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.

Advertisements

Running for My Life

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 Miki Yamaguchi

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison looks at the current situation and problems which Japan faces now. The country where are believed it is full of hopes and wealth no longer exists. Instead of that, people struggle in enigmatic mud. Although it is not easy to lead a steady life, we young generation shouldn’t lose our expectation. And from now, I would like to describe my future plan as one of the young, based on Anne Allison’s study.

My dream is to work for a trading company, because I’m very interested in unique merchandises and imported food which are rarely seen in our table. I think, however, salary, working hours and a system of paid vacation are also considerable. Of course it is lucky to be able to get a job which meets every conditions, I know the society is not so naïve. In fact, I have anxiety and concern for future. My greatest worry is a relationship with our co-workers and bosses. As Anne Allison stated, it’s common to see a company man (kaisha ningen) in Japan. On weekend, fellow workers go lunch and play golf all together, not spending with their family. Furthermore, these gatherings are thought to be more or less influential their career. This system plays a role to create bond (kizuna) among colleagues, I think, however, for women like me who want to make child, this will be affecting their life plans. This means once women quit their jobs for a maternity leave and lose the too tight relationships suddenly, they feel lonely or even feel isolated the society. Unfortunately, the husband also is tied this system and so he works all day and comes home very late. And while the husband is in his company, women have to raise child and do her household. This life style seems very stressful (ikizurasa) and I do not lead such a tired life.

I believe my ibasho is my home in Nagasaki, and my another hope is to create a warm family. In order to balance my work and family life, and make child-raising more happily and enjoyable, husband’s cooperation is important. For example, it very helpful for women that he takes care of his baby on weekend and try to share housework every day. Also the relationship with fellow mom (mamatomo) is necessary, because a complaint and information about parenting can be shared.

Building my career is important, nevertheless I want cherish my family. And under any circumstances, I don’t want to lose my expectation and want to live my own life. To become such a woman, I take the current situation sincerely and consider my way of life.

Planning my future ibasho

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 Atsuko Omura

Nowadays, there are many problems in Japanese society―for example, karoshi, muenshakai, an aging society and so on. The number of old people will keep on increasing. It seems that many Japanese people feel misgivings about the future of Japanese society. However, young people as I have own hopeful dreams and future plans. In this article, I will introduce my future plan.

First of all, after I graduate from Ritsumeikan University, I am going to work in Japan. I have not decided the type of occupation, but I am interested in a travel agency. The reason is that I like traveling and would like to recommend customers the tour plans made by me. I am interested in being a local civil servant also because I would like to plan the projects to revitalize the local economy and society. On the contrary, I would like not to be a non-regular employee like a permanent part-timer. The reason is that a non-regular employee get low wages and do not have a high social position. I think that the high wages and high social position are important to live comfortably. Besides my parents worry about working as a non-regular employee and I will not be economically and mentally independent of my parents.

Second, I will talk about my future family plan. I am going to marry when I am in my late 20’s. And I want a girl and a boy. I would like to go shopping to buy clothes with my daughter and want to play with my son. I am going to retire from the company when I have a child. I felt lonely that my mother went out for part-time work and no one played with me when I was an elementary school student. I would like not to make my children feel lonely. So I do not work until the time my children at least begin junior high school, and will return my home when my children come home. After my children become independent, I would like to enjoy my old age with my husband and my friends. It is very important to associate on friendly terms with neighbors. There are two reasons. First, the frequent contact in my neighbors may prevent crimes―for instance, kodokushi, kidnapping, and so on. Second, communicating my neighbors improve the conditions of “muenshakai”. Therefore, I will treat relationships with my friends, my family and neighbors as an important matter. And my ibasho is in my family and friendship.

Nowadays, there are many problems in Japanese society. Japanese people should think the problems seriously and solve that to enjoy our life.

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.

My future plans

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 Masatoshi Yamamoto

I am 19 years old now, and I will graduate from this university in three years. After graduating, I will become a member of the society. However, it is hard to be a regular worker now. There are a lot of irregular workers in Japanese society. Their life is very unstable because of their jobs. It is one of the serious problems in Japan. You can see that Japanese society is very precarious through the book, so I feel uneasy about my future.

First, I am worried whether I can get a stable job. I don’t want to change my work. The employer can discard and replace irregular workers. Therefore, I think that if I become an irregular worker, I will have to spend with the anxiety every day. I don’t know what kind of job I want to get in my future, so I cannot have an enough image of my future. However, I want to be a regular worker and have a stable life.

Second, where is my ibasho (a place of security and stability)? I think that it is my family. I feel very comfortable when I am with my family. My parents are very kind to me. Thanks to them, I could grow up, and thanks to my sister, I can enjoy with her at my home every day. Therefore, my family is very important existence for me. In my future, I also want to have my family, and it will be my ibasho. Of course, my friends are also important for me. I can enjoy my university life with them and help each other when we have problems. I think that the relationships with friends in university life are essential because the relationships will continue from now on.

Through Precarious Japan, there are a lot of serious problems in Japan such as kakusa shakai, hikikomori and muen shakai. I have never experience these feelings because I am rich in friendships and have nice family. I go to university every day and communicate with many people. My parents support my family, so I can have plenty of money. I think that I am really in a lucky circumstance. I have to appreciate for people around me, and I also think that ibasho is necessary for each person to solve the problems such as withdrawal. It will help us when we have issues. Every people should earn each places.

My Future Plan

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

“Stability” is what I would look for in my future work. With whatever job I would have, that will be the top priority I would expect from my work. As Anne Allison points out, “stability” seems to be fading away from today’s Japanese society, in terms of economy and social relationship. Therefore, it is possible that this phenomenon will make it very difficult for me to find a job which would meet my expectation for my future career. In addition, because of this phenomenon, there is currently a serious competition in job hunting among the young generations. Certainly, I will have to be part of the job competition as a competitor in a few years and somehow I will need to find a way to get around the barrier to have a secure job. Now the question is “How?” It can be said that there is no perfect answer for the question, whereas, there are two things which I believe are very important to work on in order to answer the question.

Firstly, it is to have a few but good qualifications. I am aware that it sounds so predictable, on the other hand, my point is that I belive I should be careful not to underestimate the importance of having qualifications. At a job interview, qualifications will play a big role in representing how you can contribute to whichever company you are applying for. Without them, you would be judged as a person with no potentials to dedicate yourself to the company and a society around you, even if you are a skilled person with a strong will to utilize it for them. Hence, I appreciate how important it is to have some qualifications for myself and I have been working on this since I entered my university. I believe that being a university student gave me a privilege to have a lot of free time that I can spend on however I would like to, therefore, I consider it as a great opportunity to spend those free time on investing in myself.

Secondly, the other thing I consider is crucial to work on is to develop a communication skill. Again, this may sound predictable, however, it is one of the most important skills to enable yourself to express what kind of person you are to the others. For example, Japan, with its slow pace, seems to be transforming into a more global nation, and therefore, there are more chances for us to meet people with different nationalities and backgrounds nowadays. To be able to interact well with those who have different cultures and perspectives, I have been striving to learn about some other cultures, languages, religions, politics ,et cetera in my course. If I had proper knowledge about them, I would know how I should talk to the people in an appropriate way. Hence, the way how you communicate with people show your personality in a sense, and that is why developing a communication skill is believed to be very important.

High-tech jobs working conditions: progress toward a brighter future ?

by Anna Dreveau

As high-tech jobs are currently making up to 5.2% of the job market in the United States, their futuristic creative aura has stolen the spotlight from its reality.

Sure, high-tech jobs involve working with the up-to-date technologies, team work, creativity and autonomy. They work in dream-like place (Have you ever seen the Google offices?), with an almost non-existent hierarchical system.

Still, the flip side of those jobs are much less attractive. Pressured by unrealistic deadlines, high- tech workers often have to stay in the office overtime or even overnight; a comfy office, indeed, but you will never get out of here.

Well, actually, you may “get out of here”: an other drawback of those is the job insecurity. Most of high-tech workers are independent contractors; they came to accomplish some specific task. May you be efficient enough, you might be called again; but companies do not guarantee any full-time position nor health care program. This situation sparks fierce competition among peers which ensure intense stress, as everybody have to stay up-to-date in this rapidly progressing field to remain competitive enough.

This “white-collar factory” as Seán Ó Riain nicknamed it, have effects on workers’ social life. Even if family life can be considered as non-existent for those always-working-overtime people, solidarity among peers, despite competition, is strengthening them.

Job insecurity make indeed vertical relationships useless for any workers, who would rather befriend coequals, as they share an identity through their job. Thus, occupational communities bloom, developing mutual assistance and shared information (especially about employment opportunities or latest technologies) between STEM workers. Local communities, as high-tech jobs tend to be found in specific places, are formed and connected to each other, spreading worldwide.

Can we however consider high-tech working trend as progress? If workers still have some sort of social links, all of those resolve around work: friends are current or former colleagues and family can not be the priority as the pressuring competition is taking all the worker’s time. For some, even free time is used for personal projects (as an auto-entrepreneur or an open source contributor). Is making your work the center of your life really a good thing?

Nevertheless, those working conditions are a reality that is extending to other sectors as well. Job insecurity is certainly not STEM sector specificity, as full-time jobs only account for 47% of work nowadays. Besides, even occupational communities can be observed in other professions, such as photocopier repairers, as Julien Orr observed.

Accepting this new reality may be the first step to make things better. Industrial Revolutions did not come as improvement of work conditions at their premise but as unions/bureaucracy were formed, guarantees were granted. Today, as employment security is becoming far off and unions are outperformed by transnational firms, a new system must be implemented to guarantee at least health care, stable income and free time for workers. It may be the turn for occupational communities to grow and voice those demands towards companies all over the world.