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.

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The generation that doesn’t have dreams

by Misora Ohara

I was born after 1991, when the bubble economy burst. We called the bad situation of Japanese economy after the bubble burst “Heisei Fukyo (recession in Heisei).” In addition, sometimes people called children who were born under the Heisei Fukyo the generation that doesn’t have dreams. I was born in this very generation. Therefore, some adults who especially experienced the bubble economy may regard me as a student who doesn’t know dreams. However, I don’t think that we don’t have dreams. This is because I have a dream, and my friends also have their dreams.

In my opinion, the reason why adults call us the generation that doesn’t have dreams is not the fact that students actually don’t have dreams but the difference of the way of thinking about dreams. Adults who experienced the bubble economy think dreams as the situation that people can gain whatever they want, especially expensive material things, such as cars and houses. Also, they know how to get everything what they want and how happy they are after they got everything.

On the other hand, we tend to regard dreams as future plans or jobs. For our generation, dreams are for the future. This is because whenever we talked about dreams in school or family, we were always asked “What do you want to be in the future?” It means that dreams stand for what we want to do as jobs in the future, for us. In addition, the future plans and jobs are based on stability. This is because we only have the experience of recession in Japan. We don’t know how satisfied many Japanese were in the bubble economy. We only heard the story at that time from our parents or teachers.

Besides, after we were born, a kind of track was already established. It means that the course from birth to death was already decided. For example, many students tend to think that they should go to a good high school, enter an intelligent university and get good jobs of famous companies for the high salary. As a matter of fact, in my experience, I haven’t met any friends who want to be comedians or artists. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get those kinds of jobs. However, almost all of us easily think that it is impossible.

In conclusion, the reason why we are called the generation who don’t have dreams is the difference of views about dreams. Actually, we have dreams. However, the dreams are different from what adults indicate. This is because we hope the steadiness for the future.

Balancing career and family for women in Japan

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 Momo Nakamura

How should Japanese women who want to have both a career and family, including children, live in current Japanese society?

This is the ultimate question for me since I am one of the women. In my future, I want to study conflict resolution or peace building in graduate school and have work that require what I have studied. Although I don’t know whether I will stay in Japan or not, it is clear that having a child is very difficult after the age of 30. That means women who want a child have to marry at least by 30.

Marriage is the first and maybe the most difficult part. Of course they don’t have to marry to have a child, however, many of them must be in need of a partner because of the unstable situation of the Japanese society. Raising a child costs a lot and takes time and care, so it will be really hard to do it alone. Those who can prioritize one thing, having family or career, won’t have such difficulty but for women like me, it will be a matter of chance to find a partner while working hard.

I can think of two reasons why I want to marry. One is the stereotype that exists strongly in Japanese society that women’s happiness is to have children and their family. I agree to some extent. It will become a new and fundamental “ibasho” where I can relieve and be needed. Second is about future income. If I became a person who works for peace, I can easily imagine that I don’t have so much income. This is why I need someone who has another way of making money. These two reasons show that although I’m aiming to have a new type of life, I’m still trapped to the old and traditional values and needs.

Second difficult part is the relationships between relatives and neighbors. It is important to maintain good relationships with people around us. We can have various kinds of security we need as families from the relationships that Japanese society have had for a long time in history, and it was mainly women’s job to make the relationships. However, having a new kind of life can make it difficult to have the relationships. When both parents work regularly, there is less time to spend with people around them. Also, people’s way of thinking seems to be changing. When I started to live in Kyoto, I thought I have to go to see my neighbors to say hello, what many Japanese do when they have moved to a new place. However, my parents disagreed because it may be dangerous to tell my neighbors that I’m living alone. Some connections that were seen as a security are now seen as something different. In this situation, it requires active approaches to bring back the security.

I often think of those problems that may occur when I try to realize my dream, and it is deeply connected to the society where we live. Although it is difficult, I want to keep challenging and this type of life may one day become a normal way of life.

Struggle for My Future Plan

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 Mai Nakagawa

There are precarious situations related to my life and future plans which I don’t want to give up. I’d like to point out two issues which Japanese citizens (including me) are inevitably obsessed with, but which are obviously caused by distinct characteristics of the Japanese people. Firstly, the current education system, which is completely set up to destroy the creative capacity and the intelligence of students. For instance, university students started to think about “shukatsu” (job hunting) in early period.  Therefore, what they are studying in the university is only what is useful and necessary for “shukatsu”, not what they are interested in.  There is inclination that student to hate studying and to focus on partying or on a part-time job. When someone asked them “why are you studying at university?”, they might say “Because it’s necessary for getting job to get degree, great marks and a school diploma”.  Students finally cannot find the interesting points and the real meaning of studying, even the connection between the future job and what they are now studying.

Also, there is an insecure job system, which makes human (family) relationship worse.  For my example, my mother, who has 4 children (including me) and works for a kindergarten, couldn’t go back home until the evening. When my brother and I were in elementary school, we had to wait at school or my relative’s house until our mother finished her job. Her income gives her just a little bit of extra spending money.  Our mother have started to work for us, and shows us that she is a powerful women. However, without any children support from her workplace, it’s difficult for her to take a break to look after us when we get sick.  Her choice made a hard situation for us because it took from us a lot of time we could have spent with our mother.

Then, I’d like to move onto my future plans. After graduation, I have two options, one is a postgraduate course and another is what we call “shushoku” (getting a job). Honestly, continuing my studies in university is the best choice for me. Nevertheless, without an adequate income, it’s difficult for me to pay for such expensive school tuition. Also, there is a tacit understanding that “shukatsusei” should be “shinsotsu” (who graduated from school in 4 years to 6 years, whose age is approximately 22 to 24). It’s inevitable to me to consider job hunting (“shushoku-katsudo”) everytime and also to lay out a tight schedule of study.

There is one more struggle when I get a job, to choose to be either a good mother (wife) or a good worker.  Unlike my mother, I don’t want to leave my children alone and let them spend lonely time.  However, it’s my dream to work at the place where I can use my experience and what I learned at university.  It would be great if I could engage in both in the future. However, nowadays, in Japan, it’s still serious matter for me (as a university student, and also as a woman) to figure out what to do in the future.

Imagining my future, with worries and hope

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 Chizuru Kobayashi

My future plan is to get married before I am 25 years old and have two babies. I hope they would be one boy and one girl. After my children enter kindergarten, I will get back to a job. I really have no idea what kind of job I will get in the future.

There is one thing that I want to do with my future family. That is travelling somewhere once a year with a whole family. On the other hand, there are a lot of things that I am worried about the future. If I fail to get a job, this can cause having not enough money to raise the children. Quite a lot of money is needed to get children to go to an university.

In my opinion, these worries are caused by instability of recent Japan. After the bubble economy, Japanese economy was so awful that a lot of people lost everything, such as their home, money, jobs and also future plans. Since then, it got too difficult for young people to get jobs. Actually, my brother is struggling to get his job.

I found that some of my friends go to a developing country to do volunteer or go abroad to study foreign language not because they want to achieve their ambitions, but for the interviews when they are job hunting.

It is ridiculous to spend money for job hunting. I believe that university is the last time that students can do what they want to do. After they get a job, there will be no time to what they want to do. If they want to do a part-time job, it is best to do the part-time job till they get enough of it. Maybe doing volunteer is more profitable than doing a part time job while they are university students. However, there is no need to do what they do not want to achieve.

In this stressful Japan, the place where people can feel really relax, called ibasho, is so important that is very needed. My ibasho is my shower room. The time when I am taking the bath is the most relaxing time for me. In conclusion, finding the way to solute instability of recent Japan is the most thing that young Japanese face.

Dreaming of 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.

by Kim Chang Hwan

My future dream is to have a job in Japan, as a member of airline company. This is one of my reasons for studying in Japan. My first flight was from Korea to Japan on ANA, one of the Japanese airline companies. The experience I could get at that time was wonderful. Nice service, comfortable seats, and the most wonderful thing was flight itself. Enabling people to go abroad, linking a person with flight… that gave me my dream.

For my future, from next year, when I’m a third-year student, you will find me at the career center or at seminars about airline companies. It seems that the most important thing is making a foothold after graduation and getting a job as my wish.

I also thought about marriage. One of my Japanese friends told me about the “kagami-mochi” theory after we listened about the Christmas cake theory. As we learned in class, the requirement of Christmas cake drops after December 26. That can compare to woman’s marriage age, meaning that after 26, it is hard for a woman to get married. Similarly, a man can be compared with Kagami-mochi. Basically, Japanese people buy Kagami-mochi in January 1. This can calculate as December 32. Yes. As you sensed out of point, this means man’s marriage age is 32.

After I heard about this theory, I thought I needed a systematic plan about marriage before I reach the age of 32 reach because I only have 7 years left. My vision of my wishing for a job is quite positive. In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison has a negative vision about Japan. According to Allison, of course it was before the bubble shock in 1990, people were nervous with their own property and became materialistic. And after the bubble shock, the economic system crashed and a lot of people lost their job. Stable jobs  disappeared and the new word “Furita” appeared.

In my opinion, as I mentioned above, airline companies seem stable and one of the great chances for business. The economic shock is now just an old times story. Nowadays, Japan’s economy is high level around the world. For this moment, doing business abroad seems very important. And materialism, actually I don’t think it is bad. With a vision of business, people want to fulfil their desire with materials. However, when they are somewhat satisfied, they want something else, leisure. And that can be travelling. I think airline company is one of the good business which can fill consumer’s demand as I listed above. That is why I think my future job’s vision is positive.

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.

Basic ideas 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.

by Gakuho Goto

To tell the truth, I am one of the young people who do not have a specific idea what I want to be or to do, but feel uneasy for my future. Thus I could not make a concrete plan of my future. However what I have considered important in my life is humanity.

Human relations are an example of it, family, friends, partner, teachers, and so on. Because their relations are open my perspective and give me “ibasho”. As Allison’s text said, Japanese people who live in contemporary Japanese society are likely to lose ibasho. This tendency increases problems like hikikomori and suicide. One of the reasons for the problem is that capitalistic interest is regarded as more important than human time. Many people struggle to get money to have their life better and devote themselves to company. Therefore an opportunity of meeting family or friends are decreased and a distance of them is also expanded. This causes isolation, in other words losing ibasho. Even though they have money, they cannot be satisfied with their lives.

I am not saying that earning money is less important than human time. Poverty is caused by a lack of money and getting money is the presupposition in leading life. But level of happiness has been increasing as time passed. For example consuming was a happiness in Japan of the 90s. Thus next form of happiness should be taken in a whole society. There is an interesting relations between a statistic of working hours in 41 countries and one of world happiness report in 2013. These statistics shows that the countries which have low rate of working hours would get high rate of happiness, especially in Northern Europe. I want to make an analysis of Northern Europe known as welfare state. These countries offer a caring social security system. The young can enroll in university for free, and the elderly people also have a special nursing facilities. Surely the GDP of these countries is not high compared with other developed ones. But humanity is guaranteed widely.

Considering these things, protecting humanity is a meaningful way of increasing happiness in the long run. However the welfare system of Northern Europe is possible in small areas. Firstly I want to make circumstances of respecting humanity at least around me, including in my family. This is little concrete idea what I want to do in my future.

The blessed few in precarious Japan

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 Atsushi Amemiya

When you look for regular work, you will find two kind of jobs. The first type of works is a public officer who is employed by a nation or a local government. The second one is a laborer who works in a private enterprise. Here, I’d like to talk about a public officer in Japan.

Although a public officer had been not a so popular job before the Bubble collapsed, it got first place in many Japanese rankings of dream job after the Bubble collapsed. Actually, I also consider it as a place of employment after graduate as same as many other university students in Japan. Then, why is a public officer so popular in Japan? I think there are three reasons.

The first reason is that a public officer is one of the most stable jobs. It is hard to think that Japan come to a collapse. Moreover also, since the Japanese Government and a Japanese local government adopt a seniority system, a public officer increasingly earn much money as he or she grows older even if he or she produces nothing.

The second reason is that a working conditions of a public officer is relatively better than most of private enterprises. Especially, for women, I think a public officer is one of best jobs in Japan. This is because according to the National Personnel Authority and Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, a job separation rate of women after a marriage is about fourteen times as high as the rate of female government officials after a marriage. A job separation rate of female government officials after a marriage is just 2%. It is surprisingly low.

The third reason is that non-Japanese cannot work as a public officer with few exceptions (a foreign resident of Japan, professors in national or public universities and so on). Now that a market is globalized and Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate, it is time to receive foreign workers from the world. Actually, Prime Minister Abe considers a foreign worker policy that Japan receives 200,000 foreign workers annually. Then, if this policy is carried out, unemployment is growing rapidly in the various fields of industry. However, public officers do not lose their jobs because foreign workers cannot become public officers since they do not have Japanese nationality.

In conclusion, I can affirm that a public officer is one of the best jobs in precarious Japan for the above reasons although I’m not sure that a public officer will be a stable job in the future. Of course, there are institutional weaknesses of a public officer. For instance, the young cannot earn a lot of money even if they produce excellent results in their jobs because of a senior system. However, I think public officers are the blessed few, bearing the weakness in mind because their life was guaranteed by a nation or a local government even in precarious Japan where a lot of Japanese feel a sense of despair.

References

General Equality Bureau Cabinet Office (2013), Danjo kyodou sankaku hakusyo (A report of gender equal society) Retrieved from: http://www.gender.go.jp/about_danjo/whitepaper/h25/zentai/index.html

The National Personnel Authority (2011), Josei kokka koumuin no saiyou touyou no gennjoutou (The present condition about employment and promotion of female government officials) Retrieved from: http://www.jinji.go.jp/saiyoutouyou/sankoushiryou/III.pdf