Making relationships, seeking social ties

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 Natsumi Yoshida

In the future, I want to have a family and two or more children and keep working. There are some reasons that I want such situation. First of all, after graduation, I want to get a regular work and have some experience in society.

In Precarious Japan (Anne Allison, 2013), there is “muenshakai”. I would like to make more friendly family with neighborhood. Actually, I grew up in friendly atmosphere and had a close relationship with them. People can recognize me and so do I. When I met them, they say “Hello, are you going to work or study?” Even today, there is “butsu butsu koukan”, bantering. They are very kind to everyone. But these days this magnificent relationship is about to vanish. I want to make the same relationship with neighbors as today. That will affect my children in good way and they can learn human connection and sense of Omoiari from early ages. In fact, I thought it is natural connection until recently.

In the second, I want to have two or more children because they will rely on with each other. If I had only one child, he or she cannot play in home. Moreover, if their parents (I and someone) die, they would not be alone. When they come of ages and become adults, they still have connections.

In the third, I want to keep working. If I had two children, a good deal of money would be needed because they will go college or university to get good job. In addition to that, I just want to have a connection with society, not only staying home. However, after marriage, I wouldn’t care of my job is regular or part time because my purpose is to stay in public place or my “ibasho”. Anne Allison said “being sacrifice signaled both duty and honor and also was just part of job” as the cliché and “having a job became his identity” (p23), although I don’t think so. Some people think the same way but, today, there are many contract workers and it becomes common. Therefore, after marriage, I will work in company that I really want. However, I can say such things because I am a woman. If I were man, I would have to think my life and job more seriously. I know it is strange sense but, maybe it’s the way of elderly Japanese.

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Planning my future, with family ties

by Kanoko Sakamoto

As I’m living in Japan, where life has been becoming unstable, its about time for me to think about my future with seriousness because the Japanese job-hunting system is little different compared to other countries’ and Japan is unstable, so I’m old enough to think about those things.

When I was little, my dream was just to marry some one at young age, become a housewife, have kids, and live happily like everyone dreams. However, as we already know, it doesn’t work anymore with the current situation in Japan. People in Japan are facing precariousness and the situation has involved serious problems of “kodokushi”, “muen shakai”, “ikizurasa”, ”frita”, “parasite single” etc. People who feel they have no “ibasho”, which means the place they feel comfortable, it sometime leads them to suicide.

My “ibasho”, I think, is my family, my childhood friends, my friends in the university, and even my workplace is my “ibasho” too. It sounds like, and looks like everybody has their “ibasho”. Then why does “ibasho” continue to be a matter of debate? It had been too unfamiliar for me however, it became not somebody else’s problem.

To tell the truth, my grand mother lives in the same two-family houses with her first-born son and his family, and his kids who are my cousins, are already “shakaijin” and working in Tokyo so they don’t live together anymore. What is the problem is that since her eldest son and his wife are both working and my family doesn’t live near enough to see my grand mother everyday, she usually eats alone and sleeps alone and now she is feeling “kodoku” (alone).

I felt so sorry that I had never noticed about it and now me and my family are discussing to make the situation better. I’m sure that there are many people facing same kind of this situation in Japan. I thought everybody has “ibasho”, but like my grandmother, I realized that people sometime feel “kodoku” and no “ibasho” even they live with their own family for the first time.

Japanese society is an aging society with fewer children and it is predicted that the situation advances in the future. As I live in the future Japan, I thought it would be an option to get into a Japanese big company located abroad so that I do not have to stay in this unstable country and also I can contribute to Japan. However, since I encountered my grandmother’s situation, I thought it is also a good option to stay in Japan and not take my eyes off from the situation. Because people cannot live alone and like my grandparents and my parents took care of me, I should return a favor in the future and I think it’s a kind of my obligation.

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.

Finding my ibasho in the 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 Natsuki Suzuki

Ibasho is a place where I can stay comfortably and where I can allow to stay whenever I want. Ibasho means both rooms (places) and human relationship. For me, it is wherever people always accept me (wherever is ok!), but mainly my family, relatives and friends. Also, my home, hometown and school (current and past) are my ibasho.

The work I want to do in the future is directly connected with my opinion on ibasho, because I want to create a comfortable society where everyone has their own ibasho. I feel Japanese society and relationships are too tight and cold, and I wish everyone has more tolerance. There are some organizations that work for people who need ibasho. For instance, counseling at Tohoku, gathering for women or sexual minorities and café that thinks about peace. I respect those organizations. At first I was thinking of my future plan working to support developing countries and resolving war. Such my vision came from a wish that I want a peaceful world. However, one day I realized that Japan has also many serious problems such as disconnected people and high suicide number. That is, current precariousness of life in Japan affected me to stand up for changing Japanese society. Japan was less peaceful than I thought, and I hope someday I realize world peace from Japan with wonderful members.

My vision about relationship and family in the future is very flexible. I don’t care whether I get married or not. I also don’t care about the age, but if I have a child, I’d like to get married under 25 years old because the younger is the better to have babies as ability. If I get married but don’t have a child, I prefer at the age of over 45. It’s just because I’m worried about my elderly life. I want broad and worldwide relationships in the future (and also now) since it may be important for my job and it’s nice to learn many things from friends. In addition, I want to have good relation with my family, relatives and old friends for life long. I will try to have contact with them however I’m busy. Also I take it as necessary to have connection with neighbors because it affect my life quality. Allison points out about contactless in page 20, but I will always be positive to have koryu. In every relationship, I think it’s important to have face-to-face connection. More and more people came to use SNS and it’s a good way to keep in touch with friends, but still actual meeting is the best. Also, Allison points out about contactless in page 20, and I think connection with neighbors is necessary for my good living.

Allison’s view of Japan is interesting and true. For example, I heard that hunting a job is so difficult, and some of my friends tend to be hikikomori. Those examples are not difficult to find. There are more issues in Japan other than Allison says in the text, such as extreme (wrong) nationalism, however, Allison’s vision of liquid Japan agrees with my experiences and view of Japan. I think it is the cause of most issues she points out.

Liquid Japan is a result of neoliberalism, which means many problems are regarded as personal one (just in one aspect). Losing in this world is because you didn’t have talent or ability that the society requires, and it’s jikosekinin. Therefore, most people don’t try to solve its system although their “personal” problems even though the problems come from social structure. In addition, many people have serious problems that others can’t or don’t help because of jikosekinin, so they are likely to lose their hope. Such people can be found everywhere around me. I think now Japan came to a turning point to change the way how the government, companies and lifestyle are. People who are struggling with their personal problems usually don’t afford to think about others, but I believe they are the main actors who stand up together and change current problematic social system.

Reference

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

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.

Can you live alone?

by Zhang Shiwen

Japanese animation has become one of the most influential cultural media in the world. It not only exports the interesting stories, but also expresses the Japanese values to the world. One of the phrases which appears in most animations moved me and maybe many others a lot, what I think is the core value of Japanese culture is that “the human being cannot live alone”. Due to that, no matter what type of the animation is, Japanese value always tells us the importance of being connected with others. However, to think of the situation that Anne Allison wrote in Precarious Japan, the real Japan society has been losing this core value of connection. Some of them “have been abandoned or estranged from their families”, who will be discussed following are called “denizens” or “refugees” in her book (Allison 2013:59).

It is known that “denizenship” and “refugeeism” mostly describe the migrants and foreigners, but in Japan, people “who get stranded inside their own country with access to a secure job, stable home, or normal life”, and “without a place or space where one feels comfortable and “at home”” are also called “refugees” (Allison 2013:47). However, under the constitution of Japan, all citizens have the right to enjoy the basic life, which means living healthily and getting basic insurance. While seeing the current situation in Japan, many people work to earn money which even cannot afford the housing, enough food; even if the low payment and bad health condition, the government refused to pay the insurance. Moreover, some people work but “felt superfluous: unvalued in the work” and “voided of worth or recognition as a human being” (Allison 2013:64). They felt it a hardship of living because of lacking of human relationships or no belonging.

However, as what most animations show and the reality that people need “social recognition, human belonging”, and people “relay on others for self-confirmation”(Allison 2013:67), some of those who lose the connection with the society chose to kill others to prove his own existence, such as “Akibaken musabetsu terojiken”; some of them transferred their worries of insecurity of life to dissatisfied and then “join right wing association for the national belonging” (Allison 2013:63). In Japan, “net right wing” and “hate speech” are raised, but the truth is that it is hard to master the true information. Due to that, I think that if it is difficult to say the denizenship and refugeeism lead those people seek belonging to these groups, though some groups are good.

Therefore, in my opinion, denizenship and refugeeism will not lead people to seek belonging elsewhere, although it looks like so. Firstly, I do not know how people even cannot feed on themselves have the flexibility to join some groups, of course, if entering these groups can give them some benefits. That is the economic factor which makes those denizens join the groups. Secondly, I do not deny that it is very important to be recognized and belong, but I think that like people born alone and die alone, why they cannot live alone? If join to some groups or being recognized by the society is just self‐satisfaction? Some people, like Hitler or the leaders of right wings, use people’s desire of being recognized to do some bad things. Then, in these case, do they really take back their respect of human being?

In conclusion, I think that government should mainly take the responsibility to make sure the security of them, and take their respect back. What it means is that to join some groups is not enough and easy to be paranoid, the best way is to make them get back to the society.

Reference

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

 

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Seeking belonging in organizations

by Ayaka Sasaki

Lacking equal rights and equal status make us seek to belong an organization or group. However, I think that belonging a good organization or a bad organization depends on individuals. In this blog post, I point to bad organizations as organizations that bring bad effect on society, like extreme cults and so on. And I think that belonging elsewhere, like in a good organization is good. By doing this, they can feel relaxed, even they hold a lot of problems that are related to their lives.

From this, I think that someone throw oneself into a dangerous religion or cult group, they require relaxation from the struggle of living. I read an interesting article about cult, and in this article, the reason why people are inspired by cult.

The reason which is given in article was convincing. Because cults fill such a requirements:

  • physical requirements—food, shelter, clothing and job
  • social  requirements, friendship—reciprocal help and love
  • status, the feeling that I have power—this might be attractive to young people especially.
  • dependency needs—they can get a relationship like parents-children.
  • escape from responsibility—the leader take the risk or responsibility.

I felt an odd impression from these requirements. That is, cults fill the social problems in the society. Then, the society cannot fill them, a cult emerges and fills them. Thus, the government or organizations like NGO or NPO should act to fill these requirements.

In reverse, how about those who belong to an organization working for equality and social justice? I feel a good impression, because they try to face the bad parts of society and struggle to get better lives than today.

However, I think only belonging to an organization is not a solution of denizenship or refugeeism. We must face the problems or ugly aspects which Japanese society holds. Moreover, it is an only solution to them, and not only the organizations but also the governments should try to solve them.

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Making Refugees’ Ibasho

by Ami Nishigaki

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison mentions the net cafe refugees and refugees in Japan. I believe that the government should make a system to solve this problem, and there are three reasons for that.

Firstly, it is impossible to say that the net cafe refugees’ right to life is protected. All the people in Japan have the right to life, and right to be protected it by the government. It is the government’s responsibility to do something to make the situation better.

Secondly, no one except some NGOs or NPOs seems to be interested in this problem, as it is not so directly connected to their lives. It is difficult for people to think about the net cafe refugees seriously. Therefore, it is necessary that the government, as a leader of Japan, pays attention to this problem, and lead people to take it seriously.

Finally, if the government does nothing, people may not do anything. Even though people care about the refugees, they cannot do anything as it is not clear what is the good things for them to do. Also, it is inevitable to mention money and costs. Who will pay for it? I would not. I would use my money for my family, or myself. I seem to be indifferent, but I think this is what most people do, and this is reality. For these reasons, I think it is the government’s job to do something for net cafe refugees.

I suggest one tax system for companies as a solution. If a company makes a shop for refugees that serves a cheap meal and a cheap shower and lets people stay all night, employing some refugees, the government will reduce the tax for this company.

As Allison quotes from Yuasa Makoto (2008), there are a lot of people who do not have a house. Those people do not even have a place to go back, and cannot live ‘ an ordinary life’. Moreover, they do not have enough confidence on themselves.

In order to make their life better and easier to find a job, what we can do to encourage them is not just giving money or helping as a volunteer but make them pay money to have a rest and get ready for job hunting or one day work so that they can get at least confidence in their health and body. They still have to pay money as Japan is a capitalistic country and a charitable work will not last so long. However, making a shop only for refugees may make their feeling better, or easier to go in.

In conclusion, if this system goes well, the government can do its duty, companies can receive benefit as a reduction tax, and refugees can find places which welcome them.

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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 future is fluid and invisible

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 Kota Yanigadani

The future is not fixed, it is fluid and invisible, but still we can have a plan on our future and even try to realize the future. My future is after working at some professional workplace about security or conflict resolution, working, as a world citizen, to reduce violence in the world, correct injustice, and thus end poverty in the world. Therefore, in this post, connections between my future plans and Anne Allison’s vision of Japan are mentioned.

First of all, the current precarious condition in Japan does not have a big influence on my plan superficially. According to Allison, the mainly aging population, people in solitude in  gray zones, lower positions for women, and the typical company employment system are precarious conditions in Japan. On the aging population and seniors, I do not think the truth is so serious because technology is progressing rapidly. Robot industry can solve work forces in the future, and robot can be the catalyst for people and seniors. From this point, I do not think these are related to helping people suffering from poverty and violence. Also, the typical company employment does not have an influence on my future, because as today’s plan, I do not plan to work as a company man.

Second, my ibasho is actually my family and university. University is ba for me to prove myself, and I always feel comforted by being at home. However, what makes my identity is not my nationality. Recently, I have felt as if I am a cosmopolitan, which means I have strong global, world citizenship. To put it simply, while my ibasho is my family and ba is my university, my identity is not Japanese, but world citizen.

Finally, still I have more habits as Japanese compared to other nationalities, and Allison’s view on Japan is really common to me. The most similar vision is that Japan has a strong vertical relation among people. For example, when we meet people being older than us, we usually use keigo, which is polite communication tool in Japan, and we use more polite keigo when we talk with boss in our workplace. When I met president of our company at my workplace, actually I had the most polite posture and used clear keigo.

In addition to this, there is common system in Japanese company called nenkojoretsu, which Allison mentioned. This system is the longer you work in a company, the higher position and salary you can have. However, recently due to this system, a lot of people, especially young people have been fired and some bosses are really incapable, since they do not have much experience of competing for survival in their companies. I believe the system of vertical society and nenkoujoretsu have given rise to one kind of precarious condition in Japan today.

In conclusion, a unique style of society in Japan actually has an impact on my future plan, even though that seems this impact is not a big deal. Family is my ibasho, which should be common to many people. Given the company, because it is too typical to be a company man, working as a salary man is not first-choice for me as I said. Basically, I do not want to end my life too normally, which is to work in a company, to have a family, to see grandson, to end life happily. Instead of this, I always think I would like to make some change, or do some big things, which led to my quite big future plan. In that sense, some condition of Japan like Allison said might have a big impact on my future plan.

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