokusai) because it is possible that we are in trouble such as a quarrel, a period of lassitude, unfaithfulness and talk about ending a relationship. Temporary relationships are comfortable for them. They can satisfy their demand when it’s convenient. Just by paying money, they can get an ideal world without making an effort.

I can bring myself to accept her idea because I might be one of the global affective laborers in Japan. I can understand what is it easily. I have worked at Kyoto Kokusai Hotel as a bell girl. Bell girls and boys are educated to have good customer-service skills. For a fine example of it, we cannot show our real feelings directly especially negative feelings such as anger, displeasure, and so on. We have to smile all the time except settlement of complaints and when a complaint is lodged, we must not take a defiant attitude toward guests and have to say sorry to them continually. If a surly person comes, we fawn upon. If guests want to talk to us, we have to talk to give our sympathy to them. Those facts can be interpreted as that I sell “affection” to guests. Then, I guess that guests must be comfortable because they are deluded that they are respected, pleased, and not being denied by us.

Anyway, “global affective labor” does many services more than that I mentioned about my part-time job. For instance in Maid Cafes, staff members who wear maid costumes must massage customers’ shoulders or ears to make guests comfortable. Such services have become more common in Japan lately. There are many kinds of “affective services” as well. A lot of foreign media draw attention to it actually. Therefore in foreign countries such as Asian and European countries, those kinds of cafes are becoming widely known.

In addition to Alison’s opinion, we can say with fair certainty that those forms of affective labor were born from Japanese traditional spirit. It is “OMOTENASHI” spirit. The spirit deeply rooted in Japan from of old. Of cause we can be proud of this because this spirit has supported the Japanese economy and society for long time. I read many foreign articles and news that praise this. However, lately Japanese society has been absolutely unstable and many people feel uneasy about their relationships and so on. Then, too many services like Maid Cafes have grown in society to alleviate tired people’s minds. And people noticed that relating with this world is more comfortable and happier than the real relationships because it is easy and not tiresome. Ironically, by connecting this great Japanese “OMOTENASHI” spirit with recent people’s feeling that is uneasy one, those affective works have spread and people feel real world is tiresome (mendokusai).

As stated above, I strongly agree with her opinion.

Reference

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

Konseputo café, naze hisokani bumu? [Concept Cafes, why is it in boom? ] Yahoo JAPAN news Retrieved June 3, 2014 from http://zasshi.news.yahoo.co.jp/article?a=20140507-00010000-bjournal-bus_all

Advertisements

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.

In Search of Muenshakai

by Atsuko Omura

These days, there are various kinds of cafés in Japan. For example, in a snack bar, customers select their drinks and chatted with neighborhood friends and the master. Thus, people offer foods or drinks, chat with customers and receive them warmly. Allison defines them as “global affective labor”. The Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko pointed out that global affective laborers do not only sex work but care work, as seen in the recent migrations of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers into Japan (Allison, 2013, p.99).

Densha Otoko

Densha Otoko (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

In Japan, maid cafés or imoto café have been popular in Japanese culture after the vogue of Densha Otoko and Akiba. And otaku culture has begun to spread. So many crimes have happened every year. For instance, the master hires girls who are so young. In general, the pay of global affective labor is higher than that of other jobs. In fact, the pay of a girl’s bar in Umeda, which is given in Townwork is about 1,100 yen per hour. Most pay of many places to eat in Umeda is from 800 yen to 900 yen, so the pay of the girl’s bar should be so attractive for young girls.

Young girls begin to work at the maid café, imoto café, girl’s bar and so on, drink sake and chat with customers. They are so satisfied with earning easy money to be able to play or buy many things only chatting with customers. However, these work are dangerous. Many cafés are situated in amusement areas―for example, Kabuki-cho, Namba, Umeda, Gion, and so on. At night, many people come and go. Many crimes tend to occur in these areas, so they may be implicated in a crime. And working at night may prevent the ordinary lives of students―getting up and going to schools in the morning, taking lessons in their schools, eating dinner with their families at home, and sleeping at night. So we should stop hiring young girls.

I think that the reason why people pay for affection from maids, hostesses, and other sources is that people want connection with other people. These days, it is said that Japanese society is “muenshakai”.  Everyone struggles and lives each life frantically. So I agree with Allison’s analysis, and not only the Japanese government but also the individual citizen should think about social problems in Japan and try to solve them.

 

Reference

 

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