Precarious life for Japanese women at work

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

This time I would like to think about how is the current precariousness of life in Japan affecting my plans.

After graduate from Ritsumeikan University I would like to get a job. To get a job, I have to do job hunting but there is a “ikizurasa” for woman. It is said that women have much difficulty when they do job hunting because many of the companies think that women tend to retire after they get married, or have children. The companies don’t want to hire people who clearly quit job because no matter how supervise women, it will be absolutely nothing. But there are many women who will not get married or have children. So I think there is a unfairness between men and women, and it will be a “ikizurasa” for Japanese women.

Even if I write this way, I think I will quit job when I have children, and it is related to “ikizurasa” because I believe there is “ikizurasa” not only in the society but also in the company. There is a system that men/women can take a childcare holiday for several weeks whenever the employees want. I think that it is a good system for everyone who got children because you can take care of them, not to abolish or leave them in grandparents care. However, if you take childcare holiday, you will fall behind to the same period. I don’t think that falling behind to the peers is a bad thing, but most of the companies regards the employee as lacking of the ability. But there is a bad aspect to take a childcare holiday.  After I take the holidays, it will be difficult to get back to the job because I would not know how was the company going on during I take the holidays. I think this means that l will lose my “ibasho” in the company. I regard “ibasho” as the place where I can get comfort both physically and mentally. I have a image that companies change very fast so even if the employees take holidays for a while, it will be difficult to catch up the work, and surrender will be changed.

After I raise up my children, I want to open a small English private cramming school in my house. These days, we have variety of jobs nothing to do with gender. I think this is a improvement of “ikizurasa”.

Above all, these are my life plan and thinking. I want to find my “ibasho”.

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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.

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

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/

Global affective labor and Japanese society

by Mizuki Watanabe

Anne Allison refers to “global affective labor” in her book Precarious Japan. In this blog post, I would like to write about “global affective labor” and Japanese society in Japan.

In the beginning, we will define “global affective labor”. According to Allison, it’s is defined as workers that sell “affection” to customers. For example, Cat Cafes, Maid Cafes, and so on and we can see those examples in her book. Also “global affective labor” has globalized. Therefore we can see laborers performing it in foreign countries. Moreover Allison mentions that people pay for affection from those services. And she thinks it is related to people thinking that relationships are tiresome (mendokusai) as well.

As we can see in Allison’s book, it is “easy” for customers to visit those kinds of shops because they do not have to be in trouble any more. If people visit Cat Cafes, they need not have own cats. Keeping pets is tiresome (mendokusai) because we have a responsibility to look after them as their parents. If they visit Maid Cafes or Host Clubs, they need not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Going together with her or him is tiresome (mendokusai) because it is possible that we are in trouble such as a quarrel, a period of lassitude, unfaithfulness and talk about ending a relationship. Temporary relationships are comfortable for them. They can satisfy their demand when it’s convenient. Just by paying money, they can get an ideal world without making an effort.

I can bring myself to accept her idea because I might be one of the global affective laborers in Japan. I can understand what is it easily. I have worked at Kyoto Kokusai Hotel as a bell girl. Bell girls and boys are educated to have good customer-service skills. For a fine example of it, we cannot show our real feelings directly especially negative feelings such as anger, displeasure, and so on. We have to smile all the time except settlement of complaints and when a complaint is lodged, we must not take a defiant attitude toward guests and have to say sorry to them continually. If a surly person comes, we fawn upon. If guests want to talk to us, we have to talk to give our sympathy to them. Those facts can be interpreted as that I sell “affection” to guests. Then, I guess that guests must be comfortable because they are deluded that they are respected, pleased, and not being denied by us.

Anyway, “global affective labor” does many services more than that I mentioned about my part-time job. For instance in Maid Cafes, staff members who wear maid costumes must massage customers’ shoulders or ears to make guests comfortable. Such services have become more common in Japan lately. There are many kinds of “affective services” as well. A lot of foreign media draw attention to it actually. Therefore in foreign countries such as Asian and European countries, those kinds of cafes are becoming widely known.

In addition to Alison’s opinion, we can say with fair certainty that those forms of affective labor were born from Japanese traditional spirit. It is “OMOTENASHI” spirit. The spirit deeply rooted in Japan from of old. Of cause we can be proud of this because this spirit has supported the Japanese economy and society for long time. I read many foreign articles and news that praise this. However, lately Japanese society has been absolutely unstable and many people feel uneasy about their relationships and so on. Then, too many services like Maid Cafes have grown in society to alleviate tired people’s minds. And people noticed that relating with this world is more comfortable and happier than the real relationships because it is easy and not tiresome. Ironically, by connecting this great Japanese “OMOTENASHI” spirit with recent people’s feeling that is uneasy one, those affective works have spread and people feel real world is tiresome (mendokusai).

As stated above, I strongly agree with her opinion.

Reference

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

Konseputo café, naze hisokani bumu? [Concept Cafes, why is it in boom? ] Yahoo JAPAN news Retrieved June 3, 2014 from http://zasshi.news.yahoo.co.jp/article?a=20140507-00010000-bjournal-bus_all

Can We Start Over Again?

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

We watched Japanese movieTokyo Sonata” in the class. This movie strongly appealed to us that how the Japanese society is. In particular, it focused on one family which is a normal one in Japan. But existing problems which brothers had have come to the light and their father was fired. In other words, one trouble causes another one. Their mother suffered from them. And all of them seeks their new ways in this story. As the most interesting point, they not only act as members of a family, but the film shows the actual example that Japanese people have now.

I can say that this movie relates to Anne Allison’s book deeply. In short, this shows how Japan is precarious. For instance, their elder brother was like typical young person of today in Japan. Like Allison says, many young people do not have hope or dream for the future. And they do not know what they want to do or should do. Finally he joined the American army in the movie. Moreover, their father who was fired by his company was also important. He met with some misfortune; dismissal, the death of his friened who was in the same situation, coming out of his dismissal and being a contract worker. Halfway through the movie, the family seemed to be about to split. However, they wanted to start over again in spite of such a bad situation. But I have a question. Can the loser really start over again in Japan?

In the movie, they understood the situation they were in and stood together again. But how is it in this real world? Now Japanese society is regarded as a strict society. In terms of failure, if someone makes some mistakes, he/she can not get over them. So people try to avoid the risk and seek safe lives. When such lives collapse even if they are safe, they fall in panic. Many Japanese will try to hide the fact if they lose their job. In the movie, in fact, several contract workers were wearing suit before working despite they did not need to wear. This scene means Japanese care too much about appearance. They never want others to know the dismissal.

In conclusion, I think Japanese society have to be more tolerant. Of course, I know that people are too tired to give a helping hand to others and all they can do is to support themselves. So we must aim to let this society be like that. And then loser will try again easiliy. Failure is not big thing.

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/

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/

 

Tamagotchi, prosthetic sociality, and starvation in Japan

English: My very own Tamagotchi.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Masanori Takino

Author Anne Allison created the concepts techno-intimacy and prosthetic sociality when she heard “if I don’t feed it, the dog dies. It’s utterly dependent on me.” (2013:101). The definition of prosthetic sociality is “electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continuously plugged into circuits for information, communication and affect” (2013:101). Allison mentioned that in present Japanese society, family ties have become weaker and weaker. Tamagotchi can describe how the Japanese family ties is in the present situation. As you may know that, to keep the game of the Tamagotchi, the player has to keep feeding until the pet in the screen died. Someone have to continue feeding the Tamagotchi so it will not be starved.

Techno-intimacy or prosthetic sociality is, of course, an issue in the present Japanese society. One of the example is the starvation incidents (2013:103). As the author pointed out, “the incident has triggered warning bells all over again of the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity. A situation of life and death, of mendo (care of daily living) coming undone.” (p.p. 103). Weakening the ties with own family and community has been outstanding by the incidents.

The ties with the family, community have been loosened by the changing of society. The author criticized the starvation incidents by using the word “heartlessness.” It cannot make sweeping statements, only the word, “heartlessness”. There might be the other reasons of the incident of starvation having happened. For example, about the feeble connection with the neighborhood, even if the people live in the same apartment, they are not figured out who lives in the next to their room. Can people borrow or give money to people who do not well? Of course no, people cannot do such things to who do not know. It is far difficult to depend on easily. Moreover, those incidents should not be blamed the around the people or the community, but also the victims themselves. “Of hesitance in seeking out help even by those in dire need” (2013:103), if the issues which the people faced were too serious, they should rely on their relatives no matter how slight their connections were. Therefore, the problems cannot deal with only the word, “heartlessness.”

Reference

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

The state of modern family in Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Tokyo Sonata is the story of modern Japanese family. The family consists of four persons, the father Ryuhei, the mother Megumi, the older son Takashi, and the younger son Kenji. This type of family is popular in modern Japan, called kaku-kazoku. The film tells about the present state of Japanese family and from a breaking down to a rebuilding of the family.

In the opening of the film, the father gets fired from his company and the company employs a Chinese person instead of him, because Chinese workers work for cheaper wages than Japanese workers. Therefore, he lost his job and he couldn’t get income expect for a retirement payment.

After he lost his job, he could not say it to his family and he pretended as going to his company everyday, because he had a pride as a father of the family. In middle of the film, the story continues on with the breakdown of the family. The younger son started lessons of piano and he was recommended entering the music school from the piano teacher, but he refused the proposal because he thought his father opposed to this. Then, the father went to a Public Employment Security Office to get work  and he finally got a job as a sanitation worker in a shopping mall, but even this he hid from his family.

In this point, it can see that he regarded the people who lost jobs and work in low wages as embarrassed. One day, when the mother was home, she was attacked and taken as a hostage by a robber. The some day, the father had an accident and he was injured, and the younger son was arrested by police officers because he got on a bus without paying the fare. The next day, they came back home separately. After in this time, the family began lunch on one table without talking and asking, so anyone knew the events happened for themselves. In the end, the parents went to a music school because they see the physical skills test of their younger son to enter the school. The son showed talented performance and audiences was attracted by his recital. At last, the parents and son left the school after the son’s wonderful performance.

I think this film shows the state of modern Japanese family and economy. Anne Allison said the state of family is changing and breaking down. This phenomenon relates to not only people’s way of life, but also even economy. In this film, a Japanese worker lost job because Japanese company promotes employment of foreigners. It caused by globalization and cut in labor costs. We know there are many people who lost job or home and it becomes the problem in Japan but to improve the problem complex and difficult because many facts connect to this. But the ending of film, the breaking down family rebuilds little by little. Anne Allison also said the most important things for people are economy and family because these make ibasho and support the life of people Therefore, in conclusion, family is important place for people and to keep peaceful, but to that end, people should need the stable economy in Japan.

Reference

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

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

Modern gender roles needed in Japanese families

English: Picture of a Japanese family, showing...

English: Picture of a Japanese family, showing a range of ages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Since the past, Japanese traditional family members have had a unique and typical style in their family. What I mean here is that fathers have to work for keeping their family, mothers have to do housekeeping all day long and every day, and children have to study hard for their future and help their mothers. Today, I am going to mention about Japanese traditional family, especially mothers’ roles, and then I will pick up Anne Allison’s opinion related with those family and discuss it.

To begin with, I would like to talk about what Japanese traditional family is. In postwar Japanese society, playing roles have been meaningful. As I mentioned above, the fathers’ role is working hard, the mothers’ role is doing housekeeping all day, and the children’s role is studying hard. Especially, “mother” is a significant role in Japanese family. The reason is that a mother is actually like a robot, that helping and render great service for her family members. To tell the truth, for example, my father and paternal people think that women should be like the robot, so they do not like women’s working in the society. Whenever I visit to my paternal grandfather and mother, they usually tell me to be a woman who just do housekeeping for men. However, in my opinion, they are too old and somewhat crazy.

Here, I am going to show you her opinion about Japanese family system. In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison picks up an interview with the Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko in July 2008, who says that the modern nuclear family does not fit new capitalism at all, even though many young people still harbor desires for its anachronistic gender roles. The gender roles mean to be a stay at home housewife (sengyo shufu) and breadwinner male (daikokubashira). Moreover, the author says “ the era of the family-corporate system has ended”. What she want to say here is that we need new ways and resources for caregiving.

I strongly agree with the idea that the era of old Japanese family has ended. Now that not only men but also many women work hard in this society every day. That is why housekeeping is not a work that only women do, but everyone should do it together or in another way in the modern society. In Japan, gender roles have been one of the most important things, so it might be difficult to change those. However, I think it is time to change those stereotypes and create new system.