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.

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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.

 

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.

Can you live alone?

by Zhang Shiwen

Japanese animation has become one of the most influential cultural media in the world. It not only exports the interesting stories, but also expresses the Japanese values to the world. One of the phrases which appears in most animations moved me and maybe many others a lot, what I think is the core value of Japanese culture is that “the human being cannot live alone”. Due to that, no matter what type of the animation is, Japanese value always tells us the importance of being connected with others. However, to think of the situation that Anne Allison wrote in Precarious Japan, the real Japan society has been losing this core value of connection. Some of them “have been abandoned or estranged from their families”, who will be discussed following are called “denizens” or “refugees” in her book (Allison 2013:59).

It is known that “denizenship” and “refugeeism” mostly describe the migrants and foreigners, but in Japan, people “who get stranded inside their own country with access to a secure job, stable home, or normal life”, and “without a place or space where one feels comfortable and “at home”” are also called “refugees” (Allison 2013:47). However, under the constitution of Japan, all citizens have the right to enjoy the basic life, which means living healthily and getting basic insurance. While seeing the current situation in Japan, many people work to earn money which even cannot afford the housing, enough food; even if the low payment and bad health condition, the government refused to pay the insurance. Moreover, some people work but “felt superfluous: unvalued in the work” and “voided of worth or recognition as a human being” (Allison 2013:64). They felt it a hardship of living because of lacking of human relationships or no belonging.

However, as what most animations show and the reality that people need “social recognition, human belonging”, and people “relay on others for self-confirmation”(Allison 2013:67), some of those who lose the connection with the society chose to kill others to prove his own existence, such as “Akibaken musabetsu terojiken”; some of them transferred their worries of insecurity of life to dissatisfied and then “join right wing association for the national belonging” (Allison 2013:63). In Japan, “net right wing” and “hate speech” are raised, but the truth is that it is hard to master the true information. Due to that, I think that if it is difficult to say the denizenship and refugeeism lead those people seek belonging to these groups, though some groups are good.

Therefore, in my opinion, denizenship and refugeeism will not lead people to seek belonging elsewhere, although it looks like so. Firstly, I do not know how people even cannot feed on themselves have the flexibility to join some groups, of course, if entering these groups can give them some benefits. That is the economic factor which makes those denizens join the groups. Secondly, I do not deny that it is very important to be recognized and belong, but I think that like people born alone and die alone, why they cannot live alone? If join to some groups or being recognized by the society is just self‐satisfaction? Some people, like Hitler or the leaders of right wings, use people’s desire of being recognized to do some bad things. Then, in these case, do they really take back their respect of human being?

In conclusion, I think that government should mainly take the responsibility to make sure the security of them, and take their respect back. What it means is that to join some groups is not enough and easy to be paranoid, the best way is to make them get back to the society.

Reference

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

 

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Refugeeism and Denizenship

by Asuko Sugino

First of all, I’ll talk about the definitions of “refugeeism” and ”denizenship”, secondly I’ll refer to where refugees or denizens might belong to instead, and then finally I’d like to mention an example of one refugee in the Philippines who made the organization working for equality and social justice.

The word “refugee” in Precarious Japan by Anne Allison is used in a broad sense. That is to say, it indicates everyone who doesn’t have the place where they can feel comfortable or a sense of home, rather than the people who live in a tent in a refugee camp. She declares to us that this refugeeism has become “ordinary” in Japan which can’t provide “ibasho” for the citizen, citing many examples of “net café refugees” or “temps”. These refugees cannot be equal to non-refugees in various ways (shelter, stable salary, guarantee for future).

On the other hand, “denizen” in this article doesn’t include the above-mentioned examples such as Japanese net café refugees or temp workers. Refugees don’t have “ibasho” but “citizenship” at least. “Denizen” lacks not only secure job, where to return but also their own citizenship, therefore they are not regarded as citizen but resident alien. I think that “denizens” lacks both of equal status and rights, while “refugees” lacks just equal status. To make the worse, according to Anne Allison, denizenship is made use of and exploited by global capitalism because denizens have no choice but to stand working at low wage, with short-term contract and few benefits. Additionally, this system using denizen labors is plotted on purpose and the number of them will increase.

Now, where do they find alternative “ibasho”? In my opinion, both of refugees and denizens tend to seek it at anti-social organizations such as gangster organizations or crime syndicates, because society robbed them of essential status and rights. Some decide to soak themselves into drugs or alcohol without seeking alternative “ibasho”. However, some people try to alter by themselves the wrong social system, facing the reason why the society failed to give them the benefits to be granted. The following is one example.

In the Philippines, 10 years ago, one 16-year boy named Eflen Penyaflorida living in a slum in Manila was worried about the future of his hometown. The children surrounding him supported their families’ living by gathering garbage, so most of them don’t receive an education and become gang members as they grew up. He hoped the gangs in Manila would disappear by receiving enough education to gain ordinary jobs. He established “DTC (Dynamic Teen Company)” and started teaching the children by himself breaking down their parents’ opposition. Now, the scale of the organization is as large as the school and it was awarded a prize by CNN. Eflen didn’t look for his new “ibasho”, but create it by himself.

Everyone cannot make their own “ibasho” by their hands, still we have the responsibility for trying to make the proper place for “refugees” or “denizens” instead of anti-social places, as a member of the society.

Reference

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

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Seeking belonging in organizations

by Ayaka Sasaki

Lacking equal rights and equal status make us seek to belong an organization or group. However, I think that belonging a good organization or a bad organization depends on individuals. In this blog post, I point to bad organizations as organizations that bring bad effect on society, like extreme cults and so on. And I think that belonging elsewhere, like in a good organization is good. By doing this, they can feel relaxed, even they hold a lot of problems that are related to their lives.

From this, I think that someone throw oneself into a dangerous religion or cult group, they require relaxation from the struggle of living. I read an interesting article about cult, and in this article, the reason why people are inspired by cult.

The reason which is given in article was convincing. Because cults fill such a requirements:

  • physical requirements—food, shelter, clothing and job
  • social  requirements, friendship—reciprocal help and love
  • status, the feeling that I have power—this might be attractive to young people especially.
  • dependency needs—they can get a relationship like parents-children.
  • escape from responsibility—the leader take the risk or responsibility.

I felt an odd impression from these requirements. That is, cults fill the social problems in the society. Then, the society cannot fill them, a cult emerges and fills them. Thus, the government or organizations like NGO or NPO should act to fill these requirements.

In reverse, how about those who belong to an organization working for equality and social justice? I feel a good impression, because they try to face the bad parts of society and struggle to get better lives than today.

However, I think only belonging to an organization is not a solution of denizenship or refugeeism. We must face the problems or ugly aspects which Japanese society holds. Moreover, it is an only solution to them, and not only the organizations but also the governments should try to solve them.

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Refugeeism, social rights and the Japanese government

Anonymous student post

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and t...

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Government of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Anne Allison (2013), Japan is facing an era of ordinary refugeeism, in which ordinary people like us could be a homeless with no job and no place to return to. Many of these people Anne Alison calls “the drifting poor” are flexible or irregular workers, including temporary workers or day laborers having no job security, often with no compensation or health insurance and earning about 7000yen for a day on average. Some of these workers become net café refugees, spending nights at an internet café or hamburger shops since they cannot afford an apartment. Among those most precarious workers, quite many numbers are the young generations in their age of twenties. This new face of poverty in Japanese society are ordinary youth we can find anywhere in Japan once expected to be a re-productivity of Japanese society and shoulder it’s economy of the next generation (Allison, 2013).

It seems clear that Japan’s progressively reproductive futurism is collapsing into precarious society with no hope for the future, as Anne Allison points out in her book. Recently, only a few percent of world population is monopolizing the wealth and the economic gap is widening and the number of precarious people are considered denizens without sustainable jobs, full citizenship or home even inside their home country is increasing. Japan is not the exception but at the front of this trend.

This situation of denizens contradicts the Japanese constitution. According to article 25 which stipulates the right to life and the state’s social mission, all citizens are entitled to have healthy and culturally basic existence (Tanaka, 2014). It could also be a violation of social rights in International Covenants on Human Rights that Japan has been ratifying (Tanaka, 2014). It is obvious that being homeless and not able to lay down when sleeping, eating cup noodles only and continuously threatened by job insecurity is not a healthy and culturally basic existence and Japanese government has a responsibility by not fulfilling this right.

The Japanese Government protected big companies in priority and introduced the system of results-based employment and individual responsibility after facing the bursting of the bubble economy and the following economic decline. However, they did not proclaim any effective policy on social security to protect people who fell out of the new working system nor develop a social welfare system. Currently, the Abe administration is practicing the policy of Abenomics, the economic and monetary policies of prime minister Abe. I suspect that this economic measure is not effective by accelerating the social gap and distortion of neoliberalism.

Statistics are showing that although companies’ profits had increased with Abenomics, capital investment has not increased; therefore the policy is failing to distribute wealth for the employees (Suzuki, n.d.). Furthermore, the administration is spending so much time and effort on the argument of revision of article 9. Rather, I think the government should provide countermeasures on employment and social welfare for this critical situation affecting too many irregular workers. However, the Abe administration has reduced the budget for public assistance since August 2013 (Seikatsuhogohi, 2013).

If the future of our country is the youth who are irregular workers, with no home, no hope or plan for the future, Japan will blow up itself. In order to break through this situation, it is very important to have NPOs or NGOs to help those precarious people. However, I believe this is more the government’s responsibility to control and correct these issues. I think one of the biggest problems is that the Japanese people have little sense of entitlement and depend on the bureaucracy. We citizens too have a responsibility by light polls at elections to overlook the hardship. I think we should not just accept unfair situations or deceived by government’s little temporary distribution of economic profit trying to divert citizen’s dissatisfaction. We Japanese citizens should actively request the government to fundamentally improve the social welfare system.

References

Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University press.

Tanaka, M. (2014). Basic documents of International Law. Toshindo: Japan.

Suzuki, M.(n.d.). Setsubitoushi karamita keikijunkan [capital investment and economic rocovery]. Retrieved from http://group.dai-ichi-life.co.jp/dlri/monthly/pdf/0811_7.pdf

Seikatsuhogohi 8 gatubunkara gengakue [public assistance budget will be reduced from this August] (May 16, 2013). Retrieved from Asashi Digital: http://newvo.jp/237743/%E6%9C%9D%E6%97%A5%E6%96%B0%E8%81%9E%E3%83%87%E3%82%B8%E3%82%BF%E3%83%AB%EF%BC%9A%E7%94%9F%E6%B4%BB%E4%BF%9D%E8%AD%B7%E8%B2%BB%E3%80%81%EF%BC%98%E6%9C%88%E5%88%86%E3%81%8B%E3%82%89%E6%B8%9B%E9%A1%8D%E3%81%B8%E3%80%80%EF%BC%92%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%A7%EF%BC%96%EF%BC%8E%EF%BC%95%EF%BC%85%E3%82%AB%E3%83%83%E3%83%88-%E6%94%BF%E6%B2%BB

 

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About denizenship and refugeeism

Anonymous student post

Denizenship and refugeeism lead people to seek belonging. I think belonging has a good point and a bad point, so it is difficult that I decide whether belonging is good or bad. In a good point, belonging gathers people and produces a sense of solidarity, because people can share their emotions and information. When people get intimate with one another, they can get connectedness in the belonging. In other words, they can get ibasho. In a bad point, people in a belonging may have a stereotype, because belonging usually makes a specific concept. If people stick to a concept, when they know different concepts, they will have difficulty understanding them.

In current society of Japan, people have to get belonging to spend their average daily life safely. In other words, if people can’t get belonging, they can’t earn decent wages, and they are danger of life such as homeless. Generally speaking, becoming a permanent employee, or so-called seishain, connects to a safe and stable life. That is why a lot of people want to be a permanent employee.

However, for some people such as foreigners, handicapped people, single parents, furitā, and so on, it is difficult to be a permanent employee. They often work as temporary workers or contract workers. They earn a low salary, and don’t compensate social security system, so they struggle every day. In Allison’s book, Yuasa notes, ”postwar Japan bred its own form of welfare that depended on the corporation and family and organized little public welfare itself” (2013, p.58). Once you are laid off your job, you can’t come back your former status in the current society of Japan, which Yuasa describes as “sliding down society” (suberidai shakai) (2013, p.58). The gap is expanding more and more.

Under this circumstances getting belonging is finding a permanent job, because the government don’t take sufficient welfare policy, so people have to stand their own two feet. In addition, other relationship of human except work disappears. For example, you don’t know the face and name even your neighbors. In this society, people will not be able to ask for help. To avoid isolation, people are eager for belonging unconsciously, and this anxiousness sometimes people make believe a bad concept or a cult such as Aum Shinrikyou, I think.

In conclusion, your life depends on your job as Allison quotes Amamiya, “ikizurasa (hardship of life) is connected to poverty and labor issues” (2013, p.65). In my opinion, it is essential to get belonging for getting good jobs.

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A chain of refugeeism

by Ruri Inoue

As Anne Allison says in her book, Precarious Japan, there is a chain of “refugeeism” in the current society in Japan, that also has the another nickname, “muen shakai”. In this “muen shakai”, there are bunches of people who are literally excluded from their companies or families by being fired or abandoned, et cetera. Also, there are bunches of people who have a place of their own (“ibasho”), however, they do not feel like they belong to anywhere or anyone. I believe that “refugees” in this context could be categorized into these two groups that one is a group which physically and emotionally become lost in life due to not having a place they could belong to. In contrast, the other one is a group which emotionally suffers from the sense of lost due to their inner vision that is brainwashing them into thinking as if they are not needed or accepted by others or societies.

It could be said that the “muen shakai” is deeply tied with the unbreakable chain of the “refugeeism”, which has accidentally created some of the monster groups known as hate groups and cults as unpredicted spin-offs. For instance, there was or is a cult group called Aum Shinrikyo, which is infamous for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. It is not too sure why each member of the Aum Shinrikyo joined it as the reason is likely to differ among the members. On the other hand, I have heard that some university students, who were struggling to find someone or somewhere they can cling to, made themselves involve into the cult group because it made them feel as if they finally found a place where they can call their own “ibasho” and anything its leader Asahara said became the truth of life to them.

“Couldn’t they have found somewhere else?”, I wonder. But it is probably a wrong question. I guess it should be like “Wasn’t there anywhere else they could find?” One of the possible reasons why they became stuck with the cult group is that they hadn’t probably known elsewhere to ask for help. In other words, the access to some institutions or groups who are experts in helping people find connections are almost invisible and hidden in this society. Honestly, I am too sure about it but at least this is how I feel about today’s society in Japan. They really need to come out on the surface, make themselves more visible, and as a result, that would possibly contribute to reduce the numbers of those who gets misled into dangerous and life-threatening communities.

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Jiko sekinin—does it help us?

by Tomoki Bischel

Is jiko sekinin (individual responsibility) a good thing? For a long time I have thought of it not as a good thing but more of a matter of course. Therefore, I was for jiko sekinin. A few experiences made me think this way. One of them was during junior high school. Two classmates of mine had started a fight during lunch break and the teacher got very disappointed about this and decided to make us stay late after school and discuss about this topic, saying it was rentai sekinin (group responsibility). However, although I was for jiko sekinin, reading Anne Alison’s book gave me a new point of view: the aspects of jiko sekinin being a bad thing. So, I have decided to sort out the pros and cons of jiko sekinin in order to make things clear.

One of the pros of jiko sekinin is the aspect that helps us have responsibility over what we do. Being told that what you do is up to you, and that you have to take responsibility for it, people will stop to think if what there about to do is sufficient. So, in a way, jiko sekinin can act as a sort of legal force and help us not do the things we should avoid.

However, there are cons to this, and the biggest con, I believe, is that it can turn to something very cruel. This connects to what Anne Allison mentions in her book. Too much coercion can cause stress against people and start to build fear against society in them and be unable to feel at ease. Therefore, looking at this aspect, it may be said that jiko sekinin is one of the reasons of this precarious Japan that we live in now. However, does this tell us that we should lose the idea of jiko sekinin?

As I mentioned, jiko sekinin has both sides of the coin, and both sides have a really important role. So, what can we do or what should we do? I believe that just ignoring the idea of jiko sekinin will not solve the problem but cause more. What we need to do is to respect human-to-human relationships, and try to help each other above the idea of jiko sekinin. Although this may sound very vague, I strongly believe that this is very important and in the future, jiko sekinin will be something a lot better for the society than it is now.

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