Planning for the future in unstable times

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 Teppei Funatani

I have a clear plan for my future. Since I was a freshman, I have dedicated myself to helping refugees living in Japan. Through this activity I have found that giving them help surely changes my life and also the refugees’ future. Therefore I want to work at an NGO or NPO related to helping refugees.

Of course I want to find refugees helping work and dedicate to the job in my life, however there is a big problem for doing such activity.

The problem is a low salary. I met a lot of people who serve in NGOs and NPOs and help refugees. Except for few of them, most of them said that they could only get a small salary even though they worked really hard. They told me that helping the refugees was really a good job, because they could see smiles of the refugee and were cheered up. However, lacking of money was a reality they had to face up to and they could not afford to get marry. They don’t have enough money to save.

I think that I can manage to do everything at first even though I make only the small money, however as time goes by I get old and need a lot of money for many things. For example, I had a surgical operation for a lymphoma twice and it cost about 400 thousand yen each time. If I can only earn the small money, I probably cannot afford to pay for the operation.

I believe that getting the job that what you really want to do is important, however as I said that low salary is surely disturb your decision. As Anne Allison said in her book Precarious Japan, many people can only get an irregular jobs that are very unstable and they worry about their life and future. Both NGOs and NPOs are not irregular jobs, however mostly they don’t have enough money and you can get only the small salary. Of course a motivation to change a social problem is important, however you cannot keep working only with the motivation. Some NGO staff members told me that they got married when they were young and their married lives were good at first. However, as mentioned above, supporting refugees is really hard work with a low salary. Therefore they had no time to spend with their husband or wife and could not afford to have a baby. Finally, they got divorced and one of their ibasho was lost. I don’t think people can live alone. If your ibasho is only the job, after quitting the job what you can do?

In conclusion, I cannot decide now whether or not I should work at an NGO or NPO. There may be some possibilities to work for refugees. I need time to think about my future deeply.

Advertisements

Bigakuseizukan – Who Are the Beautiful Students?

by Lilia Yamakawa

A friend asked me to go with her to a party sponsored by a website called Bigakuseizukan, Picture Book of Beautiful Students. Both the photographers and the “beautiful” students they photograph are students from Japanese universities. Since have been talking about people’s concepts of “beauty” in our Race & Ethnicity class, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do fieldwork and see what this group considers attractive, what the trends are, why students agree to be posted on the website, and why this website is popular.

In class, we discussed what beauty is and found that a majority considers one type of appearance as beauty. Like the contestants in the Miss Korea contest that we saw in class, I expected most of the students at the party to be similar: skinny chins, double eyelids, small noses. I thought there would be many people with the Japanese kawaii style, with the same brown hair, same length bangs, and wearing the fluffy white and pink cutie skirts.

It turned out not to be what I expected! Most of the people there had different styles: many different hair colors and styles, different facial characteristics, many different body types, with totally different styles of clothes. Kawaii wasn’t especially big. I was both disappointed and relieved by what I actually saw. I was in a way disappointed that I couldn’t see an expected trend with my own eyes, and also relieved to find that there were many kinds of beautiful students there.

I think this has something to do with the popularity of the Picture Book of Beautiful Students website. The models are students who might actually go to your school, and they all look different. When you look at their snapshots, you might feel that they are close to you and possible to reach. This sense of closeness would be hard to have if you are looking at a model of a magazine or on TV. Bigakuseizukan’s uniqueness is that it doesn’t show only one type of beauty considered as perfect. It really shows lots of different types of students.

Another question I had in mind was why do people say yes to being photographed and having pictures posted of them online? And why do they attend such a gathering? I had a chance to ask around yesterday. I got a lot of answers, but basically they fall into three categories. In the first category, there were many students who were running for beauty contests, such as Miss Ritsumeikan, Mr. Japan and Miss Universe. These types of people answered they did it to get their name out and remembered through the Bigakuseizukan. The second group said they tried it for their personal record and their future career. It will look good when applying for a job, which might have a lot to do with your appearance, such as newscasters and announcers. The third group was more vague, and they said there was no reason not to try it or that they just enjoyed modeling for fun. One girl said, “Well, everybody posts their selfies on Twitter and other sites like that, so why not post a better picture of yourself taken by a photographer with a real camera?”

One more thing I expected to find was that everyone would be outgoing. Instead, there seemed to be all sorts of types of personalities at the gathering, and some people seemed very quiet and reserved. I think you could probably say that they all had some sense of confidence in the way they look, though.

This fieldwork only lasted three hours, but if you were interested in finding out why people in a certain group are judged to be attractive, I think studying a group such as the Bigakuseizukan would be a good method. It would be necessary to find more things that the models have in common and to question both the beauties and the photographers in more detail.