Techno-intimacy in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

Japanese society has been changing due to the precarious economy or depression. The number of youth who are not good at communicating with others is increasing. Such young people tend to feel lonely easily and become psychically and socially withdrawn; “referring to the phenomena much in the news of youths who literally take themselves out of school, work, or human circulation” (Allison 2013:81). Moreover, with regard to marriage, they think it is mendokusai [a nuisance] and they want to protect their money and time for themselves (Allison 2013:100). Then, the change of such as poor skills of communication or thought of taking care of someone makes a new concept. It is called “techno-intimacy” by Anne Allison (2013:101). In this blog, I will show three points. First is an explanation of techno-intimacy, next are examples of it in Japan, and final is my opinion.

To begin with, the concept of techno-intimacy was generated by problems of human relationships. This means that a human has attachment to a presence which feel lifelike. Tending to a child, a pet or something is regarded as mendokusai (bothersome) today because of many chores. This connects to the thought that young people are unwilling to get married today: “the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison 2013:101). However, since the game of taking care of digital creature had been discovered, producing such a creature came to evoke an intimate attachment in humans, which Allison calls “techno-intimacy.”. Although the play is multifaceted and complex, it becomes to foster drives of attachment that read the nervous system as if humanly interactive. According to Allison, kids who grow up practicing social intimacy with such a technological friend will be the user of care robots when they get old, which will be more likely alone. As above, the condition ―“electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication, and affect” (Allison 2013:101) is called prosthetic sociality. This is penetrating the sociological gap left by the weakening of human bonds in the family, workplace and community in Japan recently. According to Allison’s book, the anthropologist Katsuno Hirofumi has discovered that being able to have a companion makes people pleased even if it is not real human. A heart to heart relationship between human and robot is important to the heartlessness in humanity.

Secondly, in Japan, we have many games as a techno-intimacy. For example, Tamagochi or Nintendo 3D game software’s ones―the virtual pets, or pet robots like dogs or cats. Also, dobutsu no mori (a forest of animals) is a good seller game in Japan, which user has a village, makes residents and has them get along with each other.

Finally, I agree with Allison’s analysis that “the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity” (Allison 2013:103) brought the tie of heart to heart between humans and robots. Because the fact that care of daily living is regarded as mendokusai things and techno-intimacies comfort people exists. In addition, in my opinion, I thought that Japanese tend to have an attachment to unreal creatures like techno one is the influence of a national anime “Doraemon.” He is a robot and can communicate with humans. As almost all Japanese watched this in childhood, people may have little reluctance to make a friend with robots or other techno-intimacies.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (pp.77-82.100-103)

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Needing human relationships in Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Haruka Ichikawa

Many problems have occurred in modern society in Japan. For example, issues in human relations continue to increase. It is considered that the problems of NEET, hikikomori, and kodokushi are also social problems in Japan. These social problems is called “muen shakai”. This represents one side of Japanese society which single-person household increases, and the relationship between people is becoming weak.

In the movie Tokyo Sonata, muen shakai was drawn heavily in the ordinary nuclear family. By Ryuhei (father) losing his jobs, family relationships begin changing. Someone else of his family start having a secret from each other. And because they no longer speak to each other, family relationships go thinner. In modern society in which relationships with family and the neighbor is very weak, we would have become not to know if we do not speak to each other whether who, when, where, and what we are.

The severity of the present employment was expressed with the scene in which he hunts for a job. He lost one of his ibasho and his social position. It is not necessarily that everyone is able to do they work they want. Like Ryuhei, by losing their jobs suddenly, some people work in non-regular employment. Non-regular employment is unstable and has lower income compared to regular employment. But there are problems with regular employment. For example, karoshi. As a result of being forced to work without holidays and long overtime, in the mental and physical burden, workers succumb to death from sudden cerebral hemorrhage or heart attack. Even when death did not come from overwork, some people are driven to suicide by the stress and pressure. I think in order to prevent suicide, it is necessary for their mental health to be supported by the power of family. It is also considered that support of the Japanese government becomes necessary in economic terms.

When I saw this movie, I wondered not that we have to care about our appearance and views like Ryuhei did, and that should not be put off the idea and feelings of family. The family woke up little by little in the end, and it went toward a good direction in this movie, but some families can lead to divorce once they no longer go well. I think that it needs communication, having common understanding of what is important for them, and making an effort to build relationships each other before the relationship is broken.

The pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan spea...

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ami Yamada

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison regards the movement that forced people to have more self-responsibility (“jiko sekinin”) as a negative on the whole. After the bursting of bubble, the Japanese government has reformed some traditional Japanese systems and shifted more responsibility to the individual rapidly. The movement was attributed to spread neo-liberalism in Japan. The government adopted the idea and promoted some policies, for example, a massive deregulation and restructuring platform, which were based on market fundamentalism and capitalism.

Moreover, under such a situation, the Prime Minister Koizumi pushed on “structural reform without sanctuaries”, including system of health care. Reforms based on neo-liberalism and market fundamentalism produced bipolarization, that is, rich and poor. It is hard for people who fell into poor spiral once to get out of the loop of poor, and now, there are many poor people who are left by even social safety nets and cannot make a basic life. Allison mentions that they float at work and drift in life as NEET, net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on. Allison also says that these situations do not match the right which is guaranteed by the article 25 of Japanese constitution; all people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.

As I received Aliison’s thought, then I myself think about “jiko sekinin”. First, I state pros of it. I think that we can choose almost all things by ourselves like in Japanese society, although free choices always have responsibility. It depends on yourself whether go to school, work, get marriage, have a child, or not. In addition, people who make effort or have talent can succeed and become a winner in neo-liberal society. The more effort you make, the much salary you can get. It can motivate you and may tell you how important you try to do your best.

Next, I think about cons of “jiko sekinin”. People were given the right of free choices and had to bear the responsibility by themselves at the same time. However, I think that the situation, “free”, varies from person to person. I mean, it is not good to force people to hold yourself responsible for everything (especially bad, negative thing), although people can live in only place where has limited by something already.

To be honest, I cannot say to be for or against the movement “jiko sekinin” sweepingly. However, I believe strongly that it is nonsense to label someone who is like net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on as a just lazy without considering their background and social circumstance. Not only government also we should support these people properly.

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Individual responsibility in Japan

by Natsuki Nakasone

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison says that individual responsibility (jikosekinin) is one of reasons that make hikikomori. We often see that people who reject the decision of independence become hikikomori. After the bursting of the bubble, the government started to promote the politics of neoliberalism like the easing of restraints. And then, at the time of the Koizumi administration, the government eased restrictions too much, because it included very important things like health-care. As a result of it, people came to have to be responsible for their own lives. The exceeding easing of regulations brought precariousness of lives.

Actually, I agree with this opinion. It seems that individual responsibility enables people in Japan to make their own decisions and to choose things that they want to do. However, it can cause several problems which exist in this precarious Japan.

Now, I am a college student, so I am often told that I should have responsibility for my decisions and actions. It is essential in some degree to become independent from my parents. However, I sometimes feel anxiety and fear. For example, for college students, earning credits is very important thing, so most of them try to work hard to get them. Nevertheless, some of them might be not able to earn enough credits because of various reasons, such as surrounding circumstances. At that time, they can be said that it is your fault. There is an enough possibility that the same thing occur in work place. These are obviously not fair. Jikosekinin in Japan lacks consideration for those who are in a hard situation. That is why jikosekinin makes hikikomori.

And also if people put the all decisions into individual’s hand as jikosekinin, someday people will conflict with others because of the differences of sense of value. Therefore, the drawing a line is difficult.

I think that Japanese put off solving many social problems by connecting individual responsibility, because of lack of recognizing those problems as familiar problems. In Japan, most of people can live ordinary lives, so they do not or cannot think about social problems seriously. Even though many people face the difficulties, Japanese think that I am an exception.

Reference

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

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Losing hope in Japan

Help Japan

Help Japan (Photo credit: Ray Schönberger)

by Katsuya Nagasawa

As Anne Allison said, in modern society in Japan, many young people have lost hope. Some are net café refugees, some are hikikomori. Most of them live on minimum wage. The common things they have are the dissatisfaction, and I think, the origin of dissatisfaction is the policy of Japanese organizations. The organizations do not try to focus on people in bad situations. Actually, the organizations support them for money, however this is the only support.

Even if people could get money from organization as “seikatsuhogo”, it does not resolve the problem that young people have no hope. In addition to this support, Japanese organizations have another support for younger homeless or hikikomori people to get hope in precarious society. For example, the organizations should increase employment, or take away academic meritocracy in Japan.

In the present Japan, it is important to get the relief of mind, as well as the safety of economy. Japanese society has moved too fast, therefore, we need to calm down. Japan may have been losing our heart and soul now, therefore, the organizations should act to save citizens’ hearts. If Japanese organizations do that, we can resolve problems Allison describes, for example, the high rate of suicide and futoko, and we may able to find jibunrashisa or ibasho.

Japanese organizations have more problems about the existence of human life. Problems about Okinawans, ethnic Koreans, migrants, also need to improve. They tend to hold low positions in Japan, and they, especially migrant workers, work for minimum wage. I think a precarious society comes from the bottom. People who have dissatisfaction and are anxious because they have little hope and stable earnings commit murder, for example, the “Akihabara torima jiken”. According to Allison, the problems of public, random, and impersonal crime are very serious. Therefore, an event like that happened once, all people get unrest about Japan or Japanese society. The mood makes Japan precarious. Therefore, Japanese organizations should focus on the bottom of Japan.

However, I think the most serious problem in Japan ever is not so simple that only organizations cannot resolve it. We, Japanese citizens, have to concern ourselves with this problem. If middle or high class people ignored this problem with the economy, Japan would collapse. Even a big ship can sink to the the sea floor if holes are made in its hull. Therefore, the present situation in Japan is an issue that all people must try to consider deeper.

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There’s more than one path to success

by Yuki Kamino

I understood Anne Allison’s way of thinking about “jiko sekinin” in this way. She says that with high economic growth, our level of life has improved a lot and Japanese people gradually put more emphasis on making money to live better. Family roles are also divided, as fathers go to a company, mothers do housework for their family, and even children have a role in that they have to go to school. In this change of society, a lot of Japanese think it ideal to succeed at school, get a secure job and find a good marriage partner. This course to better life is important to be independent and it is also an important status for Japanese people. As Allison says, this is becoming stronger in today’s atmosphere, but while some are able to walk this course, there are another who are thrown out from there. Those people feel difficulty in life (ikizurasa) and tend to become “hikikomori”.

The good points of “jiko sekinin” is that to be independent, people make a lot of effort. Thanks to their big effort, our level of life has largely improved and we are one of the developed countries. Moreover, as today is called a competitive society, we have a mutual influence on each other, so we have much expectation in the future still more.

While a competitive society give us benefits, it also brings a gap between rich people who are good at accepting themselves to the society and people who are not good at it. I think this is a result of “jiko sekinin”.

I feel that Japanese society has a model in how to be a good person or live better life is written, and a lot of Japanese believe it and are eager to follow it. I think because of the model, some successful people look down on others, and those others more and more feel “ikizurasa”.

In my opinion, we should get out of the model. Of course we have to be independent, but I think the new way can be different, depending on people. I was very surprised at the story of Chihara. He is a very famous comedian who appears in a lot of TV programs. If people know only his past that he did not go to school and confined himself in his room … they could have a bad impression of him. However, we know he makes us happy through TV, and he is loved and respected by many people. No one makes fun of him.

As we can see from the story of Chihara, there is not only one way to success. I believe we should have our own course to be independent.

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I have no concrete plans for my future

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 don’t have any concrete future plans now. But 15 years ago, I had many dreams. For example, cake shops, bakery, and teachers. I don’t have a definite dream now. But I have many things I want to do. I want to go abroad and live there, to be rich woman, and to be mother. More than anything, I want to be happy. I like people smiling, especially my friends, my family, and people around me. Their smiling and laughing make me happy, too. I want to be a person who can make people happy, however, this is not a concrete dream.

However, I do not think that I am the only person who cannot find a concrete dream. This applies to many young people. I think many young people in Japan do not have some expectations because they, like me, aren’t able to see the future of Japan. Moreover, recently, Japanese society became like mechanized. Life in Japan seems to be already cast for Japanese families. Mothers should make foods, clean rooms, and do housework. Fathers ought to go to big cities to work, make money, and support their family. And their children should study, and their future, they will ought to work or do housework to support their family. Children tend to have  “one aim” that “they should choose”. Young people are likely to think that this “one aim” is the safest of all to live in Japan. I think these castings  deprive Japanese people of the opportunity to have a dream, too. This system will make people to bother to think about everything, and for example, increase hikikomori more and more.

Then, how we find our dreams? How we have any aims? I think that we should change the mechanized system in Japan. To change this system, Japanese young people’s ambitions to study not for their family or their safety, but for their desire what they want to do should be supported. University students in Japan seem to think that this course of study is not course they really want to study. This problem often happens because many of them only “studied to enter a college that is clever or famous”. If these people have “their own aim”, these problems will decrease and Japanese society and economy will grow. In conclusion, we should change Japanese plans (this is not official, but reality) that all children must study hard, and all children must go to college to work in the future.

I don’t have any concrete future plans now. But maybe I can find my original dream because I was able to awaken that goal. I want to enjoy to find dream, and want to have many dreams like in my childhood.

Avoiding becoming hikikomori

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 Masanori Takino

The more precarious Japan is, the more difficult expecting my future is. As Anne Allison mentioned in her book, since the end of the bubble economy, Japan has been in a hard situation. This essay will focuses on terms such as hikikomori, and ibasho, and my expectation of my future.

First of all, I do not desire to be hikikomori in my future. General thinking in Japan, the word, hikikomori, gives people negative images such as not working, staying in your room all the day, and begging for money from your family. I strongly hope to get my own job, full-time employment, after my graduation from the university. One of the requirements of not being hikikomori is in the stable position in the work. Full-time employment guarantees  security; the stable and high salaries, some vacations in a year, and insurance.

However, if I pursued job stability, I would have to become a public officer. While the economy situation is precarious in Japan, the work conditions are also unstable. Even if people could obtain full-time employment in the usual companies, they might get fired when the company is in a troubled situation. The most stable jobs in Japan is “public officer.” The jobs will not force the worker to quit. That is why there is a huge competition in Japan. I am the one of it. I desire to be a public officer to pursue this stability. If I fail it, at least, I would like to get the full time employment. I am not hikikomori.

Second is about my ibasho. It is difficult to express it. For example, one of my ibasho is the department of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University. I have friends there, and I have never felt loneliness there. I am not sure about my future ibasho, however it will be the place I will belong to. If I could succeed in job hunting, my ibasho will be the company which employs me. If not, I will be hikikomori, so my ibasho will be my room. My ibasho in my future is depending on what I will become. So I hope my ibasho will be a company.

In conclusion, my future is precarious, same as the present Japanese situation. In a few years, I hope the situation will drastically change, and become much more stable than now.

Living with parents

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

In my future, I have some plans to live with my children and my parents at a house for a two-generation family.

I lived with my parents and grandparents in the same home for 18 years. Now, I live in Kyoto alone and I don’t know much about what does my family does recently. And my grandparents moved to a new house from the two-family house. My grandfather is suffering from cancer and he needs somebody’s help. But mainly my grandmother cares for him because they live in a different house from the house where my parents and brother live. So I hear from my mother some reports of my family’s latest news, it is often about grandparents, and she sometimes said such as “we hadn’t known it up to now.” I worry about the case of my old grandmother cares for my old grandfather when if something happens to them. To live with only old persons has some risks and hardships.

As I consider my future based on my experience, I want to live in a two-family house. In this house, when something happens for old persons or someone in family, the family member can support them easily. And from other points of a two-family house, the house has a good effect on children and parents. Because, in the case of both working for a living and they live at a one-family house, when they are working, their children have to go a children’s hall or stay alone at home. But if they live in a two-family house, then grandparents can care for the children. Actually, my mother and father working together, so I did not have much time to spend together. But I did not feel lonely because then I played and ate with my grandparents. They often cared for me and I liked those times. It was my ibasho.

The one of the causes of precariousness in Japan is people feeling lonely or feeling alienated from other people. I think that problems such as hikikomori and kodokushi are caused by feelings of helplessness or isolation. To live in a two-family home is very important point to decrease the rate of those problems in recent Japan. And the situation can make ibasho for someone.

My future plan is to live in a house for two-generation family. And I want to make ibasho for my family, as I was with my grandparents and I didn’t feel lonely.

Planning a future with social ties

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 would like to tell you about my plan in the future. I have a small dream about work in the future, but it’s not clear now. I think I would like to get to work related to sports, because I love sports very much, especially baseball. Sports give me many collages and impressions. I can’t talk about my life without it. Additionally, I am a manager for a baseball club in my university, and this gives a sense of self-fulfillment. Therefore I support people who play sports as hard as they can, although I can’t express this in concrete terms. Also the Tokyo Olympic game will be held in 2020. It’s big news for Japan. I would like to take part in it in any way.

Next, I would like to have a good family. I would like to get married when I’m 26 years old, and to give birth to three babies. I would like to cope with both my work and housework very well. Japan has increased a nuclear family since postwar. It is linked to various problems in Japan. For instance, muenshakai, which causes kodokushi, hikikomori, and so on. My family lives with my grandmother, and my grandmother and my family help each other. I think it is my ideal. Also I will live with my parent or my husband’s parent in the future.

But I was sometimes anxious for Japan and future. As I read Precarious Japan, I remembered the past. When I was a junior high school student, I felt that I didn’t have an ibasho. It was very serious problem for me at that time. My best friend left the softball club I belonged to because she had a disagreement with our teammates. My role was to be an intermediary between her and the teammates. I heard from each of them about some abuses from my friend and teammates. It was so hard, also there was nothing I could do. Then I feel I don’t have ibasho. I was still a child mentally, so I didn’t understand how family is big and important for me. Even now I feel sometimes where my ibasho is. But I have friends with whom I can talk about my true feelings. They listen to my talk, also they were console a grieving me. The moment which I feel my ibasho is to be called by my name by anyone such as acquaintances. I think ibasho is unstable things especially for Japanese. Compare with foreigner, Japanese desire to make ibasho for themselves and dislike to be left alone. I think the reason why everyone have some anxiety for society.

In conclusion, I can’t expect my future and Japanese future, but that’s reason why I make plan and time. I don’t think I realize all of my plan, but I would like to do my best.