My future plans and expectations

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 Sana Matsuda

As for my future plan of working, I am thinking of becoming a public servant so that I can work stably. As Allison says, employment situation of Japanese society has been flexible and liquid (Allison 2013). Furthermore, economic situation has continued to be unstable as well. Consequently, I feel it is necessary for me to become one kind of public servant in order to secure my life in this precarious society. More specifically, I would like to be a faculty member of the national university if possible, aiming to improve the Japanese situation as much as possible that the rate of professional women is pretty low (Allison 2013). However, since I will have to repay my scholarships soon after the graduation while struggling to earn living expenses, whether I can go to graduate school, which is necessary for the career, is insecure. Therefore, I am also thinking of another choice to get other jobs such as customs officer or local government employee (public servant, in any case).

At this moment, I can find ibasho within my friends and classes of the university, and my family. However, when I think of my becoming “shakaijin” and working, I feel a little bit anxious that whether I will be able to find it at the workplace as well. Since ibasho is something deeply related to relationships, it will be crucial to build good relationships with others working there. In addition, I would like to make ibasho for my prospective children like what I have felt comfortable within my family.

Speaking of family, I desire to get marry and make a home at latest by 25~26 because I think this would be ideal for having some children safely. In fact, I would like to have about three children so that my future family will be lively, and will also contribute to heightening a birthrate in Japan even just a little. Moreover, I am planning to live in housing for two generations which accommodates my future family and my mother (also parents of my prospective partners if they want) to prevent her from falling kodokushi.

Finally, Allison’s vision that I have felt familiar to my own experience most is the feature of muen shakai. I can find one of the features within my neighborhood. Although I make it a rule to greet the neighbors, I think it is not sufficient because there are rare interchanges among neighbors. Therefore, I would like to think a great deal of not only my career but people around me including my mother, future family, or neighbors.

Reference

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

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Precarious Japan and Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kota Yanagidani

In her book Precarious Japan, Anne Alison discusses the depiction of precarious life in the film “Tokyo Sonata.” In the ensuring paragraphs, this paper introduces “Tokyo Sonata” first, and after that, Allison’s view of “Tokyo Sonata” is analyzed, and my opinion on the movie and Allison’s view comes in the final part.

First of all, this movie starts with the situation that one man loses his job, and the movie shows the family’s life in which the father struggles with hiding the truth about his job. After all, family got to know that he lost his job.

About this movie, Allison says there are also other stories of his sons and wife. They all face some problems and complicated and awkward situations; all members of the family have problems but they gather around the table and eat dinner in almost silence. According to Allison, this family represents muenshakai (relationless society) in which disconnectedness and incommunicativeness are occurring. She writes “No one speaks and no one knows, or asks, why the others look a mess” in his family, and her point is actually shown in his family. Also, Allison claims that the house can be a tool for analyzing the soul. In “Tokyo Sonata,” the soul of the family can be seen when the house actually plays the role of “house” which means the place for family members.

My opinion is for my contemporary situation, I really cannot imagine if I was fired while having a family. I may try to find another job while pretending to go work. However, as for muenkazoku (relationless family), I also cannot imagine how I would manage family as father, but from my experience, love is the most important element in family and this should be shown as a form.

In order to show love as father even mother, relationship have to be a big deal. This means that a family thinking love is relationship in a family must not be involved in muenshakai. The truth, however, is there are a number of relationless families in contemporary Japan, according to Allison. Like Allison points out, the cause of these families is market capitalism. Mentally, this market system makes the family, especially the father, think he has to focus on work in order to take care of his family. Then the mother thinks she is supposed to focus on housework and grow up sons or daughters.

Therefore, to put it simply, muenshakai (relationless society) is a by-product of overly developed capitalism, I think. It should be required not to change market capitalism, but to give rise to solutions like improving the welfare system, which directly leads to people’s happiness while we keep capitalism. Anyway, the government should be involved to make a change in our society.

Will Miku give us hope?

Lady Miku

Lady Miku (Photo credit: m61322)

by Zhang Shiwen

Hatsune Miku (初音ミク) has become a boom all over the world. Like the 2-D fetish or imaginary girlfriend of otaku, she is a digital character who sings with a human voice if people set music to it. Users can set the size of her body, so they can each have their own Miku. According to Bendako (2012), because users can make her move and sing, she is seen as satisfying their fantasy love, such as by saying “I love you” to them. Users can also create music and dance to make her do, and then upload it to the Internet. Following this, the most important reason for the boom is that although she cannot be felt as a human idol, she can imitate a normal human being to encourage users if they create good music, and communicate with them to make users feel happy (Bendako 2012). Miku has fulfilled what Allison said, that “human and the robot to understand each other like human beings” (Allison 2013:102). There came up a heart to heart relationship between Miku and users.

Around 20 years ago, the virtual pet, Tamagotchi, was very popular for people who wanted to experience keeping a pet. People take care of digital pets for fun when they are free, to feel warm when they feel tired, but they can stop and restart whenever they want. No matter whether it’s Miku or Tamagotchi, they are all the productions of prosthetic sociality. They are electronic goods, but we can communicate with them and they can affect us. Although they are digital, the relationship between human and them does exist.

Especially with the development of technology, the electronic goods that accompanied people have changed from a pet in a special electronic screen to a lovely, humanlike girl in computers, PSP, even people can see live performances by Miku on real stages. Moreover, people can use the Internet to share their own Miku music and dance to the world. Users can also get communication through Miku. It is said that these humanoid robots can help “promote companionship and communication” (Allison 2013:102). However, how about the real lives of people who feel healed by prosthetic sociality?

The interesting phenomenon in Japan is that compared to the overflowed information on the Internet, Japanese society is lacking in communication and humanity. People are interested in saying things on the Internet, but refuse to communicate with their families and neighbors. I totally agree with Allison’s criticism that prosthetic society will weaken “human ties in the family, workplace, and community” (Allison 2013:101). The bad effect is appearing, and I myself am an example.

My parents were very busy and had no time to take care of me, so they bought me a DVD player. Maybe they thought it was good for me to have a companion, like the mother is happy for her five-year-old son to have a Tamagotchi. However, I just repeated watching DVDs and wanted to be a good child to not be a nuisance (mendokusai). Now when I looked back over my childhood, I prefer being a bad child to having more touch with my parents. Due to that, I am afraid that I will become a user of care robotics, as I grow old. I do not want to taste loneliness again.

Prosthetic sociality will not save people. It is like a drug, which can make people happy temporarily, but the side effect, feeling lonelier, will continue in the future. People will grow older. The day when they get out of the prosthetic sociality will come, but they cannot find any connection with others at that time. People relay on digital life maybe because their parents or friends cannot give them more care or touch, or they shut down their family life themselves. However, as a result, escaping from the reality is not a good choice. I appreciate Tamura Hiroshi and others, who can face to the difficulties of life. The prosthetic society can be a good entertainment, but will not give us hope.

References

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

Bendako. June 10, 2012. Hatsune Miku ha naze konnani ninkinano? [Why is Hatsune Miku so popular?]. Retrieved from http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2012/06/10/005/

Who is Hatsune Miku? http://ggsoku.com/2013/07/miku-hatsune-mac-english-summer/

Finding where one belongs

Anonymous student post

Last week, we watched a movie, “Tokyo Sonata“. When I watched the movie, I found that this movie may not only tell us “The real of people who have no job” but also “muen shakai”. I’ll talk about meaning of this movie with Anne Allison’s opinion.

“For this era of sarariman Japanese, was where one “belonged” and got socially nested.” Alison said in the book Precarious Japan. In the movie Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa, who is the leading character in the movie, had an “ordinary” Japanese family and an “ordinary” job. But when he lost his job, simultaneously he lost sight of his life by degrees. We may think and know life is not only to work, however, it is not easy to say we can find happy without working in Japan. Kurosawa’s losing job leaded some problems in his family.

When I watched this movie, at first, I thought this family was normal like my family. But I know that “ordinary” is not “normal”. I think Japanese are possessed with the idea that men must work, women must do household affairs and children must go school and university. But this is not the only style to live. Maybe Kurosawa believed he must work and working was only his purpose, so he lost job, he gave up hope and his family began breaking down.

Alison said, “This is a movie about what is ordinary in the (de)sociality – disconnectedness, intercommunicates – of Japan’s muen shakai. Families where no one speaks; communities where a long time resigned can starve to death without seeking or receiving help from a neighbor next door”. And she pointed out stronger muen shakai even if they have family or their own home than jobless. I realized and am surprised that if we have home, family and money, we have a dangerous part in muen shakai. In this movie, Kurokawa family can eat food and children can go to school and somewhere, but their communication is poor, and I felt they didn’t look like happy.

In the last of this movie, members of Kurosawa family found their own way to live. I think they broke down the old way the had lived as “ordinary” family. To be out of ordinary life, they got real happy. This movie told me many problems in Japan, especially in family and the importance of breaking out of the loop days. I now go university, however, I realized it is not important to go university, but it is important to realize the real thing I want to do. After watching this movie, I was able to know ordinary isn’t only way to live.

References

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

Tokyo Sonata. 2008. The Media factory Inc. from: http://www.mediafactory.co.jp/tokyosonata/

 

In Search of Muenshakai

by Atsuko Omura

These days, there are various kinds of cafés in Japan. For example, in a snack bar, customers select their drinks and chatted with neighborhood friends and the master. Thus, people offer foods or drinks, chat with customers and receive them warmly. Allison defines them as “global affective labor”. The Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko pointed out that global affective laborers do not only sex work but care work, as seen in the recent migrations of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers into Japan (Allison, 2013, p.99).

Densha Otoko

Densha Otoko (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

In Japan, maid cafés or imoto café have been popular in Japanese culture after the vogue of Densha Otoko and Akiba. And otaku culture has begun to spread. So many crimes have happened every year. For instance, the master hires girls who are so young. In general, the pay of global affective labor is higher than that of other jobs. In fact, the pay of a girl’s bar in Umeda, which is given in Townwork is about 1,100 yen per hour. Most pay of many places to eat in Umeda is from 800 yen to 900 yen, so the pay of the girl’s bar should be so attractive for young girls.

Young girls begin to work at the maid café, imoto café, girl’s bar and so on, drink sake and chat with customers. They are so satisfied with earning easy money to be able to play or buy many things only chatting with customers. However, these work are dangerous. Many cafés are situated in amusement areas―for example, Kabuki-cho, Namba, Umeda, Gion, and so on. At night, many people come and go. Many crimes tend to occur in these areas, so they may be implicated in a crime. And working at night may prevent the ordinary lives of students―getting up and going to schools in the morning, taking lessons in their schools, eating dinner with their families at home, and sleeping at night. So we should stop hiring young girls.

I think that the reason why people pay for affection from maids, hostesses, and other sources is that people want connection with other people. These days, it is said that Japanese society is “muenshakai”.  Everyone struggles and lives each life frantically. So I agree with Allison’s analysis, and not only the Japanese government but also the individual citizen should think about social problems in Japan and try to solve them.

 

Reference

 

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

 

Present Human Relationships in Japan

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho...

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho, Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Narumi Ito

Anne Allison mentioned “global affective labor” in her book. Affective labor need not only physical strength but also restrain on emotion and tension on their work. Thus they always smile and pay attention to customers. Japan has affective labor such as a waiter, a flight attendant, hostess and maikosan. Especially, maikosan is unique to Japanese culture. They play Japanese instruments and perform traditional dances. In addition, a person who has never been to Japanese restaurants in which maikosa work cannot get services by maikosan because of ichigen san no kotowari (maikosan rejects people who do not connect with other customers). Thus maikosan tend to have “good” relationships with their customers.

On the other hand, a hostess is different from maikosan. They drink with customers, especially, most of them are office workers and hear their talking. Some customers talk proudly about themselves and complain about their jobs or families. Thus hostesses have to praise and pay compliments to them. There are two reasons why people want to go to clubs in which hostess provides drinks and chat with their customers.

The first reason is that people do not have “real” relationships. They are under stress, feel lonely and worry about their ibasho. After the Second World War, people worked hard and they could have time to spend with their families and friends. They could not consult with their parents about their worries. In addition, it was more difficult for them to keep company with their coworkers than with their families because fellow workers were just people who work with them in same offices. Thus they cannot find their ibasho in their lives any more.

However they think that they want to have someone hear their troubles. If they cannot consult their troubles with their families or friends, they will come to seek people who can advise to them, even if the people are stranger for them. They go to hostess clubs and confide their feelings. A hostess always hears their worries. Moreover, a hostess always praises her customers thus they can feel better.

The second reason is that customers do not need to worry about relationships with hostesses. People do not have opportunities to meet hostesses unless they visit hostess clubs. Thus if they have a quarrel with a hostess, they do not mind about it because they are outsiders in each other’s lives. It connects with mendoukusai. In modern Japan, they consider relationships as troublesome things because it is hard for them to keep and continue on good conditions.

In conclusion, if muenshakai is worse, people need to depend on stranger to solve their problems in Japan in the future. Thus people should have strong relationships even if they have only one. Japanese people have to own the same image of Japanese future which people have closer relationships and Japan will become stable.

Solving social problems in Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yuko Hiromori

Today’s Japan has many social problems, for example poverty, unemployment, suicide, and so on. Especially unemployment is very serious and important problem. A movie, Tokyo Sonata, described the collapse of a family in Tokyo. They usually live a peaceful life every day until the father, Ryuhei, is fired by his company. In Japan, if we are not a regular employee once, it is said to be very difficult that we again get a job which is equal to our previous job. So if we want to get another job, we have to have patience with the severe labor condition—low salary, insufficient social security, unstable employment and so on.

The condition of family finances has a direct connection with children’s education. In wealthy families, the parents can let their children go a private school and go accomplishments. In the movie, Ryuhei’s second son wants to go to piano school but Ryuhei cannot allow him to do so because of his lost job. Allison says in her book that parents who are rich let go their children to a cram school and they enable their children to acquire a good school background. In Japanese society, when a person enters a company, their school background is a factor to judge their ability. Some parents believe that the better their children’s academic background, the easier they enter a famous company, get a high salary, and secure stable employment. Children in such environments can start the school competition to get better employment environment and win the competition.

It is clear that irregular employment contains some bad factors—low salary, unstable employment. However regular employment has problems too. Indeed, regular employment is more stable compared to irregular employment. But in return for the stableness, regular employment is needed a certain extent responsibility in the work. In other words, regular employment has to be needed a lot of work. For instance, a Japanese man, he is an office worker, worked hard every day till late at night. It was not long before he led to his bad mental condition. It is said this condition depression. In case of suffering from the illness, there is possibility that a patient may have to take a rest or resign his office. If the patient lapsed such situation, it is difficult to return to his office again. Things which the worst possible is karoushi (death from overwork).

Tokyo Sonata described the weak relations in families through Japanese social problems. Also, Alison argued that the weakness of human relations in Japan gave rise to muenshakai. I think the two things have common factors, in short, human relations. So, I consider that the change of it is a clue to improve Japanese society.

Reference

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

A chain of refugeeism

by Ruri Inoue

As Anne Allison says in her book, Precarious Japan, there is a chain of “refugeeism” in the current society in Japan, that also has the another nickname, “muen shakai”. In this “muen shakai”, there are bunches of people who are literally excluded from their companies or families by being fired or abandoned, et cetera. Also, there are bunches of people who have a place of their own (“ibasho”), however, they do not feel like they belong to anywhere or anyone. I believe that “refugees” in this context could be categorized into these two groups that one is a group which physically and emotionally become lost in life due to not having a place they could belong to. In contrast, the other one is a group which emotionally suffers from the sense of lost due to their inner vision that is brainwashing them into thinking as if they are not needed or accepted by others or societies.

It could be said that the “muen shakai” is deeply tied with the unbreakable chain of the “refugeeism”, which has accidentally created some of the monster groups known as hate groups and cults as unpredicted spin-offs. For instance, there was or is a cult group called Aum Shinrikyo, which is infamous for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. It is not too sure why each member of the Aum Shinrikyo joined it as the reason is likely to differ among the members. On the other hand, I have heard that some university students, who were struggling to find someone or somewhere they can cling to, made themselves involve into the cult group because it made them feel as if they finally found a place where they can call their own “ibasho” and anything its leader Asahara said became the truth of life to them.

“Couldn’t they have found somewhere else?”, I wonder. But it is probably a wrong question. I guess it should be like “Wasn’t there anywhere else they could find?” One of the possible reasons why they became stuck with the cult group is that they hadn’t probably known elsewhere to ask for help. In other words, the access to some institutions or groups who are experts in helping people find connections are almost invisible and hidden in this society. Honestly, I am too sure about it but at least this is how I feel about today’s society in Japan. They really need to come out on the surface, make themselves more visible, and as a result, that would possibly contribute to reduce the numbers of those who gets misled into dangerous and life-threatening communities.

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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.