My experiences and expectations for 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.

Anonymous student post

Do you know Kamagasaki? Kamagasaki is a city of the poor in Osaka, Japan. There are many homeless. Almost all of them are old men and day labors. Problems which they have are many and complicated.

Originally, day labors in Kamagasaki were recruited from the whole of Japan to hold Japan World Exposition in 1970. But, after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis, their jobs decreased intensively. They live depending on the wage of the day work. They don’t have houses and stay at day-labors’ lodgings called “Doya.” That is to say, no job means no money for living the day. They want to work but they have no job and no money, and they cannot help but be homeless.

I visited Kamagasaki as a study tour in the last spring vacation. Then, I heard a story of a man. He died alone in his room of an apartment building. One week after his death, he was found by others. The cause of his death was starvation. He was received welfare benefits, but he died of hunger. Why? A person who told us the story told the reason which he thought. Human have nothing to do, human don’t want to live. People who come to Kamagasaki have some problems and they don’t keep in touch with their family and relative. Therefore, they don’t ask about their experience each other. They know each other by sight but they are not friends who do something together and don’t have such friends. They are solitary and lonely. No one cared him, and no one knew his death for a week.

I don’t want to be a homeless or to die alone while no one know. It is too sad to die alone while no one alone. So as not to do so, I want to marry and to have some children. I want to have three children because I am one of them. For it, I want to have a stable job. My parents are public employees. The salary of public employee are lower than other business. But public employee is securer and safer than others. What I want is not a high but a decent salary and stability. Also I want my partner to have a regular work because I think that it is hard to bring up three children by only my income or my income and her income of irregular work. So, my future plan is to have family and to have a job which give me enough money to support my family.

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Basic ideas for 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 Gakuho Goto

To tell the truth, I am one of the young people who do not have a specific idea what I want to be or to do, but feel uneasy for my future. Thus I could not make a concrete plan of my future. However what I have considered important in my life is humanity.

Human relations are an example of it, family, friends, partner, teachers, and so on. Because their relations are open my perspective and give me “ibasho”. As Allison’s text said, Japanese people who live in contemporary Japanese society are likely to lose ibasho. This tendency increases problems like hikikomori and suicide. One of the reasons for the problem is that capitalistic interest is regarded as more important than human time. Many people struggle to get money to have their life better and devote themselves to company. Therefore an opportunity of meeting family or friends are decreased and a distance of them is also expanded. This causes isolation, in other words losing ibasho. Even though they have money, they cannot be satisfied with their lives.

I am not saying that earning money is less important than human time. Poverty is caused by a lack of money and getting money is the presupposition in leading life. But level of happiness has been increasing as time passed. For example consuming was a happiness in Japan of the 90s. Thus next form of happiness should be taken in a whole society. There is an interesting relations between a statistic of working hours in 41 countries and one of world happiness report in 2013. These statistics shows that the countries which have low rate of working hours would get high rate of happiness, especially in Northern Europe. I want to make an analysis of Northern Europe known as welfare state. These countries offer a caring social security system. The young can enroll in university for free, and the elderly people also have a special nursing facilities. Surely the GDP of these countries is not high compared with other developed ones. But humanity is guaranteed widely.

Considering these things, protecting humanity is a meaningful way of increasing happiness in the long run. However the welfare system of Northern Europe is possible in small areas. Firstly I want to make circumstances of respecting humanity at least around me, including in my family. This is little concrete idea what I want to do in my future.

If I am earning minimum wage

Anonymous student post

 

In recently, the pay differential between the high-income earner and the low-income earner has widened in Japan. For example, low-income earners are day laborers, temporary employees, part-time workers, and so on. If I am earning minimum wage, I think I will have a lot of struggles.

First, my working hours will be very long. The labor standards law say that people work an eight-hour day. But many jobs don’t keep to the law actually. When I did part-time job at a Japanese bar, I really felt it. I worked longer than 8 hours in a day, also my wages were not high. If I am a day laborer and temporary employee, my income is not really stable and I can’t expect when I might lose my job. Second, the working environment is not good. Do you know 3K roudou in Japanese? It is defined as Kitsui (hard), Kitanai (dirty), Kiken (dangerous). It is a very low wage, but very hard work.

However, I have to pay a lot of money to live. For example, there are house rent, fuel and lighting, food expenses, and so on. If I lose my job, I can’t pay that. It is very hard for me. Therefore, people who don’t have a home has increased these days. According to Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, the number of net café refugees has increased recently. “Net café refugees are people who are essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafés or manga kissa (comic book cafés)” (Anne Alison, 2013, p44). In net cafés, we can sleep, drink juice and soup, watch TV, take a shower, and so on. In addition to that, there are many private rooms where I can cover my face, and it is very low price to stay overnight. They acclimate themselves to that environment, also I think they become feeling comfortable.

If I am earning minimum wage, I wish for giving relief from government and society. If the government raises minimum wage only, I think I can’t have a comfortable life. Japanese government carries out policies on social security, but it is not enough. Part of the people who need social security can’t go on social security now. I think Japan has an increase in the gap between rich and poor. I think Japan should impose a tax on luxury items, because the number of people who go on social security is increasing. And we have to improve the working environment from now to the future.

Reference

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

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Devoting myself to family and future

University of Queensland

University of Queensland (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.

Anonymous student post

My future plan is still vague, but I’m going to clarify it a little at a time. Concretely, I’m going to explain about job, my family, and my ibasho in the future.

First of all, I have a few jobs which I want to do in the future. For instance, in the future, I want to be an interpreter, especially interpreting from Japanese to English and from English to Japanese. I haven’t decided the workplace where I will translate, but to give you example, at a big corporation, in a diplomatic situation, at an international organization, and so on.

To make the dream true, I plan to go to the University of Queensland in Australia to study an interpretation next spring, as an exchange student. However, I need an IELTS score to get a right to be an exchange student, so I study hard for the IELTS.

Furthermore, I also want to be engaged in a job like saving children. There are a lot of children who suffer from hunger, diseases, and war. Some children don’t have their parents and houses. I desire to save these children, give them future hopes.

Secondly, I think family is a very important factor in planning my future. This is because family members exist to make other members comfortable, relaxed, and happy and help them when they are at a loss at what to do. Without family, I might not be able to lead a life. Therefore, I want to marry someone, and have a few children. Furthermore, I like children, so I will take a child-care leave at least for three months and I want to devote myself to my children with my wife in the future.

Followed by the family, I’m going to think about my ibasho. Ibasho means a place where you can feel like yourself, or to live in safety, comfort and dignity, where he or she is valued as a person full of history and experience (Ibasho-Creating Social Integrated and Sustainable Communities that Value Their Elders-, http://www.ibasho.org/web/). I agree with the concept of living in safety, comfort, and dignity. My home represents safety and comfort. If I come home, I have parents who wait for me at home. When I go home and stay in my room, I feel relaxed and relieved. Moreover, I have another ibasho, school. There are a lot of friends whom I can tell my real intensions and cooperate each other in difficult situation. Therefore, school makes me feel relaxed and comfortable.

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Ibasho as a lifeline to maintain our lives

Michael Ende - Momo

Michael Ende – Momo (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 Shinmei

In this blog post, I would like to write about what I felt and thought through reading Allison’s book, and show what I hope for my future.

In Japanese society, we have a lot of inequality. Employment conditions are different between men and women. Different names are given to workers depending on their situation; sarari-man, furi-ta, NEETkasha ningen, and so on. The working style has changed from life-long jobs and a family-based model to a more flexible and unstable model. Because of fast-aging Japanese society, younger generations are not sure how much welfare pension insurance they will be able to receive.

Despite the fact that we are flowing in a precarious and unequal age, one thing which is equally given to everyone is “time”. Whether you are rich or poor, you have 24 hours each day. However, as I go on reading, I thought even “time” is eaten by someone in this society. For example, company men (kaisha ningen), who work too much and devote their personal time like evening, weekends, and leisure time to their company, seem to live their time less. In addition, according to Asahi newspaper (2014, April 28), Japanese female high school students spend 6.4 hours on average using a smart phone each day (this number is three times as much as that of seven years ago). They are facing its small screen for one-fourth of a day. I feel it is becoming true what happened in “Momo,” written by Michael Ende; the grey gentlemen steals the time of humans.

When I think about myself, I can say that I am living my time. I am studying what I want to, and I have friends and family, whom I feel comfortable being with. Therefore, I feel it can be said that having your time is often related to being at ibasho. Abe (2011) says that ibasho is a lifeline (inochi-zuna) to maintain people’s lives, and people who you trust in are there. When you imagine your ibasho, you should come up with several places or spaces. You may imagine your family, school, working place, your room or favorite café. Abe (2011) indicates this shows that you have various kinds of “you”, and “you” differ depending on ibasho. He also says that you are consisted of multifaceted “you” and supported by ibasho, maintaining your life in relationship with other people.

In conclusion, I want to make person-to-person relationships with people I have met and I will meet, and cherish my ibasho as a space I can be myself. Though precarious facts are shown in Allison’s book and some of them may happen to me,

ibasho would be my lifeline to survive this age.

References

Abe. M. (2011). Ibasho no shakaigaku [Sociology of Ibasho]. Japan. Nihon Keizai shinbun press.

Allison. A. (2013) Precarious Japan. Duke University Press.

Tenohira no sumaho [Smart phone on the palm] (2014.April 28). Asahi newspaper.

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Finding my ibasho at work, without becoming a kaisha-ningen

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

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 Ayaka Sasaki

My future plan is to become a hotel employee after graduating from Ritsumeikan. To realize my future plan, I am working at a hotel as a part- time job. When I refer to my future plan, many people say that job in hotel is beautiful and sophisticated, but it is not. I know that it is not so beautiful and rather unsophisticated. Because, even though I work part–time, I feel  the precariousness that Anne Allison describes in her book. However, I only work at the hotel, so I can’t refer to other jobs.

For example, I felt that some male employee, especially those who became a manager or a chief of the department, are divorced. There are a lot of reasons, but I felt that some got divorced because they were kaisha-ningen (company person). The harder they work, the further the distance from the family becomes.

In addition, the system of the job in hotel depends too much on the non-regular employees, as part-time workers or dispatch workers. The reason why I feel so is that there are a lot of affairs which can’t be dealt by the regular workers. In Allison’s book, furita are referred as a symbol of the non-regular employee and precariousness.

However, I realize that I am in an ibasho by belonging to the organization, a hotel, as Allison wrote, even though I am a part–time worker. I work as often as regular workers, so regular workers or managers frequently say that I am a big help to their affairs. They approved, so I felt that I am in ibasho and my ibasho is the hotel. The feeling or impression of approval brings the feeling of ibasho.

Therefore, the wages are not so high, and the affairs are not so easy or light, but many non-regular workers work at the hotel because they can feel ibasho.

Moreover, I guess that workers who divorced have become kaisha-ningen because they can feel that they are in ibasho—where they are approved by the company.

Finally, I think that the situation doesn’t change in the future, and the feeling of ibasho relies on belonging to the organization, group and company. Then also it rely on the approval by others. However, in ibasho, I’m not content with the environment, and don’t want to bury my personality. Therefore, I have a plan after becoming a hotel employee—becoming a sommelier.

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The influence of women’s social advancement in Japan on my future plan

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (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.

Anonymous student post

My academic interest in the IR field is peace and conflict studies, post- conflict peace-building, and the Middle East. One of my future dreams is to give peace education and human resource development for children in conflict areas by offering some artwork and developing it into critical thinking. In order to do so, I need to improve my own knowledge and skills. Therefore, I am planning to study abroad at the post-graduate school of London University, SOAS, after graduating from Ritsumeikan University. I have not decided yet whether to take a framework-making approach such as working for an international organization, or a grassroots approach, such as local staff of a NGO. However, in either way, certain period of work experience in companies is likely to be required, therefore I would once get a job in a company to have some social experience.

I think one phenomenon that Anne Alison pointed out in her book Precarious Japan, women’s social advancement in the workforce, might affect my plan at this stage. According to the statistics of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 34.2 percent of Japanese women (one in three single women) aged 15-39 wishes to be a housewife. Similarly, survey conducted by the cabinet office shows that 51 percent of Japanese people answered that it is ideal for men to work outside as a breadwinner and women to be a housewife. This number increased by 20 points, compared to the number of the survey in 2009, among the age of 20 to 30 years old.

This tendency is due to the despairing situation for female workers to develop a career steadily in their jobs, and the recent economic stagnation. According to Anne Alison (2013), irregular workers are those who are the most precarious in Japanese society because they have minimal rights and protection, and can easily get fired. Women make up 70 percent of irregular workers, and have the worst status by experiencing the worst gendered disparity of all industrialized countries.

Although Japanese society is becoming a result-based employment, women suffer from likewise disadvantage of employment even in regular employment and full-time work. It is based on underlying sexually biased premise that men are the breadwinner and women stay home as a housewife (Alison, 2013). They only earn about 67 percent of men’s salary and around 80 percent of working women makes less than 3,000,000 yen a year. Also, 44 percent of working women receive less than the minimum wage of the year and the number of women staying in professional jobs is remarkably low. The percentage of women having managerial posts is considerably low as well. Moreover, 80 percent of women workers retire after giving birth to her first child (Allison, 2013).

In conclusion, when I look at this current situation, I guess it may be very hard for me to get a highly paid secure job and advance my career in a company, especially when I am planning to ultimately move out and change my job to work in international cooperation. Therefore I have anxiety about whether  I could successfully become economically independent from my parents and pursue my dreams at the same time. In other words, I have to work very hard not become a parasite single.

References

Alison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University press.

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (March, 2013). Wakamono no ishiki ni kansuru chousa [statistic on youth’s consciousness survey]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mhlw.go.jp/file/04-Houdouhappyou-12605000-Seisakutoukatsukan- Seisakuhyoukakanshitsu/0000022200.pdf

Gender Equality Bureau cabinet Office. (April,2012). Dansei ni totte no danjo kyoudousannka [Survey of male’s consciousness on gender equality].Retrieved from http://www.gender.go.jp/research/kenkyu/dansei_ishiki/pdf/chapter_1.pdf

 

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Seeking stability, but how?

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

“Stability” is what I would look for in my future work. With whatever job I would have, that will be the top priority I would expect from my work. As Allison pointed out, “stability” seems to be fading away from today’s Japanese society, in terms of economy and social relationships. Therefore, it is possible that this phenomenon will make it very difficult for me to find a job which would meet my expectations for my future career. In addition, because of this phenomenon, there is currently a serious competition in job hunting among the younger generations. Certainly, I will have to be part of the job competition as a competitor in a few years and somehow I will need to find a way to get around the barrier to have a secure job. Now the question is “How?” It can be said that there is no perfect answer for the question, whereas, there are two things which I believe are very important to work on in order to answer the question.

Firstly, it is to have a few but good qualifications. I am aware that it sounds so predictable, on the other hand, my point is that I belive I should be careful not to underestimate the importance of having qualifications. At a job interview, qualifications will play a big role in representing how you can contribute to whichever company you are applying for. Without them, you would be judged as a person with no potential to dedicate yourself to the company and a society around you, even if you are a skilled person with a strong will to utilize it for them. Hence, I appreciate how important it is to have some qualifications for myself and I have been working on this since I entered my university. I believe that being a university student gave me a privilege to have a lot of free time that I can spend on however I would like to, therefore, I consider it as a great opportunity to spend those free time on investing in myself.

Secondly, the other thing I consider is crucial to work on is to develop communication skills. Again, this may sound predictable, however, it is one of the most important skills to enable yourself to express what kind of person you are to the others. For example, Japan, with its slow pace, seems to be transforming into a more global nation, and therefore, there are more chances for us to meet people with different nationalities and backgrounds nowadays. To be able to interact well with those who have different cultures and perspectives, I have been striving to learn about some other cultures, languages, religions, politics ,et cetera in my course. If I had proper knowledge about them, I would know how I should talk to the people in an appropriate way. Hence, the way how you communicate with people show your personality in a sense ,and that is why developing a communication skill is believed to be very important.

Free style life in liquid Japan

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 Maya Hattori

Graduating university, surviving the job-hunting, getting a firm job, becoming a mature shakaijin, getting married and having kids… this is the typical scenario that Japanese think to be success in life. However, this does not apply to me. I will view my future focusing on two topics – work and having a family.

First, I still do not have any concrete plans what to become or in what kind of field to dedicate myself. However, the typical Japanese job-hunting seems ridiculous to me. Some people, indeed, get their top choice jobs. However, recently, as the job hunting is getting more and more competitive, many people have to get through interviews with over hundred companies until they are hired. This means they no longer have a choice what kind of jobs they want, which leads to depression, frustration or leaving the company soon after they got hired. Moreover, dressed the same way and having the same hairstyle or doing things that seem to be helpful improving your images for the interviews also appears wrong to me. The pressure of the job hunting is killing our characters and ambitions. Therefore, at the moment, I am not thinking of becoming an employee of a usual company but pursuing what I like and trying to create a new business system or style. Though I may fail once or more, challenging keeps me from regretting. Due to the precariousness of Japan, I don’t expect any kind of stability anymore. Having a secure and long-term job may be stable and secure, however, being flexible and changeable seems more exciting, challenging and interesting. For example, some friends of mine are furitā and change their jobs a lot, but still have fun and know their identities and what they want to do. Therefor, I think it is not correct to see them as losers or not-shakaijin. Moreover, I think my job scene does not have to be in Japan.

Next, I may get married at some point in the future, if I want to. However, I don’t like the pressure that Japanese give to unmarried women who are getting older. Moreover, getting married because of pregnancy is the last thing I want to do. My ideal style is to have a partner with whom I can share a part of my life but still pursue my own dreams and live my life – vice versa. After having children, I still don’t think that marriage should be hurried. I can get married at any age but I can’t have children if I’m too old. People who get married too young or with a feeling of responsibility tend to get divorced. When you have children and live with a partner, you never have the risk to get divorced anyway.

As Allison says, there is nothing stable or secure anymore in this country. Therefore, I think it is the best to make the most and live for the moment. The future does not guarantee you anything. I would like to create my life without considering the risks or what others say.

I have no concrete plans for my future

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 don’t have any concrete future plans now. But 15 years ago, I had many dreams. For example, cake shops, bakery, and teachers. I don’t have a definite dream now. But I have many things I want to do. I want to go abroad and live there, to be rich woman, and to be mother. More than anything, I want to be happy. I like people smiling, especially my friends, my family, and people around me. Their smiling and laughing make me happy, too. I want to be a person who can make people happy, however, this is not a concrete dream.

However, I do not think that I am the only person who cannot find a concrete dream. This applies to many young people. I think many young people in Japan do not have some expectations because they, like me, aren’t able to see the future of Japan. Moreover, recently, Japanese society became like mechanized. Life in Japan seems to be already cast for Japanese families. Mothers should make foods, clean rooms, and do housework. Fathers ought to go to big cities to work, make money, and support their family. And their children should study, and their future, they will ought to work or do housework to support their family. Children tend to have  “one aim” that “they should choose”. Young people are likely to think that this “one aim” is the safest of all to live in Japan. I think these castings  deprive Japanese people of the opportunity to have a dream, too. This system will make people to bother to think about everything, and for example, increase hikikomori more and more.

Then, how we find our dreams? How we have any aims? I think that we should change the mechanized system in Japan. To change this system, Japanese young people’s ambitions to study not for their family or their safety, but for their desire what they want to do should be supported. University students in Japan seem to think that this course of study is not course they really want to study. This problem often happens because many of them only “studied to enter a college that is clever or famous”. If these people have “their own aim”, these problems will decrease and Japanese society and economy will grow. In conclusion, we should change Japanese plans (this is not official, but reality) that all children must study hard, and all children must go to college to work in the future.

I don’t have any concrete future plans now. But maybe I can find my original dream because I was able to awaken that goal. I want to enjoy to find dream, and want to have many dreams like in my childhood.