The need for social relationships

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 Saori Tsushima

In the future, I want to work at my hometown because I want to support my family by their side. And I wish I could work at an organization like JICA or an NGO/NPO group and take part in supporting developing countries. But I’m going to prioritize returning to my hometown and earning a handsome salary first. To tell the truth, I am frightened by job hunting because if I fail in job hunting I couldn’t support my family because it is said that to get an ideal job is so difficult for new graduates in these latter days in Japan.

Many people are worrying about the difficulties of job searching, not only people who graduated in earlier years but also new graduates. It seems that the appeal of a strong personality has been focused on since many years ago. But too much personality appeal and projecting too much are bad things for company bosses in recent Japan because bosses want submissive subordinates. The style of Japanese society must have fatigued stress for new graduates and people who want jobs. Many people have to sink their individuality to get a job. This is one of the serious problems in Japan I think.

Ibasho is my parent’ home for me because I have trust in my family. We always don’t keep secrets and council everything each other. I can stay as I am at my home and have a peace of mind. And I think we should create Ibasho.

Our parents’ home is of course inherent or innate comfortable place for us. If we feel we don’t have Ibasho it is important to create there for not only my own self but also my family and friends, people who are total strangers. These days many elderly people died alone (Kodokushi) and it is increased year by year. Now to create Ibasho is needed.

It is needed to have a relationship with many people for elderly people, to meet people to prevent from dementia and to making their heart happy. It is needed to relax and rest, to put workers at ease. They are so tired everyday from working hard that they need a place to relax. Us students also need to meet many people, and to meet people who have the same dream or object and stimulate each other’s interests. This is a good treasure for the future. Competing is also important for students because it will further improve our ability and heart. It is needed to meet many people for children. They need to study how to encounter people. Communication ability is important to live for example at school and company, workplace, society. Ibasho is different by the people’s age, gender, personality.

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Making relationships, seeking social ties

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 Natsumi Yoshida

In the future, I want to have a family and two or more children and keep working. There are some reasons that I want such situation. First of all, after graduation, I want to get a regular work and have some experience in society.

In Precarious Japan (Anne Allison, 2013), there is “muenshakai”. I would like to make more friendly family with neighborhood. Actually, I grew up in friendly atmosphere and had a close relationship with them. People can recognize me and so do I. When I met them, they say “Hello, are you going to work or study?” Even today, there is “butsu butsu koukan”, bantering. They are very kind to everyone. But these days this magnificent relationship is about to vanish. I want to make the same relationship with neighbors as today. That will affect my children in good way and they can learn human connection and sense of Omoiari from early ages. In fact, I thought it is natural connection until recently.

In the second, I want to have two or more children because they will rely on with each other. If I had only one child, he or she cannot play in home. Moreover, if their parents (I and someone) die, they would not be alone. When they come of ages and become adults, they still have connections.

In the third, I want to keep working. If I had two children, a good deal of money would be needed because they will go college or university to get good job. In addition to that, I just want to have a connection with society, not only staying home. However, after marriage, I wouldn’t care of my job is regular or part time because my purpose is to stay in public place or my “ibasho”. Anne Allison said “being sacrifice signaled both duty and honor and also was just part of job” as the cliché and “having a job became his identity” (p23), although I don’t think so. Some people think the same way but, today, there are many contract workers and it becomes common. Therefore, after marriage, I will work in company that I really want. However, I can say such things because I am a woman. If I were man, I would have to think my life and job more seriously. I know it is strange sense but, maybe it’s the way of elderly Japanese.

Balancing career and family for women in Japan

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 Momo Nakamura

How should Japanese women who want to have both a career and family, including children, live in current Japanese society?

This is the ultimate question for me since I am one of the women. In my future, I want to study conflict resolution or peace building in graduate school and have work that require what I have studied. Although I don’t know whether I will stay in Japan or not, it is clear that having a child is very difficult after the age of 30. That means women who want a child have to marry at least by 30.

Marriage is the first and maybe the most difficult part. Of course they don’t have to marry to have a child, however, many of them must be in need of a partner because of the unstable situation of the Japanese society. Raising a child costs a lot and takes time and care, so it will be really hard to do it alone. Those who can prioritize one thing, having family or career, won’t have such difficulty but for women like me, it will be a matter of chance to find a partner while working hard.

I can think of two reasons why I want to marry. One is the stereotype that exists strongly in Japanese society that women’s happiness is to have children and their family. I agree to some extent. It will become a new and fundamental “ibasho” where I can relieve and be needed. Second is about future income. If I became a person who works for peace, I can easily imagine that I don’t have so much income. This is why I need someone who has another way of making money. These two reasons show that although I’m aiming to have a new type of life, I’m still trapped to the old and traditional values and needs.

Second difficult part is the relationships between relatives and neighbors. It is important to maintain good relationships with people around us. We can have various kinds of security we need as families from the relationships that Japanese society have had for a long time in history, and it was mainly women’s job to make the relationships. However, having a new kind of life can make it difficult to have the relationships. When both parents work regularly, there is less time to spend with people around them. Also, people’s way of thinking seems to be changing. When I started to live in Kyoto, I thought I have to go to see my neighbors to say hello, what many Japanese do when they have moved to a new place. However, my parents disagreed because it may be dangerous to tell my neighbors that I’m living alone. Some connections that were seen as a security are now seen as something different. In this situation, it requires active approaches to bring back the security.

I often think of those problems that may occur when I try to realize my dream, and it is deeply connected to the society where we live. Although it is difficult, I want to keep challenging and this type of life may one day become a normal way of life.

Avoiding Precarity

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 Shun Aoki

There are several things that I hope to achieve in the future, which are actually still quite vague. First, putting it simply, I hope to become someone who is internationally active. Perhaps, I could achieve this by working for a foreign multinational company. I have one major reason as to why this is a realistic and appealing future for me. It is that I want to have a working environment where “typical Japanese values of working” is non-existent. This is the reason why foreign multinational company is the most preferable alternative, and not Japanese company. As Allison (2013) illustrates, in contemporary Japan, labor is continual and tends to merge with one’s life (p. 16). However, I hope to clearly draw a line between work and personal life. Through the experience of living in Belgium for 5 years, I found that the average working class in Belgium are able to separate their jobs and personal lives, which is a trend I hardly see in Japanese society. For instance, their priority is spending a time with their family, and hierarchical relationship at their workplace rarely affects their personal lives. To put it differently, I am attracted to the Western values when it comes to working environment.

It is not that I want to run away from the precarity in Japan and I am aware that my generation has to face the current situation and live through the hard time. However, forecasting its future from present situation frightens me. For example, the LDP is now trying to pass a labor legislation that will abolish working limit and obligation for the companies to provide their workers days off (Kanetani 2014). Such a policymaking is believed to increase the number of overwork deaths and it could worsen the precarity issue. This is another reason why I would like to work in an international environment.

Another goal is to have a family and let them have the same quality of life as I currently do, thanks to my father. What is important is that, in my life, I’ve always had a choice and never been coerced to choose certain path, which I believe is only possible due to a stable source of income. In other words, I do not want my future kids to be in a situation where having a precarious job is the only option. I believe that in the future, family will always be my ibasho, as it always has been. Ibasho, in my opinion, is a place that one can always “save” and go back to regardless of time. My friends from high school, or even from elementary school, have always been my ibasho where I can feel like a worthy individual. I believe it can be meaningful to place importance on keeping in touch with old friends and having “tsunagari”, because these would provide an individual more ibasho (Allison 2013, p. 20). I feel that it would be wonderful if I was able to have my workplace as my ibasyo where I have a good human relationship and am able to show my ability to the fullest. This way, working will not be something too stressful.

In conclusion, my future is still unclear and my plan is mostly based on the idea of “how to avoid precarity.” For this reason, in a next few years, I hope to find myself a clear future goal, so that I will be able to work on my own initiative to achieve that goal. To be honest, I am quite optimistic about my future career. And preferably, I would like not to become a part of the precarious society, but become a leading force to solve this issue.

References

Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp. 16-20). Duke University Press.

Kanetani, T. (2014). What is ’no overtime money’ system? Retrieved from https://kotobank.jp/word/「残業代ゼロ」制度-189789

Precarious Japan and Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kota Yanagidani

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Miku give us hope?

Lady Miku

Lady Miku (Photo credit: m61322)

by Zhang Shiwen

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

Finding where one belongs

Anonymous student post

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

 

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 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.

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)