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.

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.

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

Future plans, destroyed dreams, and heartless people

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 Yohei Kondo

I have some plans for future. The first one is to graduate Ritsumeikan University in four years. After that, I’m planning to go back to Hiroshima which is my home town and get a job at Mazda car company, because my family is living in Hiroshima and my grand mother wants me to come home. My house in Hiroshima is one of ibasho for me, because everytime I come home, my family says “Welcome home” and I feel relaxed with them. My father is working at Mazda. It is one of the biggest companies in Hiroshima and it is paid work. My mother is teaching English for high school students. Thanks to my parent’s effort, I could come to Kyoto and study what I want to do. My mother’s side grandmother is living with my parents. On the other hand, my dad’s side grandmother is over seventy years old, however she is living by herself. I’m worrying about her, because in the book Precarious Japan there were two stories about old people who died because they were disconnected from others. I think these reports realized me how important to have a connection with others.  Also, I want to get married before I am 30 years old and have 2 children just like my parents. I would like to spend much time with my family on every Saturdays and Sundays.

However, these plans are unstable because of today’s Japanese society. It is getting more and more difficult for us (young people) to get a job because a large number of companies employ cheaper laborers from other countries. I am apprehensive about this job shortage could increase the number of “furita”,“hikikomori” and “parasite singles” and it create a “muen-shakai”. In my future, if I am a furita or something like that, I probably cannot get married because of short income. Typically, Irregular workers income is less than regular worker’s one. Regular workers get 4 million yen per year, on the other hand, average irregular worker’s annual income is under 2 million yen. It means that it is difficult for irregular workers to have children and take care of their family too.

I think these structures of Japanese society are destroying people’s dreams and creating heartless people.  So, what we have to do are to find our own ibasho where we can feel comfortable, build a relationship with those around us, be nice to other people in order to exterminate the word of “muen-shakai” from Japan.

Avoiding Precarity

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 Shun Aoki

There are several things that I hope to achieve in the future, which are actually still quite vague. First, putting it simply, I hope to become someone who is internationally active. Perhaps, I could achieve this by working for a foreign multinational company. I have one major reason as to why this is a realistic and appealing future for me. It is that I want to have a working environment where “typical Japanese values of working” is non-existent. This is the reason why foreign multinational company is the most preferable alternative, and not Japanese company. As Allison (2013) illustrates, in contemporary Japan, labor is continual and tends to merge with one’s life (p. 16). However, I hope to clearly draw a line between work and personal life. Through the experience of living in Belgium for 5 years, I found that the average working class in Belgium are able to separate their jobs and personal lives, which is a trend I hardly see in Japanese society. For instance, their priority is spending a time with their family, and hierarchical relationship at their workplace rarely affects their personal lives. To put it differently, I am attracted to the Western values when it comes to working environment.

It is not that I want to run away from the precarity in Japan and I am aware that my generation has to face the current situation and live through the hard time. However, forecasting its future from present situation frightens me. For example, the LDP is now trying to pass a labor legislation that will abolish working limit and obligation for the companies to provide their workers days off (Kanetani 2014). Such a policymaking is believed to increase the number of overwork deaths and it could worsen the precarity issue. This is another reason why I would like to work in an international environment.

Another goal is to have a family and let them have the same quality of life as I currently do, thanks to my father. What is important is that, in my life, I’ve always had a choice and never been coerced to choose certain path, which I believe is only possible due to a stable source of income. In other words, I do not want my future kids to be in a situation where having a precarious job is the only option. I believe that in the future, family will always be my ibasho, as it always has been. Ibasho, in my opinion, is a place that one can always “save” and go back to regardless of time. My friends from high school, or even from elementary school, have always been my ibasho where I can feel like a worthy individual. I believe it can be meaningful to place importance on keeping in touch with old friends and having “tsunagari”, because these would provide an individual more ibasho (Allison 2013, p. 20). I feel that it would be wonderful if I was able to have my workplace as my ibasyo where I have a good human relationship and am able to show my ability to the fullest. This way, working will not be something too stressful.

In conclusion, my future is still unclear and my plan is mostly based on the idea of “how to avoid precarity.” For this reason, in a next few years, I hope to find myself a clear future goal, so that I will be able to work on my own initiative to achieve that goal. To be honest, I am quite optimistic about my future career. And preferably, I would like not to become a part of the precarious society, but become a leading force to solve this issue.

References

Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp. 16-20). Duke University Press.

Kanetani, T. (2014). What is ’no overtime money’ system? Retrieved from https://kotobank.jp/word/「残業代ゼロ」制度-189789

Lack of confidence and education

corridor in a Japanese elementary school. The ...

corridor in a Japanese elementary school. The sign says “You do not run.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Kotaro Yamamoto

Is it Japan really hopeless country? Do you have a hope in your future? According to government survey, many young people in Japan not have confidence on themselves. In 2014, Japanese government did cabinet decision about kodomowakamono hakusho (children・youth white paper) and it shows difference between Japanese youth and youth in some other countries (kodomowakamono hakusho, 2014). Survey conducted on men and women between age of 13 to 29 from 7 countries such as Japan, Korea, United States, England, Germany, France, and Sweden. About a thousand of people in each countries answered through the Internet. As the result, people who answered question that “Are you satisfied yourself?” are only 45.8% in Japan. On the other hand, other 6 countries got more than 70%. The question that “Do you have a hope in your future?” also shows same proclivity as former question, only 61.6% of Japanese youth answered as positive. However, other 6 countries got more than 80%.

Through this survey, I can’t stop worrying about future of Japan. In the future, I want to some how contribute to education especially for younger age people. I think education is very important factor through human life. However, it is difficult to change that Japanese education. I suggest that the reason why many youth in Japan have no confidence is because of Japanese education system. In Japan, many school have to follow same kind of education system. There is “juken” which is entrance exam for university. Most of junior high or high school have to do the education program only for that exam. All people who want to go to college have to get a high score to enter the good one. Japan still has an academic career-based society, so people have to enter good college to get a nice job. Many people think that to have a good life, we have to study and enter good college then get an informal appointment from big company as “Shinsotsu” (new graduate student). This system gives stop thinking as creative. They are required to find one answer so person who answered wrong will exclude.

I think this is one of the biggest reasons making atmosphere that “strange” or “different” people are eliminate from Japanese society. When I was elementary school student, I lived in America. My family was in Los Angele

s but many people treated our family member as friends. However, some of my American friends told me that Japan is closed society and sometimes feel uncomfortable because of his nationality. In the future, Japan will face more severe situation. To break through it, we have to revive confidence of Japanese youth.

Reference

Naikaku-Fu. (2014, June 3). KodomoWakamono Hakusho (Children・Youth White Paper). Retrieved from http://www8.cao.go.jp/youth/kenkyu/thinking/h25/pdf/b2_1.pdf