The pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan spea...

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ami Yamada

In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison regards the movement that forced people to have more self-responsibility (“jiko sekinin”) as a negative on the whole. After the bursting of bubble, the Japanese government has reformed some traditional Japanese systems and shifted more responsibility to the individual rapidly. The movement was attributed to spread neo-liberalism in Japan. The government adopted the idea and promoted some policies, for example, a massive deregulation and restructuring platform, which were based on market fundamentalism and capitalism.

Moreover, under such a situation, the Prime Minister Koizumi pushed on “structural reform without sanctuaries”, including system of health care. Reforms based on neo-liberalism and market fundamentalism produced bipolarization, that is, rich and poor. It is hard for people who fell into poor spiral once to get out of the loop of poor, and now, there are many poor people who are left by even social safety nets and cannot make a basic life. Allison mentions that they float at work and drift in life as NEET, net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on. Allison also says that these situations do not match the right which is guaranteed by the article 25 of Japanese constitution; all people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.

As I received Aliison’s thought, then I myself think about “jiko sekinin”. First, I state pros of it. I think that we can choose almost all things by ourselves like in Japanese society, although free choices always have responsibility. It depends on yourself whether go to school, work, get marriage, have a child, or not. In addition, people who make effort or have talent can succeed and become a winner in neo-liberal society. The more effort you make, the much salary you can get. It can motivate you and may tell you how important you try to do your best.

Next, I think about cons of “jiko sekinin”. People were given the right of free choices and had to bear the responsibility by themselves at the same time. However, I think that the situation, “free”, varies from person to person. I mean, it is not good to force people to hold yourself responsible for everything (especially bad, negative thing), although people can live in only place where has limited by something already.

To be honest, I cannot say to be for or against the movement “jiko sekinin” sweepingly. However, I believe strongly that it is nonsense to label someone who is like net café refugees, homeless, hikikomori and so on as a just lazy without considering their background and social circumstance. Not only government also we should support these people properly.

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What is “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin)

Anonymous student post

I’d like to talk about the pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”.

In the Koizumi administration, privatizing was performed under the idea of “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin). However, he hardly invested in social programs including welfare. About this, Anne Allison says that she agree with Yuasa’s view that “the government even more implicit” (p.52) to the depression such as the decline of wage brought by the burst of the bubble and the shift in labor patterns. She regards this movement as negative one.

First of all, what is individual responsibility? I was said by my father. “Can you have individual responsibility?” I answered. “Yes, I have responsibility for my actions without fail.” Then, my father said “People who understand what the responsibility is rarely say the word of responsibility” Hearing this, I was noticed that individual responsibility is something heavier than I thought, and I don’t know how far I bear the responsibility. From then, I have been thinking what individual responsibility is. However I don’t find the answer yet. Therefore I’d like to think this question through this.

Firstly, what people think and act in the individual responsibility make them to think about their action carefully. Therefore, people who proceed to the some bad situation such as having no job may decrease. I think it is the pros of the individual responsibility.

However, I suspect that privatizing under the banner of individual responsibility is the escape of responsibility for government. Some companies go out of business nothing is granted from the government. Also, I think helping each other decreases and kindness is lacking by reason of their self-responsibility. If the self-responsibility society continues, the society will be a selfish one, thinking of only oneself. For example, if you are abducted in a foreign country, some governor or some people will regard it as self-responsibility. They will criticize that you understood that the area was dangerous and went there. Individual responsibility influences to at least other people or around your environment. If those are all responsibility of action caused by me, I feel the responsibility is grave. Having been abducted. Being homeless because of various home environment. If becoming such result is all the responsibility of themselves, Japanese society will be horribly cold society.

In conclusion, it is important for each person to have individual responsibility. However, I think current Japanese society is the abandonment society named self-responsibility. People criticizing by reason of self-responsibility should think deeply of vulnerable groups in society.


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

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Positive and negative impacts of jiko sekinin

by Masanori Takino

Jiko sekinin, in other words, “self-responsibility” is one of the most complicated and arguable terms. In Japanese society, jiko sekinin can be seen as common sense. Many people think that jiko sekinin is natural and correct. However, jiko sekinin is a form of pressure for some people, therefore there should be some negative opinions. This paper will show the both, positive and negative impact of jiko sekinin

Jiko sekinin can flourish abilities. Jiko sekinin can enhance the responsibility for what the people do or will do. Simply imagine a Japanese workplace. A worker will have two feelings, depending on the situation. The first situation is that when workers could do the work well. If workers succeed in their work, the boss might praise them. It would make the workers motivated for the work and feel more responsibility for their work. The second situation is that when workers would make mistakes or fail. Of course, worker are human beings, they do not always perform well. They will be scolded by their boss, and would feel that they have to accomplish their work properly. There might be a sense of self-responsibility for the workers to the work at which they failed. Those two situations of the workplace give a chance to grow a sense of self-responsibility, jiko sekinin.

Jiko sekinin sometimes can break people’s lives. Too much responsibility can make people feel stress. We Japanese people are really proud, or have a feeling of obligation. If we fail to do something, we might be disappointed in ourselves. When a person is a charge of some important tasks, they will get a sense of mission and a self-responsibility for the works. This feeling sometimes can be the pressure for some people. Moreover, too much pressure might lead to hikikomori for some people because they lose their confidence in themselves or escape from the fact that they failed to do something. Therefore, jiko sekinin occasionally affect badly for people.

It is really difficult to argue about jiko sekinin. The self-responsibility, of course, can enrich people’s lives. However, sometimes there are negative effects for some people. We cannot make clear decision for whether or not jiko sekinin is significant for our lives. It is depending on what the individual people think, and feel. However, in Japanese society, or if you will be employed in the future, jiko sekinin is necessary, because you always must have the responsibility for what you do.

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There’s more than one path to success

by Yuki Kamino

I understood Anne Allison’s way of thinking about “jiko sekinin” in this way. She says that with high economic growth, our level of life has improved a lot and Japanese people gradually put more emphasis on making money to live better. Family roles are also divided, as fathers go to a company, mothers do housework for their family, and even children have a role in that they have to go to school. In this change of society, a lot of Japanese think it ideal to succeed at school, get a secure job and find a good marriage partner. This course to better life is important to be independent and it is also an important status for Japanese people. As Allison says, this is becoming stronger in today’s atmosphere, but while some are able to walk this course, there are another who are thrown out from there. Those people feel difficulty in life (ikizurasa) and tend to become “hikikomori”.

The good points of “jiko sekinin” is that to be independent, people make a lot of effort. Thanks to their big effort, our level of life has largely improved and we are one of the developed countries. Moreover, as today is called a competitive society, we have a mutual influence on each other, so we have much expectation in the future still more.

While a competitive society give us benefits, it also brings a gap between rich people who are good at accepting themselves to the society and people who are not good at it. I think this is a result of “jiko sekinin”.

I feel that Japanese society has a model in how to be a good person or live better life is written, and a lot of Japanese believe it and are eager to follow it. I think because of the model, some successful people look down on others, and those others more and more feel “ikizurasa”.

In my opinion, we should get out of the model. Of course we have to be independent, but I think the new way can be different, depending on people. I was very surprised at the story of Chihara. He is a very famous comedian who appears in a lot of TV programs. If people know only his past that he did not go to school and confined himself in his room … they could have a bad impression of him. However, we know he makes us happy through TV, and he is loved and respected by many people. No one makes fun of him.

As we can see from the story of Chihara, there is not only one way to success. I believe we should have our own course to be independent.

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Thinking about “jiko sekinin”

by Yume Furumura

When we do something by ourselves, we must have the responsibility in many cases. To become a member of the society, we need “self-responsibility” (jiko sekinin).

In the book Precarious Japan, Anne Allison explains how self-responsibility was promoted by the government under Prime Minister Koizumi. In 2004, some Japanese (who were doing volunteer work) were captured by insurgents who demanded the Japanese government withdraw troops. Nevertheless, the government refused to negotiate and denounced the hostages for irresponsibly “causing Japan so much trouble”. Certainly, people who go to the dangerous places should have resolution and responsibility. However, I think that the people who were captured them must also have strong convictions. The government has to defend and act for the people in any case. I feel that the government pursued about their responsibility too much. In my opinion, the Japanese government should have respected their activities more.

I think the phrase jiko sekinin is used in a broad meaning and various situations, and to have jiko sekinin is very important to make the society well organized. For example, if politicians don’t have accountability for what they say, we cannot trust the government. Conversely, the politician whose actions correspond to his words is believed by people. Responsible people are socially acceptable. Then, the idea of self responsibility allows us to do things freely. Without permission under jiko sekinin, free-lance journalists cannot go and do they want to.

However, people sometimes cannot live with security if they are pressured by jiko sekinin. Many people are dismissed from their companies suddenly, and most of them cannot put up opposition if they are told that it is their responsibility. Now young Japanese tend to quit their jobs voluntarily, being obsessed by the thought of jiko sekinin. (In Japan in the olden days, samurai performed hara-kiri to take responsibility. I doubt that such cultures make Japanese do, throwing away their lives.)

Then, in the world, there are many things we cannot deal with by only ourselves. Allison says as follows, “In the face of encroaching precarity, greater expectations are being placed or not only the individual (under the urgency to be “self-sustaining” and individually responsible) but also the government to help people manage life.” The poor cannot live without economic support. Many people need supports of someone.

We have to be careful when we use the phrase jiko sekinin. To have responsibility is essential for making a good relationship in the society, but we must not forget that the word may put a person in a hole.


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

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Jiko sekinin—does it help us?

by Tomoki Bischel

Is jiko sekinin (individual responsibility) a good thing? For a long time I have thought of it not as a good thing but more of a matter of course. Therefore, I was for jiko sekinin. A few experiences made me think this way. One of them was during junior high school. Two classmates of mine had started a fight during lunch break and the teacher got very disappointed about this and decided to make us stay late after school and discuss about this topic, saying it was rentai sekinin (group responsibility). However, although I was for jiko sekinin, reading Anne Alison’s book gave me a new point of view: the aspects of jiko sekinin being a bad thing. So, I have decided to sort out the pros and cons of jiko sekinin in order to make things clear.

One of the pros of jiko sekinin is the aspect that helps us have responsibility over what we do. Being told that what you do is up to you, and that you have to take responsibility for it, people will stop to think if what there about to do is sufficient. So, in a way, jiko sekinin can act as a sort of legal force and help us not do the things we should avoid.

However, there are cons to this, and the biggest con, I believe, is that it can turn to something very cruel. This connects to what Anne Allison mentions in her book. Too much coercion can cause stress against people and start to build fear against society in them and be unable to feel at ease. Therefore, looking at this aspect, it may be said that jiko sekinin is one of the reasons of this precarious Japan that we live in now. However, does this tell us that we should lose the idea of jiko sekinin?

As I mentioned, jiko sekinin has both sides of the coin, and both sides have a really important role. So, what can we do or what should we do? I believe that just ignoring the idea of jiko sekinin will not solve the problem but cause more. What we need to do is to respect human-to-human relationships, and try to help each other above the idea of jiko sekinin. Although this may sound very vague, I strongly believe that this is very important and in the future, jiko sekinin will be something a lot better for the society than it is now.

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