Tokyo Sonata and contemporary Japan

by Keita Sakato

The film ‘Tokyo Sonata’ is one of the nice films which shows recent precarious situations in Japan. Recently, the Japanese economy has not been stable. Some major Japanese companies have left Japan for developing countries, where they can hire a lot of workers with lower wages. Because of this, the domestic economics has no vigor and keeps declining. Most companies end up deciding to fire many incompetent workers.

One of the fired workers was the ‘father’ in the film. He was fired though did nothing about some punishments, because of the company’s circumstances. He was just the type of the fired workers who are over 40 years old and have no special abilities. Some companies think that they do not need the older workers because they have no long future. Instead of hiring the older workers who are expensive to hire, they want to hire many younger able workers. This is the situation of recent Japan.

After that, the ‘father’ tried to get a good job, which means that it gives workers enough money. However, it is not easy to get such job because there are a lot of fired workers in Japan. Of course, he could not get the good job that he wanted. When he visited a company to get an interview, he was said ‘Let me see your ability.’ It means that what ability he has for company, but he could not show anything. He was not hired by the company, of course.

To lose one’s job directly connects to own family, as his fired friend concealed from his wife and died in the end. The biggest difference between regular worker and irregular workers is the wage. Irregular workers have to work with lower wage. It means the family may be poor. In Japan, it is not normal and not proud that a head of a family is irregular worker, so ‘father’ could not tell it to ‘mother’. Nevertheless, it was known and ‘mother’ felt sad. The normal form of her family might fall to pieces.

To avoid such situation in the film, the government needs to guarantee a stable system for people. If the term that fired worker is searching a new job became so long, it will be the situation like in the film, so to create the situation that the fired workers can find and get a new job quickly.

Living in Japan on minimum wage

Masatoshi Yamamoto

According to Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan, we can see that Japan is very precarious now. Japan has a lot of serious social problems such as kakusa shakai, muen shakai, ikizurasa and so on, and there are a lot of people who can’t have hope for their future because of such problems. The precariat and the working poor are kinds of these people. Precariat means irregular workers, and working poor is people who can’t get enough wages, although they are working hard. Why are there so many precarious people in Japan? Why is Japan so precarious? I am worried about my future because I read this book and knew many serious facts in recent Japan.

In recent Japan, the number of net café dwellers is increasing. Many of them are irregular workers or jobless people, and the working poor are a kind of irregular workers. The working poor work as hard as regular workers every day, but they get wages less than those of regular workers. Moreover, a day labor earns on average 6000 to 8000 yen for one day, and it is difficult to live in Japan. Many people live in net cafés, though they are working. The reason is because the minimum age is very low in Japan. They can’t get enough wages to live on.

I can’t have clear image in my future yet, and I don’t know what kind of job I want to get. However, I want to work in a company and be a regular worker to get a stable salary to live. Nowadays, it is difficult for youths to find a job, and many of them become irregular workers. Therefore, maybe I will become an irregular worker if I can’t get my ideal job in my job search. If I become an irregular worker and earn wage that is close to minimum wage, I will hold a demonstration against the government or local community. I think that there are a lot of people who have same idea, so we should argue that the minimum wage is too low to live. The system of minimum wage will not change if we do something.

Our parents pay a lot of taxes, and I think that the government has some extra money because of the large amount of taxes. If it is true, I want government to provide funds to each local community. I wonder why the minimum wages are different among local communities. I hope these issues about minimum wage will be debated in Japanese society more than ever.


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

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Can We Survive If We Just Earn Minimum Wage?

Anonymous student post

Each of the prefectures in Japan has a regulation about the minimum wage. Actually, it greatly differs between rural areas and big cities. For example, the highest minimum wage is 869 yen an hour in Tokyo. On the other hand, the lowest of it is 664 yen an hour in 9 prefectures. With the information, we can understand that there is big distinction of 200 yen. This seems to be great difference. Well, how are actual lives when it comes to workers in such a situation? Are there real differences? And how do they live every day?

In my opinion, there might not have a big difference by minimum wage in real lives. I’ll list 2 points. First, commodity prices are different in each place. As it is, rural areas’ prices are lower than big cities’. In other words, it can be said that minimum wage is fitted by commodity prices. Secondary, the lives of workers who earn minimum wage is surely severe however minimum wage is. The difference by minimum wage is almost nothing, but living with it is very hard.

In class, we have already discussed the monthly expenses and income of an imaginary person who works for minimum wage. He is a student and needs money for foods, lighting and heating, clothes, mobile phone and Internet. It looks difficult to make it by himself, and he can’t live without a remittance from his family. But to earn minimum wage does not make it hard to live. Depending on only a part time job really makes the lives precarious. Imagine that, can you say that your life in working is not precarious anymore if you get a job which you can earn 1200 yen? Maybe you can not say yes. Many part time jobs do not have enough welfare system. It is difficult for them to take care of workers. A part time job itself makes precarious.

For developing the current situation, government must make more rule for people who have part time jobs. As for us, we must care about not only minimum wage but treatment when we look for part time jobs. The most important factor is not money but one’s situation. Finally, minimum wage never makes workers precarious. (Of course, students should care about that)


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

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (n.d.). retrieved May 20, 2014, from 

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The struggles of minimum wage

by Keita Sakato

There are a lot of irregular workers in Japan today. They might have fallen into this situation because of Japan’s precarious economics. Then, can they make sufficient money with irregular jobs?

The minimum wage is different in each prefecture. For example, it is 869 yen per hour in Tokyo. This is the highest in Japan. On the other side, in 8 prefectures such as Kochi and Tokushima, it is only 664 yen per hour. This is the lowest in Japan, and the average wage per hour is 764 yen. There are such big differences among urban prefectures like Tokyo and rural prefectures like Kochi. However, the differences in wages are not a problem because the prices of all things are higher in urban prefectures than in other prefectures. The problem which we need to pay attention to is that the minimum wage is too low to make enough money.

It is too difficult to live contentedly if people work at the lowest minimum wage, 664 yen. For example, if a man who was fired by a company and has no family started an irregular job which is the lowest wage one, can he get back to a stable life? He works 8 hours a day and 4 days a week. Even though he wishes to work 7 days a week, he cannot do because there are only a few jobs for irregular workers. He can earn 5,312 yen a day, 21,248 yen a week and 84,992 yen a month. He lives alone in a small apartment and cannot depend on his family because he has nothing. He needs to pay the rent of his apartment, 40,000 yen, and the expenses for lighting and fuel, 9,000 yen a month. Also, he needs to pay his taxes, 8,000 yen a month. The left money is only about 28,000 yen. Of course he must eat to live, so he must pay food expenses from his left money. He has no money to live as a normal man. He will not be able to eat delicious foods and play with anyone. He may abandon his apartment because of the high rent for him. After that, he will spend every night in the net café or fast food shop or by the river.

The above example is not a special case. Some unfortunate Japanese people fall into bad situations like this one. The government has to rescue them from this situation. One of the ways to rescue them is to raise the minimum wage for irregular workers because the present wage is too low. This is the thing that the government should do making haste.

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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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Living on minimum wage in Japan

by Tomomi Hosokawa

In Japan, minimum wage is about 760 yen on average (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 2013). This is low compared to other developed countries. This is one of the factors of poverty in Japan. If I must live with minimum wage in Japan, I would struggle with both physical and mental pain. For example, a woman in the book Precarious Japan is a temporary worker, and she gets less than 50,000 yen a month. She was in bad health, but she could not go to hospital. In addition, that woman could not receive welfare because she was young and seen as healthy enough to work. This is directly related to life. If I am a temporary worker like her, I will also suffer from the anxiety of losing a job. Companies usually dismiss low-wage workers like temporary workers. If I was fired, I could not rent a room and I would not have enough money to find a new job. I have no choice but to be turned adrift. In this case, it is difficult to rely on family or friends because I do not want them to know about my situation. Also, I do not want to trouble them.

Many people are suffering from this problem in Japan. How can this be solved? According to Anne Allison (2013, p.58), “Making the lives and circumstances of such people visible in and to the public is part of Yuasa’s wider agenda in his reverse poverty”. I agree with this opinion because this will be the connection to the society. If they can feel someone understand them, they will be relieved. Also, community will begin to face this problem if they notice that.

However, I believe it is the obligation of government to make the situation of such people be seen and solve the problem. This is because government is one of the factors of this. They set the minimum wage lowest in the developed countries. In addition, only the people who passed strict requirement can receive welfare. They have responsibility to share and come to grips with this problem to make the connection to the society for them.


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

Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (2013)


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Living on minimum wage in Japan

Minimal Minimum Wage

Minimal Minimum Wage (Photo credit: PropagandaTimes)

by Tomohiro Doi

I am talking about minimum wage in Japan. In Japan, the minimum wage is determined. However, this tackling is relieved with Abe’s government and the workers are difficult to work and live and it is easy to run companies for the administration. Namely, it is easy to live for the administration and it is difficult to live for the workers in Japanese society.

If I get minimum wage in the future, if I am living by myself, it might not have any problems. However, if it is a part time work, in my old age, it is uneasy because it do not have social security and an employee pension. And if I get married to somebody and I become parent in the future, it is hard to support my family. In other thing, Japanese society will become the age of a declining birthrate and aging population more and more in the future. Households what the son support the son’s parents will increase. If I support my parents, it will be hard to manage to make a living more and more.

To think this problem about if I get minimum wage, first in Kyoto, the minimum wage is about 773 yen. In this wage, for instance, I work five days for a week and work for eight hours for a day. And its simple total is 6,184 yen for a day. For a week, its total is 30,920 yen. For a month, its total is 154,600 yen. However, this is simple total. If I am a part time worker, it is very difficult to work every day and to get 154,600 yen for a month because a non-regular employee is not stable, for instance even if the non-regular employee is taken on, it is rather difficult to get work and to get money.

Now, to think this, for example, I live in Kyoto in minimum wage. First, the most important thing is the place of live what is house. The market of house rent is about 40,000 yen. To deduct house rent from revenue, it is about 114,600 yen. Others one, most important thing is food. For a month, it is thought it is about 45,000 yen. This is 500 yen each a one meal and 1500 for a day. And the power, gas and water rate is collectively about 7000 yen. Therefore, what is left is 62,600 yen. At first sight, it has a surplus. However, it is extremely hard and it is as I say above so this life will be very harsh.

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Declining Unionization in the Age of Economic Globalization

A protest in Utah against Wal-Mart

A protest in Utah against Wal-Mart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Jeawon Moon

The liberal economist Friedrich Hayek claimed that ‘the effect of union activities to influence pricing is potentially very harmful, making the market system ineffective. For the economic freedom labor unions’ power should be restricted.” As he insisted, labor unions have often been believed to disturb effective corporate management in an increasingly competitive marketplace, especially with the fast-pace of globalization. Companies aim to improve their productivity and create a stable profit by keeping an anti-union strategy. However, strategies have been criticized as making income inequality severe all over the world. I will explain this by giving the example of Wal-Mart which is one of many famous companies that do not allow a labor union.

Wal-Mart, a giant company in the retail industry, has been successful with the policy ‘Everyday Low Price’ satisfying customers’ demanding for less price but high quality. Its way of cost reduction for low prices and improving productivity has received positive evaluations from neo-liberal economists and other business leaders. However, hidden behind the success of Wal-Mart is the exploitation of cheap labor, which means that Wal-Mart’s cost reduction depends on low pay for workers. Employees of Wal-Mart have to put up with terrible working conditions such as low salaries, less than the minimum cost of living, no health insurance, paid holidays or sick leaves. They are less-skilled workers who are viewed as just commodities and expendables whenever the company can throw them out. This explains why they reluctantly continue to accept low wages and poor working conditions to make their living. Nevertheless, they cannot fight against the ruthless company for fair wages and dignified conditions through the power of a union because it is very nearly impossible to organize a union due to the harsh anti-union strategy of the company. Wal-Mart has blocked labor unions completely to make employees unable to demand higher wages. However, many companies think the strategy of Wal-Mart is a desirable strategy to survive in the midst of the fierce competition of the current free world market.

Economic globalization is understood as free trade, creating a private sector and allowing foreign investment, and it has been supported to increase incomes and wealth through the effective use of resources and free competition. However, the hidden reality is brutal. The declining unionization trend is one of factors showing that the globalization is contributing to the worldwide inequality issue by increased inequitable distribution of income. In other words, the economic globalization causes the polarization between competitive countries, industry, companies, individuals and uncompetitive ones.


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