The importance of ibasho

Anonymous student post

English: Inside a Maid Cafe in Den-Den Town, O...

English: Inside a Maid Cafe in Den-Den Town, Osaka, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that the concept of “global affective labor” means job related to moods, feelings and attitudes such as maid cafe, hostess or cat cafe. It has some effects on our emotions such as healing, moe or relief. I think that there are original examples in Japan. At first, “maiko” is a geisha who learns or receives training in Japanese dance or song. They wear kimono and make up whitewashed. We are entertained with Japanese banquets. This is a traditional culture in Japan.

Next, CA (cabin attendant) is an occupation that works in an airport or on a plane. Many of them are beautiful or pretty women. They wear short skirts or stylish uniforms. They usually provide passengers drink and food with smiles. So they take care of passengers during flight. These jobs usually need some selections, many trainings or practices.

There are many imaginable reasons why people pay for affection from those jobs. I think that people want ibasho or to escape the reality. It is involved in some factors such as thin connection to family or friends. They may not have ibasho where talk their daily life or some distress and to find them necessary. Everyone needs ibasho, identity, affiliation. As a result, they go to those places to heal their feelings. It may lead to thin connection to other people. In addition, they may feel the connection to other people is “mendokusai”. Anne Allison (2013) also says “the breakdown or liquidization of the relationship between human time and capitalist value at the level of the (re)productive family home”. I agree with her analysis. As time passes, the various trends change in Japan. For example, there is the trend toward late marrying or not marrying recently. Young people think that marriage is mendokusai. Thin connection to other people may cause this feeling. The family corporate system also has changed. Both women and men work recently. As working every day, they need to care give or raise children. Some children tends to eat pre-pared dishes alone at home. As a result, there is also less communication between families.

I think that existing many global affective labor is related to relationships or connections to family, friends or other people. In addition, ibasho is also related to these sources. I think that ibasho is important for us. “Japanese are living more solitary existences, apart from others [tanin]. Communication is lacking these days.” So it is caused thin connection to other people. We have to rethink our relationships and this problem.

Reference

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

Advertisements

Techno-intimacy in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

Japanese society has been changing due to the precarious economy or depression. The number of youth who are not good at communicating with others is increasing. Such young people tend to feel lonely easily and become psychically and socially withdrawn; “referring to the phenomena much in the news of youths who literally take themselves out of school, work, or human circulation” (Allison 2013:81). Moreover, with regard to marriage, they think it is mendokusai [a nuisance] and they want to protect their money and time for themselves (Allison 2013:100). Then, the change of such as poor skills of communication or thought of taking care of someone makes a new concept. It is called “techno-intimacy” by Anne Allison (2013:101). In this blog, I will show three points. First is an explanation of techno-intimacy, next are examples of it in Japan, and final is my opinion.

To begin with, the concept of techno-intimacy was generated by problems of human relationships. This means that a human has attachment to a presence which feel lifelike. Tending to a child, a pet or something is regarded as mendokusai (bothersome) today because of many chores. This connects to the thought that young people are unwilling to get married today: “the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison 2013:101). However, since the game of taking care of digital creature had been discovered, producing such a creature came to evoke an intimate attachment in humans, which Allison calls “techno-intimacy.”. Although the play is multifaceted and complex, it becomes to foster drives of attachment that read the nervous system as if humanly interactive. According to Allison, kids who grow up practicing social intimacy with such a technological friend will be the user of care robots when they get old, which will be more likely alone. As above, the condition ―“electronic goods that attach to the body and keep users continually plugged into circuits for information, communication, and affect” (Allison 2013:101) is called prosthetic sociality. This is penetrating the sociological gap left by the weakening of human bonds in the family, workplace and community in Japan recently. According to Allison’s book, the anthropologist Katsuno Hirofumi has discovered that being able to have a companion makes people pleased even if it is not real human. A heart to heart relationship between human and robot is important to the heartlessness in humanity.

Secondly, in Japan, we have many games as a techno-intimacy. For example, Tamagochi or Nintendo 3D game software’s ones―the virtual pets, or pet robots like dogs or cats. Also, dobutsu no mori (a forest of animals) is a good seller game in Japan, which user has a village, makes residents and has them get along with each other.

Finally, I agree with Allison’s analysis that “the ‘heartlessness’ of the times and a society that has lost its humanity” (Allison 2013:103) brought the tie of heart to heart between humans and robots. Because the fact that care of daily living is regarded as mendokusai things and techno-intimacies comfort people exists. In addition, in my opinion, I thought that Japanese tend to have an attachment to unreal creatures like techno one is the influence of a national anime “Doraemon.” He is a robot and can communicate with humans. As almost all Japanese watched this in childhood, people may have little reluctance to make a friend with robots or other techno-intimacies.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (pp.77-82.100-103)

Tokyo Sonata shows Japanese society

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

I am writing about the film Tokyo Sonata. This movie describes the collapse of a normal Japanese family. Ryuhei is the father of the Sasaki family. One day, he was discharged from his company, because his company adopted cheaper Chinese workers. After leaving his company, he encountered a “soup line” which is to be rationed a soup in the park. There were many people who were homeless and wearing suits. He recognized that a lot of people were discharged and could not say it to their families. At the same time, he met his friend by chance in this park, and his friend was discharged 3 months earlier, too. Although it was a really huge impact for Ryuhei, his friend set him at ease. New job could not be looked for, and he could not say it. He went to Hello Work, but it was difficult to find a stable job. He was recommended unstable jobs like an unskilled laborer. He was puzzled what to think for his future.

On the other hand, the Sasaki family started to break down gradually, although he did not notice it. His wife Megumi is a really good mother, she supported their family and did all housework by herself. When the Sasaki family came back home, she always said “okaeri (welcome back!)”. One day, she found her husband standing in the soup line. Then, she recognized he had lost his job and had hidden this fact from the family. However, she reached the limits of her endurance at the moment of when she saw him working as a cleaner at shopping mall. After that, their house was broken into by a robber, who took her away. However, she was released from him soon.

Ryuhei’s son Kenji was in the sixth grades of elementary school. His hope was to learn playing the piano, but his father was against it. Therefore, he learned to play the piano in secret. But his piano teacher said he is a genius and he should go to music school. When Ryuhei listened to this, he got very angry and held Kenji down by force. It shut Kenji’s heart. Kenji’s older son Takashi decided to join the US Army without asking his parents’ permission, and he went to America.

In precarious Japan, families have their own role by themselves. Fathers have to work and to earn the money, mothers have to support the family and do housework, and children have to be good children. It is very normal thinking for Japanese. When their role is broken, the family will start breaking down. In this movie, the father lost his job, the sons did not depend on their parents. It is the breakdown of the relationship between human time and capitalist time. It is important to have a dinner with family. While they have food, they talk about myself and what happened around myself. It is good time to communicate with family. However, recently in Japan families often have dinner separately. No one in the Suzuki family talks about what happened around us for family. If everyone ate at the dining table, it was a silent place, which felt like a fish out of water. Family and economy are hope for Japanese, but it is not functioning these days. It is a serious social issue, and we have to try to solve it.

Reference

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

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.

 

Virtual affective labor: Looking for love in the virtual world

by Katsuya Nagasawa

The demand for affective labor is increasing all over the world, especially in developed countries. For example, many Filipino and Chinese caregiving workers spread in the world. It is because people lose the peace of mind in exchange for getting satisfaction about usefulness. Therefore, the society have gotten truculent and people came to want the calmness. Then, people start to go to cabarets, host clubs, and maid cafés. I think the trend is remarkable in Japan.

As Allison argued, in modern Japan, there are enormous problems such as killing family, bullying, unemployment, hikikomori, the gap of salary (kakusa shakai). In addition, female and youths are in the bottom in the society. Allison explain that as “the collapse of Japanese democratic system.” These problems made the precarious society and even the collapse of family. People cannot depend on other people, sometimes even their family, they visit affective labors because they can get the emotional feeling but formal feeling by paying money.

I think 2-D world is also affective labor. As Allison argued in the book, “otaku” gathered more than 2000 signatures about marrying a 2-D character, and there is a word for this, “nounaikanojo” in Japan. In the virtual world, 2-D characters never depress people, they contact with real people in friendly ways because they are programed to do so. Therefore people who are not good at making relationships, for example “otaku,” tend to sink into the virtual world. I think 2-D world is a form of virtual affective labor.

In the past, the era that there were no computers, people had to make relationship only in the real world. However, because of the appearance of the virtual world, people face to the computer, and some people think making a relationship is “mendokusai”. According to Allison, the effect spread to the marriage problem. People who think making relationship is “mendokusai” think marriage is also “mendokusai”. In modern society, people came to pay for affective labor to get comfort rather than trying to get along with other people because it is “mendokusai” to do argument, to disappoint in love. They chose that the effort replace into their money.

If the situation that people depend on the 2-D world or affective labor continues, we will depend all of our life on robots, as Allison writes. I think affective labor can never replace our family or friends, and we cannot live in the virtual world literally. Therefore we have to hold more real relationships. Depending on the virtual world is not equal to coexisting in a virtual world. We have to search for the way to coexist.

Reference

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

Affective Labor: Maid Cafes and Social Change

Anonymous student post

Now in Japan, there are many people performing affective labor, such as caregivers, flight attendants, and so on. It is the labor that it does not need only physical labor and brainwork, but also emotional control. Anne Allison argued about global affective labor in the fourth chapter of Precarious Japan. Japan actively accepts the migration of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers. However, Allison pointed out problems that they are not allowed to enter “Japanese” homes, must pass a rigorous exam, and wages for care work remain low as well.

Working in a maid cafe is also a form of affective labor. The customers do not come there because of the food. According to Allison, they look for shokuraku kukan, which is homey and relaxed space of eating. It is essentially expressed a place where the family gets together, however, after the burst of the bubble, the form of Japanese family radically changed. Because the number of two-paycheck families increased, and it became difficult for the family to eat dinner together, the number of children who must eat dinner alone increased. Then, at the maid café, the customers of maid cafe enjoy eating food and communication with pretty maids, and their performance. Besides maid café, kyabakura (hostess bar) and idol and so on are also affective labor. Customers pay for communicating with the workers.

This is related to people thinking that real relationships are mendō (troublesome).

Now in Japan, people tend to get married late or not to get married in life. Allison said this is because young people think marriage is mendokusai. In addition, I think many Japanese people sometimes feel relationships with others are a bother, for example, when they worry about others too much. I think it is relaxed and comfortable for them to communicate with people such as a hostess. Those who are usually lonely also want to the relationship at the kind of shop.

Allison said “it is breakdown or liquidization of relationship between human time and capitalist value at the level of the (re)productive family home that marks the form of precarity and unease experienced in post –postwar Japan.” I agree with her analysis. It seems that modern Japanese society based on capitalism does not necessarily meet the modern family. The social progress of women is being developed, but social system for supporting it is inadequate. This brings collapse of family, and lack of relationship, and the demand for affective labor will increase.

Japanese fixed concepts and weak relationships

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Misaki Kosaka

First of all, while Anne Allison’s book refers to the homeless and they have merely lost their home materially, Sasaki Ryuhei, who is a main character in the film Tokyo Sonata, has lost his home space mentally. That is, he has no place inside of his home. After WWⅡ, family roles in Japan have been rigid, such as “sengyo shufu” or the breadwinner of the family. Especially, the fixed view that a husband should work very hard for his family is an idea accepted by most Japanese. Ryuhei could not tell his family the fact that he was fired due to this fixed idea. He acts as if he is still working, wearing his suit and having card holder after his dismissal because being at home without any jobs of a husband is often recognized as ashamed things in Japan. Ryuhei’s former classmate who was fired like Ryuhei was even sets his cellphone ringing in designated time. They were afraid that people around them, especially their families, find out they have lost a job. Husband or father in Japan have to be just existence as people imagine. Ryuhei rejected a work as cleaning man and hoped a work people there wear suits at first, then it is also a kind of the fixed concept of people in Japan or himself.

But such an idea is not only a cause of not telling the truth but also of a weak relationships. In Allison’s book, Japanese tend to seek their identity at workplace and have few connections with their family or neighbors. The characters in this movie also put their place on workplace, so Ryuhei would feel to take away “ibasho” when he lost his job, and he could not tell the truth his family because of disconnectedness and incommunicativeness. Allison says that this family is “ordinary” in Japan.

In this movie I was most impressed by the scene that the family gather and start to eat a meal. This scene seems to be ordinary family’s life, but I felt something strange because although they are sitting in front of same table, they hardly talk each other. We generally think that they don’t need to gather for a meal if no one speaks, but I guess that sitting around the table with one’s family keeps a few relationships, and it may be only evidence that they are “family” even if nobody speaks. This strange sight can be seen in any Japanese home. Japanese are losing a spiritual home.

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.

Prosthetic sociality building new senses of home

by Minami Ichiji

“Prosthetic sociality” means the transformation of human relationships in 21th century Japan: warm sensibility is getting to be less fleshy. Anne Allison (2013) explains “In an era of material accumulation and sterile decorporealization (datsushintai), young people who “float” the waves of “net society” have “informationalized bodies.” That’s to say, they communicate with one another mainly by “social network services” (SNS) for example, Facebook, Twitter, and Line. Allison also uses “techno-intimacy,” that is “an intimacy premised on care and built into technology” (Allison, 2013) to literally focus on technology. She sees robots, Tamogotchi and Pokemon as techno-intimacies. I find some examples of it. “Bishoujo” (beautiful girl) and “renai” (romantic love) games, players meet bishoujo or ideal partner and go out with her/him on an electronic screen. They establish imaginary relationship through this play.

Allison refers to techno-intimacies, “this is a play that, while mulitifaceted and complex, turns on fostering sinews of attachment that burrow into the nervous system ‘as if humanly interactive, even social”. I agree with her analysis, prosthetic sociality is meaningful concept. “The paradox of the vanishing social today: the kinds of human connections that bring warmth have also come to seem annoying” (Allison, 2013). She points out this paradox is stirred up structurally, accompanies with the advance of technology and “shifting in constant, competitive, and intense labor”, she says is spreading all over Japan. I consider this phenomenon as the issue, prosthetic sociality and techno-intimacy play an important part in it.

Reading chapter 4 of Precarious Japan, I notice that there was a sign which would lead to the paradox. Before the destruction of the family-corporate system, according to Allison (2013), under the trend that “aspirational adults treat their kids as investments for the socioeconomic marketplace, the young people he (psychiatrist Serizawa) treats as hikikomori are emotionally stunted, hungry for a kind of love they rarely get from parents overly focused on achievement.” If the abandoned youths should meet a chance to get a robot or a game, they would rush to these prosthetic tools.

In a struggling recession, more and more people are hired as unstable labor. It is hard for them to have the opportunity to spare time for “the soul”, “the time to touch a mother with Alzheimer’s or to shelter a child getting bullied at school or to simply enjoy the rhythm of slow eating with friends” (Allison, 2013). As the author remarks (2013) “a nuisance coming from ‘existence utterly depending on me’ also drives people to prosthetic sociality, dog and tamagotchi will die without perpetual caregiving”.

Although, what I see as the most serious issue is the paradox I state above. To be specific, anyone feels lonely can seek human connection. And then, affording to pay for a maid café, a hostess and a game, they can buy some kinds of easier “home” and go their house. There are desperately lonely people who have nowhere to go and lack money, like net café refugees. No exception, this can happen to anyone.

Prosthetic sociality is created as new and ultimate way of organizing home.

References

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.52,100-101,106,118). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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.