Lost dreams and happiness on minimum wage

Anonymous student post

I imagine that if I were earning minimum wage, maybe many things and chances that I have gotten would be lost. I think the most important problem is that I would not go to school. Of course, this includes Ritsumeikan University because this university is under private management, so school expenses are so high. I and my parents may not be able to pay money for Ritsumeikan, so I could not make many friends, and get chances that help me approach my dream and my interesting things. I’ll think about what is happened if I am earning minimum wage, concretely.

First, I would not have a dream, get more ambition, and come true. Many people had experience that they want to be a pilot, a baker, a police officer, and so on. I also had such a dream. However, if I am in poverty, these dreams are separated because for these dreams to come true, we need a lot of money. We can learn and study without money, but the chance is much smaller than for people who are rich. So many people who earn minimum wage tend to not be regular employees, and they tend to lose their hopes and their future plans. If they had sufficient money, they would be able to have dreams and have eagerness that is to come true.

Second, this is so serious problem for mental health, as I would not be happy in my mind. I think poverty connects to happiness. Some people say that we can feel happy without money. But in fact, this is so difficult. If I don’t have money, I cannot eat foods satisfactorily, and cannot get some items that I want. I think buying things that people want to is so important for happiness. I think poverty, and poor happiness, cause suicide.

“Shockingly, he realized, poverty had come to Japan. And as shocking to him was how little attention the subject was being given by the public or the press.” I was impressed by this sentence by Anne Allison. I think, in Japan, from many years ago, poverty has existed. During World War 2, Japanese people were suffering from poverty, and after WW2 also were suffering. But some people realized recently that poverty is so serious problem for Japan “too”. Of course I knew, “homeless” people existed in Japan, and I had seen them. But I think if the problem is ignored, it will become larger more and more.

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If I am earning minimum wage…

by Arisa Kato

If I work for minimum wage after I graduate from Ritsumeikan University, what I can do and what can’t I do? This answer may be different whether I live in Kyoto or Ishikawa, my home town.

If I live and work in Kyoto, I earn 773 yen per hour and get 123,680 yen for a month (8 hours per day and 5 times a week). If I were earning 123,680 yen, I would find another job to work side by side. It is because living in Kyoto means living alone for me, so I have to pay the rent and energy costs and so on.

On the other hand, I can earn 704 yen per hour and get only 112,640 yen for a month if I work for minimum wage in Ishikawa. In this situation, I may live with my family and rely on my parents of course I have no excuse. So I wouldn’t have to pay the rent. Then, I might not work two or more jobs but I may study to get some qualifications. This is because having licenses is advantageous to get next job with favorable terms and help me to succeed in getting away from poverty.

What I can say in both situations, I wouldn’t have time for doing my hobbies. I have my hands full with just living and struggling to get out of the serious situation. It is literally a life with minimum necessary. It’s possible I am discriminated against socially, and I cannot have any self-confidence. Perhaps, I wouldn’t like to meet my friends and let them know I am in terrible state because I’ll feel so misery being “losers” (makegumi) [Allison 2013, p51]. For same reason, I don’t want to be in love with someone. I know if I continue this condition for long term, I would lose many friends and “healthy and culturally basic existence” [Allison 2013, p52], which is guaranteed under Article 25 of Japanese Constitution.

This time, I imagined that how my life would be if I were paid the minimum wage. I consider that what’s the hardest things to be working poor is connection with people get weaken. Of course, living with little money is bitter, however, losing friends and other relationships is more heartbreaking. So I wouldn’t like to be a cheap laborer, and we should try to eradicate socially lonely people.


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

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The struggles of unstable life

by Marie Fudaba

I’m living a happy and stable life in Japan. My stable life is all thanks to my parents. I was born in a two-parent family and both of my parents work. My father has his own business and my mother teaches many children piano. They work hard for my family. Therefore, I have enough to live on and receive enough food every day. I can also attend Ritsumeikan University because my father has saved money for my college education since I was born. Owing to their stable wages, I can be free to study what I want. However, Japanese society has serious problems in that irregular employees struggle. Particularly, many single mothers are suffering from an unstable life now in Japan. In my future, if I am a single mother and work as an irregular worker and earn minimum wage, I will struggle with two things.

First, I will have trouble making a living. An irregular worker’s income is less than a regular worker’s. The minimum wage is a monthly income of approximately mere 100,000 yen in Japan even if you work hard full time. However, 80 percent of single mothers in their twenties earn less than 1,140,000 yen a year. The wage is far from sufficient to live with stability because single mothers have to cope alone with a child in a low-paid environment. They have the potential but they cannot afford the money living costs, such as rent and the cost of food. There were incidents in which children died because their single mother did not give the child enough food, because of her serious financial trouble. Moreover, the Japanese government raised the sales tax recently. This must makes worse the difficulties of making a living.

Second, I will struggle with the expenses of bringing up children. Even if my child wants to go high school or university, I will not able to pay school expenses because the entrance fee and tuition are too expensive. Therefore, my child needs to sacrifice the desire to go to university for economic reasons. Although there is a scholarship system, a single mother may feel stressed out and strapped because under the scholarship system, families have to pay back the money with interest. If I am a single mother, I must felt guilty about it because my economic reasons could wreck child’s dreams and future.

Actually, there are many people who are suffering at the minimum wage in Japan. However, the Japanese social security system is too weak. Japanese government should beef up social security and provide a basic level of subsistence through it.

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Future plans get complicated in precarious Japan

Partial three-quarter right front view of a cl...

Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Natsuki Nakasone

Now, I am a nineteen-year-old student at Ritsumeikan University. If everything goes well, I will graduate in three years. However, I need another two years in order to get a license since I would like to become a kindergarten teacher. Therefore, in my future plan, I will go to another school while working at a company, and then I will become a teacher. This plan seemed easy to realize, but there are several problems which are affected by the precariousness of Japan.

First, recently, the rate of non-regular employees has been increasing. As Anne Allison said, after the Bubble, many temporary workers played important roles in high economic growth in Japan. This employment system has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it is able to post employees when they are needed. However, the disadvantage is that it also becomes an issue of public concern. There is a possibility that temporary workers will be fired all of a sudden. Therefore, they cannot have a stable life.

Next, the number of children has been decreasing, because the number of people who remain unmarried has been increasing. As a result of this, the demand for nursery school teachers and kindergarten teachers is decreasing, and it is not sure whether I can get an ideal job.

In addition, in Japan women can get fewer jobs than men, because there has been a stereotype that men work outside of the house and women work in the house. Even if some women are fortunate enough to get a job, they often have to leave their jobs to raise their children. In my plan, I would like to have two children, and I might be in similar circumstances. In this precarious Japan, it is difficult to realize my dreams and live an ideal life.

Lastly, I would like to mention a little bit about my ibasho. I think my ibasho is my family, so, since I am still a teenager, an ibasho for me has always been provided by others. However, in the future, I will have to find it for myself. Therefore, it is important for me to get married and to have children in order to create my new ibasho.

As you can tell from what I have mentioned, to get both ibasho and ideal work is not easy in my case. Thinking about this tells me that I am living in precarious Japan.

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Neighborhood ties and feeling at home

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 Tomohiro Doi

In this class, we are studying about difficult Japanese problems, such as hikikomori and muenshakai. These problems are difficult to solve and Japanese people have physical blessings but some Japanese people do not have emotional blessings. Therefore, Japan has improved Japanese economy but the connection of people has declined.

Several years ago, it was a natural thing to get together for residents’ association. In my hometown, the connection of people is strong still now. A circular bulletin notice exists. It is circulated and the opinion is gathered by majority decision. In other places, local residents people gather and talk with each people. And besides, in this society of my hometown, clean-up activities are done frequently. These activities might clean up a park or rivers in the hometown areas not only the connection of people might come to become strong. I live in Kyoto nearby Ritsumeikan University now. In Kyoto, these connection is very thin. In the fact, I have not seen faces of neighbors in my rooming apartment. The tendency which people meet neighbors declined is obvious. It is not only around ours.

It is difficult to solve this tendency. However, I would like to study the way which people willingly link with each people and to make use of these research.

In this university, I am studying many kinds of field. I think these studies are very useful. However, in a university, it is not only study. Ritsumeikan University has a lot of group activities and clubs. Certainly, studying is very important for university students. But I think if students do not join group activities and clubs, it is difficult to make up an ibasho (home, place of comfort) for students. I think it is an ibasho. I intend the ibasho connects us in our life strongly. Several years ago, my father said that “friends of university are as friends in our life. So you must cherish your friends. You must treasure your friends and you must look for friends who cherish you, too. These friends might become an ibasho.” I think this speech is very meaningful in our lives. These days, some young people are unwilling to join a kind of ibasho. However, it will not be a fruitful life. So to be a fruitful life, I would like to join a kind of an ibasho and to continue in these ibasho. And besides, I hope to keep on maintaining these ibasho for along time.

Finding my ibasho in society

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 Yusuke Sugiyama

When I think about my future, I cannot imagine that what kind of work I would do, and what kind of people I would connect with. However, one thing which I want to value in my life is relationship with others. I want to place emphasis on a time, opportunity and ibasho which I can deal with others.

I was born in Kobe and lived with my family before I entered Ritsumeikan University, and it is my ibasho where my family and my friends who spent a same time for 18 years live. Then, I entered this University and I started to live alone in Kyoto, and all is new for me. Naturally there is no ibasho where I can really get comfortable, and it was not until I am away from a familiar ibasho that I understood the importance of family, friends and that is ibasho. Everyday life was terrible before I found my ibasho in Kyoto.

I think ibasho is one of the most important things in our life, and the people who cannot find own ibasho in society have possibility to be hikikomori. Maybe there are many people such them in present Japan. Now I have some important ibasho, it is indispensable for my school life. That is why I would like to place emphasis on connection with people in the future and also I will improve my communication skill for it in University life.

In addition, as my future direction, I would like to overcome a linguistics barrier and get an ibasho because people who live different countries have different ideas. I like the surprise which I feel when I realize new idea from different point of view, and so I would like to over the border, and find my ibasho. Also, I think that I can realize a Japanese precariousness and a good point of Japan. Therefore, I will go to a lot of countries in my life.

When I think about my future job, I do not have a concrete idea, but I want to earn enough money to be able to make a trip, play with my friends, and repay my parents for raising me so well. Indeed, Japan is an unstable society now and it might be difficult to get stable job, but if I am into such a situation, I will find my ibasho in society, and place importance on a connection with people.

Future dreams

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.

Anonymous student post

I make plans for the future. Now, I am 19 years old. I will go abroad to study English for one year. I want to acquire ability for English. I will graduate from Ritsumeikan University smoothly at the age of 22. At the same time, I will begin to work for some company. Presently, I want to be a buyer. I like interior, fashion clothes, miscellaneous goods. Making use of my English skill, I would visit foreign countries, and buy up wonderful products. Moreover, I want to design original clothes, and sell them. I make clothes that I want to wear. I want many people to wear the clothes that I designed.

Apart from that, I like to announce things. So, I think that announcement person in department store is also suiting me. At the age of 24, I am going to get married. But I will not quit my job. I keep on working even I have babies. In my 20’s, I want two children. One is boy, the other is girl. I make a loan, and build detached house. I like both of western-style and traditional Japanese style. However, I don’t like the house which built in half-foreign style across between Japanese and foreign. So, I unify either western-style or traditional Japanese style. I will have a big dog, and white cat with blue eyes. Although It is very optimistic future plans, It is my dream.

By the way, “kodokushi” (dying alone) is now a serious issue in Japan. However, in the future, when I become a senior citizen, will “kodokushi” still be a serious problem? Presently, the senior generation in Japan is the generation that supported postwar Japan. They tend to think vertical connections are important. On the other hand, our generation tends to think side relations are important. So now, there is generation gap between senior generation to our generation. I think the tendency of our generation is more popular now. Present senior generation can’t fill the gap. As a result, they are lonely in present society. When our generation become senior, how the tendency is going? I wonder. It is unimaginable for me, but I don’t want to be lonely at that time. I am going to make strong relationship with people around me, like friends, elder people, my family and so on.