Basic ideas for 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.

by Gakuho Goto

To tell the truth, I am one of the young people who do not have a specific idea what I want to be or to do, but feel uneasy for my future. Thus I could not make a concrete plan of my future. However what I have considered important in my life is humanity.

Human relations are an example of it, family, friends, partner, teachers, and so on. Because their relations are open my perspective and give me “ibasho”. As Allison’s text said, Japanese people who live in contemporary Japanese society are likely to lose ibasho. This tendency increases problems like hikikomori and suicide. One of the reasons for the problem is that capitalistic interest is regarded as more important than human time. Many people struggle to get money to have their life better and devote themselves to company. Therefore an opportunity of meeting family or friends are decreased and a distance of them is also expanded. This causes isolation, in other words losing ibasho. Even though they have money, they cannot be satisfied with their lives.

I am not saying that earning money is less important than human time. Poverty is caused by a lack of money and getting money is the presupposition in leading life. But level of happiness has been increasing as time passed. For example consuming was a happiness in Japan of the 90s. Thus next form of happiness should be taken in a whole society. There is an interesting relations between a statistic of working hours in 41 countries and one of world happiness report in 2013. These statistics shows that the countries which have low rate of working hours would get high rate of happiness, especially in Northern Europe. I want to make an analysis of Northern Europe known as welfare state. These countries offer a caring social security system. The young can enroll in university for free, and the elderly people also have a special nursing facilities. Surely the GDP of these countries is not high compared with other developed ones. But humanity is guaranteed widely.

Considering these things, protecting humanity is a meaningful way of increasing happiness in the long run. However the welfare system of Northern Europe is possible in small areas. Firstly I want to make circumstances of respecting humanity at least around me, including in my family. This is little concrete idea what I want to do in my future.

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The present situation of Japanese poverty

by Mizuki Watanabe

According to Anne Alison, present-day Japan has a different host of issues. In particular, one of the most serious problems is poverty. Generally speaking, Japan is very developed country and most people imagine that this country is not involved in poverty. However, there are many people who live at a minimum standard of living. Jobs of those people are usually unstable and often are non-regular jobs. Those poor people do not have equal rights and equal status compared to regular workers. That is to say, their fundamental human rights are violated. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to those problems. We are here concerned with two questions, “What are factors of those Japanese problems? Why does Japan not change and cannot solve those problems?”

The first point that we should discuss is a policy of the Japanese government for the economy. Apparently, poverty is related to the economic situation of our country. When the economy has come to a standstill, the Japanese government always establishes a practical policy only for the economy. To put it another way, it usually ignores the others such as the daily lives of nations and so on. Public assistance must be important at this point. If citizen’s lives are not guaranteed, the Japanese economy never recovers.

Unfortunately, nowadays fundamental problems remain unanswered. Actually, there is public assistance such as a livelihood protection system in Japan. However, such a social security does not work enough. According to OECD.stat (date extracted on 30 Sep 2013), Japanese costs for social security are lower than in any other developed country, especially European countries. Moreover, the Japanese government cut the cost of livelihood protection twice.

Some man has a wife and two children who go to an elementary school. Because of the policy, he does not get enough money and has to cut down their cost of foods and they always eat instant food such as “cup ramen”. Nowadays, there are many people in Japan who live in such a terrible situation. What should be remembered is that the most important thing is a nation’s life and their rights. Government should not forget those things and establish a policy for those deep issues.

There is a further problem which needs to be asked. That is the problem of the Japanese sense of entitlement. Historically, a revolution like a French Revolution and the Arab Spring have never happened in Japan. We have not experienced that we get any rights on our own. Also, Japanese are always called “People who do not say their opinions clearly and agree with other’s ideas” by foreign people. Indeed, we have a famous Japanese proverb that is “Deru kui ha utareru”. This means that a person who is different from other people is blamed. When we are child, Japanese have been educated following to this proverb. Because of those factors, we are always afraid of saying our opinions and do not think of what are our rights seriously. Therefore what seems to be lacking is a Japanese sense of entitlement.

As mentioned above, what is important in poverty is social security and sense of entitlement of citizens. Government has to care about citizens and people have to care about their rights and rise up against their dissatisfaction as well. Now, it is the time to improve our society. We have to think those problems deeply.

References

Seikatsuhogo genjo sitte [the present situation of livelihood protection] Asahi news paper digital Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.asahi.com/articles/CMTW1405091000001.html

Syakaihosyokyufuhi no kokusaihik haiku(OECD countries 2009)[An international comparison of the cost of social security(OECD countries)] Retrieved September 30, 2013 from http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/2798.html

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From precarious Japan to secure Denmark?

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

After reading some parts of Allison’s book, my view about Japan changed. I was thinking of getting a job in Japan after graduating from my university, without a doubt.

Actually, perhaps I can get a good job to some extent because Japan is gakureki shakai (if you graduate from famous university, you are guaranteed to get a good job, to some extent) and my university is famous in Japan. Japanese companies, however, have some disadvantageous aspects such as overwork, less holidays, lack of labor unions, and so on. Also, according to Allison, Japanese society is precarious. For example, relationless, and high rate of suicide. Sometimes I also feel these problems Allison mentioned, so these precarious affect my life plan.

Just then, I learned that Nordic societies are very different from Japan. There are high tax rates, high welfare, and everyone is guaranteed to have life that people should have. Denmark especially is famous for being the happiest country in the world (http://diamond.jp/articles/-/32485?page=7). People in Denmark do not need to pay money from elementary school to university, and for medical costs. And after retirement, they are guaranteed to have enough pension to live a life. This society is very opposite to Japanese precarious society.

The sense of well being is also different from Japanese to Danish. According to Aya Omoto, Danish put their happy on everyday life. They feel happy for the things we tend to be matter of course, such as talking with friends, having food, being healthy. To the contrary, it might be said that we Japanese tend to feel happy for being superior to other people, having much amount of money, and working hard to get fame. For this reason I strongly come to be interested in Danish society because I like a sense of well-being. Danish have.

Living and working abroad became one of the way to live a happy life for me, however, there is a saying : The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. If I were born in a Nordic country, I might think that I wanted to be born in Japan, and vice versa. It can be said that there are no perfect countries in the world, and there are absolutely some bad points. For these reasons, I might get a job in Japan and want to work in many countries through a Japanese company, and in this mean my ibasho can be said to be the earth itself, and I want to make relationship in the world.