My experiences and expectations 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.

Anonymous student post

Do you know Kamagasaki? Kamagasaki is a city of the poor in Osaka, Japan. There are many homeless. Almost all of them are old men and day labors. Problems which they have are many and complicated.

Originally, day labors in Kamagasaki were recruited from the whole of Japan to hold Japan World Exposition in 1970. But, after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis, their jobs decreased intensively. They live depending on the wage of the day work. They don’t have houses and stay at day-labors’ lodgings called “Doya.” That is to say, no job means no money for living the day. They want to work but they have no job and no money, and they cannot help but be homeless.

I visited Kamagasaki as a study tour in the last spring vacation. Then, I heard a story of a man. He died alone in his room of an apartment building. One week after his death, he was found by others. The cause of his death was starvation. He was received welfare benefits, but he died of hunger. Why? A person who told us the story told the reason which he thought. Human have nothing to do, human don’t want to live. People who come to Kamagasaki have some problems and they don’t keep in touch with their family and relative. Therefore, they don’t ask about their experience each other. They know each other by sight but they are not friends who do something together and don’t have such friends. They are solitary and lonely. No one cared him, and no one knew his death for a week.

I don’t want to be a homeless or to die alone while no one know. It is too sad to die alone while no one alone. So as not to do so, I want to marry and to have some children. I want to have three children because I am one of them. For it, I want to have a stable job. My parents are public employees. The salary of public employee are lower than other business. But public employee is securer and safer than others. What I want is not a high but a decent salary and stability. Also I want my partner to have a regular work because I think that it is hard to bring up three children by only my income or my income and her income of irregular work. So, my future plan is to have family and to have a job which give me enough money to support my family.

Can we live in minimum wage in Japan?

by Misaki Kosaka

Nowadays the number of the poor is increasing in Japan. Especially, people who work as irregular workers (hiseiki koyo) have been noticeable since the deregulation of irregular jobs was enforced. However do irregular jobs make a true profit for Japan? There are workers who can’t even pay their rent because of low wages. So, they are forced to part with their home and start living at a net cafe or sleeping in the open. According to Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan, haken or hiyatoi workers earn 6000 to 8000 yen for one day on average. They earn only wages that they can live in a day. But this wage is merely average, then their wages differ from day to day. In the day the workers receive very low payment, they can’t hardly eat in the day.

Like this, irregular jobs have very unstable and uneasy factors. Workers can’t save money to rent an apartment due to these negative factors. Furthermore, they hesitate to go to hospital when they are injured or have a high fever because they can’t afford to pay for medical insurance. Even if irregular workers are in bad condition, they have to work hard for living. In addition, most of them don’t receive any industrial accident compensation insurance when accidents happen. As a result, their health worsens and it makes them hard to get a regular job.

I think that this vicious cycle will not be solved without a governmental intervention. In the past, almost all the homeless were elderly men, but the young homeless are increasing these days. Although the young homeless without relatives who lose their job, or work as a part-time worker for a long time, may stay overnight at their friends for few days, after that they will spend night at a fast food restaurant. Then, they will put up with a net café and be finally street person. If they have relatives, they will be NEET or hikikomori.

Anne Allison says that poverty is not just a matter of economics. I think so. People who earn only minimum wage don’t get not only an economic happiness but also non-economic. As this book says, one can’t get and have kids on low wages or with a wage level that doesn’t increase as one gets older. They can’t earn enough money to support their future family.

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“Refugees” in Japan

by Narumi Ito

Nowadays, people who lose their homes are increasing in Japan because they might be laid off by their companies and cannot earn money. They have to sleep in fast food shops, family restaurants and Internet cafes. “Refugees” is increasing in Japan. According to Anne Allison, a refugee is someone who is homeless or a net café nanmin. It has become a serious problem in Japan. Most of them work as temporary laborers or day laborers. Their salaries are unstable thus they cannot rent their home. However, when they can sleep at net café, they will feel happy because they sometimes have to sleep outside, for instance, at stations or under bridges and on streets. They do not have enough money to spend indoor.

Refugees have two big problems. The first problem is a certificate of residence. If the situation of their addresses are unsettled, they do not have their houses, thus they may treated as drifters by Japanese law. Moreover they have many problems if they do not have their certificates of residence. They cannot renew their driver’s licenses, have universal suffrage or receive unemployment insurance. In addition, they cannot rent new apartments when they become to be able to rent them because they cannot register the legal registration of their official seals.

Second is an illness. They cannot go to hospital because they cannot pay their consultation fees, however, I think that they have much possibilities of becoming ill. They always spend at places which are insanitary. In fact, there are many people who contract tuberculosis or some infectious diseases at net cafes. Most refugees tend to use Internet café thus they may get mass infection.

The right to life is written clearly in the Constitution of Japan. It is that all Japanese people have right to make healthy and cultural life and have the minimum standard of living. I think that welfare is based on the Japanese constitution thus Japanese government should give refugees which include homeless and net cafe nanmin the minimum lives. However Japanese government cannot protect this right. In fact, Japanese government do not treat with the problem of refugees. Most refugees are deleted their certificates of residence. They can request their welfare if they do not register their resident registration. Thus they request Japanese office to be on welfare. Japanese public office do not give welfare to them because officers think it is troublesome.

For example, offers of welfare from refugees are deferred or rejected or hidden. Officers may be able to neglect offers because the homeless do not register their residences. I assume that officers conceal the offers many times in Japan. The actual situation may let the problem of refugees worsen in Japan.

In my opinion, if Japanese public offices continue to neglect this problem, Japan have to own many more refugees in the future. If the Japanese government gives them minimum welfare or food protection, they may be saved, improve their lives and get jobs. Japanese government should make some concrete policies to deal with this problem. All Japanese people are protected by the Constitution of Japan equally and live healthily and happily.

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Struggling to live in Japan on minimum wage

Anonymous student post

If I earn the minimum wage in the future, living in Japan would make me feel “ikizurasa”. As Anne Allison describes in Precarious Japan, one male contract worker is spending a hard life. He sleeps in Shinjuku station while wearing his suits. He works hard from early morning to night, but his income is very low and precarious, going from 300,000 to 105,000 yen.The temperature at night is very cold and severe for him.

Moreover, she describes how difficult it is for poor people to live in Japan. The “net café refugee” who are in other words “drifting poor” are mainly flexible or irregular workers. If they work hard from morning to night, they can earn only for one day living. Every day they just repeat this cycle. It means that they can not escape from this poverty cycle. To make matters worse, they tend to buy food which is bad for their health such as hamburger because they do not have money, so they are at risk of being sick. However, once they become sick, it means their life will end. They do not contract life insurance, so they can not go to hospital and they will be people who just wait for death.

Another aspect of earning the minimum wage is the lost identity and “ibasho”. Now I have an “ibasho” as university students by paying a large amount of money to the university, and now I have an identity from being surrounded by friends, studying subjects I am interested in, and so on. However, if I earn just the minimum wage in the future, my life will be completely changed. As I mentioned previously, there is a possibility of becoming a “net café refugee” or “homeless”. It could be said that I would not be surrounded by friends (If there are some friends, they are socially disadvantaged such as less education) or I would not buy clothes for making me fashionable, and so on. It means that it comes to be impossible for me to understand who I am and I can not stay sane. Where is my dignity? How can I live in Japan from now on?

In fact this is not my imagination but reality, and some people are forced to live in these situations. We do not usually think about people in poverty, so reading Allison’s book was a great opportunity to think about them. I became interested in helping them through volunteering, and I think this is very important thing.

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The problems of the homeless and refugees

by Hitoshi Haruki

In this class, I have learned about refugeeism, such as net café refugees and homelessness. Especially I have been interested in homelessness. Homeless people have little money because they often do not work as full-time employees, but instead have part-time jobs.

These days many people tend to think homeless people do not deserve human rights. For example, homeless people do not have a home, so they use fast-food restaurants as a place to sleep. They buy a cup of coffee, which is 100 yen, and they stay in a fast-food restaurant all night. For fast-food restaurants, these customers are troublesome because the homeless are shabbily clothed, and customers dislike homeless people. Furthermore, homeless people may be malodorous, so restaurants want to kick homeless people out. I think this action is legal, but the method used to remove homeless people from the restaurants and the correspondence of homeless people should be very careful. In McDonald’s, they made a notice about refusing entrance of homeless people. Some people criticize this as a violation of human rights. I agree with that criticism, because homeless people have the right to enter McDonald’s. That being said, I still think homeless people should not use fast-food restaurants to stay overnight.

According to Anne Allison, in this situation homeless people have no hope and I agree with that idea, so the government should help homeless people so they can have hope for the future. I suggest that the government should help many homeless people to work as regular employees. For instance, the government can increase the number of employment offices and government offices should hire homeless people. Another good idea is to give companies subsidies if they hire homeless people.

In some developing countries, wars are currently happening, and people who live there are in danger. Under the threat of losing their lives they may decide to escape from their country. So, there are many refugees in developing countries. For some people it is inevitable to be refugees. When refugees leave their countries, they have to find new connections such as workplaces. However, many refugees cannot work for a good company. They work in dangerous places and have to do hard work. Moreover, they get less information about workplaces than normal citizens. Therefore, they are less likely to get a good job.

To summarize, these days the number of refugees in Japan such as homeless people and net café refugees as well as the refugees in developing countries rise. In response the government should work quickly to create a policy to deal with homelessness. Also, refugees are less likely to get a good job because they do not know a lot of information about workplaces. Thus, people must think of methods to solve this problem.

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Struggles of living in Japan on minimum wage

English: Homeless man, Tokyo. Français : Un sa...

English: Homeless man, Tokyo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Teppei Funatani

In my opinion, if people live poor lives, there are three steps that they have to overcome.

First, uneasiness for my future. Living in Japan costs a lot of money. Food, rent, medical expenses, and so on. Also we should pay about 15,000 yen every month for a pension when we reach 20 years old. How do I manage my everyday life if I can only earn minimum wage?

In the article “Homeless face uphill fight to get life back,” a man who was in his mid-40s worked for a data management company as a temporary worker and earned only 160,000 yen a month. He lived alone and had no hope for his future. As this article tells you, if you live hand-to-mouth, there is no room in your mind to think about your future. You can barely support yourself and this vicious circle probably never ends unless a miracle happens.

Next, apathy of my life. Let’s imagine that even though you work as hard as you can, you can only get the lowest salary yen a day and you cannot get a bonus. It is likely that you will lose interest your job and don’t want to work anymore. It is natural that you complain about your lower salary, although you work as long as white-collared workers do. However, you soon realize that your dissatisfaction does not bring you anything and you have no choice but to give up.

Finally, a sense of despair for everything. As above, you feel anxiety for your future at first, and next you give up having hope. And you come to the final stage of your poor life. As Anne Allison said in her book Precarious Japan, because of depression and insecurity over jobs, the number of people who commit suicide has remained around 30,000 ever since 1998 (2013). The number of unemployment was 2,460,000 people in March, 2014 (Statistics Bureau, May 5, 2014). Even in large companies, a lot of employees are fired. It is easy to imagine that you lose your job and be homeless. This idea gradually is damaging your heart and you think that your hopes for the future come to nothing. Then you decide to commit suicide.


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

Homeless face uphill fight to get back life. (May 20, 2014). Retrieved from

Labour Force Survey, Monthly Result-March 2014-. (May 2, 2014). Retrieved from

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