My precarious future and minimum expectations of 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

Some people say that college days are summer vacation in life. Now, we, college students, have enough time to do various thing: such as study, part-time job, volunteer activity, finding lover, enjoying a club activity, and travel. However, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future: How will be my future? What kind of job will I take? Can I get married? Is my anxiety related to the social situation in Japan?

I believe that there are very strong relations between young people’s uneasiness about their future and current precarious situations in Japanese society. In the bubble economy period, young people could more easily get jobs and decide their future course, because the national economic condition was better. Yet now, owing to deregulation, privatization and the bursting of the bubble (Allison 2013), the circumstances are completely different.

I was born in 1994, after the bubble, and am now 21 years old, but I have not decided what I want to do in the future, especially my occupation. Actually I wanted to advance the science course since I entered this university, so I do not know particularly what kind of job can we, the students of this faculty or this university, take. Even though we have much greater choice of occupation than before, the employment situation is not good. It makes us young people keenly realize the importance of deciding our lifetime occupation. Maybe I will take a stable straight road because I want to realize secure position, although it gets much more difficult.

For me, marriage is a more difficult problem because I had never thought about it deeply. Meanwhile, some of my old friends, who are just my age, have already gotten married, and what is more, had children. Most of them are high school graduates and are now working. I sometimes worry which is happier or better for Japanese society. However, I vaguely suppose that I will be married before I am about 30 years old and have children before I am about 35 years old. There is no ground, but I think I am an ordinary man, and this is the present average (Japanese Cabinet Office 2012). I like children and am interested in child raising, so however busy my job will be, I will be ready to help my wife in child raising. Although I can have expectation like this, precarious situation in Japanese society makes the realization of my expectation harder. In “muen shakai“, the relationless society, it is difficult even to find a spouse and to do child raising normally.

In conclusion, I sometimes grow uneasy about my future but I had never thought about it concretely. Thanks to this occasion, I have my expectations for my future. However, it is very precarious and it is inevitably minimized by the social situation. I believe this tendency is not only for me but also for all present young people in greater or lesser degrees. As Allison (2013) described, there are still many problems in Japanese society. These are the negative harvest of Japanese history since 1945, when Japan became the defeated nation of WW2. Most of the problems are now old-fashioned for current society and get maladies. We have to improve them for both Japanese future and our bright future.

References

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

Japanese Cabinet Office (2012) Japanese child-child raising white paper

 

 

 

 

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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.

A disjointed family seeks unity in Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Masatoshi Yamamoto

Tokyo Sonata is a movie that shows us a recent ordinary Japanese family. The Sasaki family appears in this movie. Ryuhei, Megumi, and their 2 sons make up the family. This movie starts with a tragedy of Ryuhei. He was working at a company, and he was a department chief. However, suddenly he was fired by his boss because the company decided to set up a new operation. Ryuhei did not talk about it to his family, and he pretended to go to work every day after he lost a job. Nobody in the family knows about his joblessness because he wore a suit and left the home typically. But Megumi who is Ryuhei’s wife saw him receiving a soup ration in a park.

In this family, there were some problems other than Ryuhei’s joblessness. Both 2 children had what they wanted to do. The older son wanted to join the American military, and the younger son wanted to go to a piano school. However, Ryuhei disagreed with them, and he had a very strict authority in his family. Megumi had no opinion of it. Because of the dictatorship of Ryuhei, the family started to break up.

This movie has no happy ending, but I felt that this disjointed family may be able to become a united family through this ending. In the halfway of the movie, both Ryuhei and Megumi wished to start their life again because their family broke apart. How can they rebuild their family?

Ryuhei made a lot of sacrifices in his life to keep the social system in Japan going. He was working very hard at the company, and he did not have enough times to spend with his family, and he often worked late. He tried to contribute to the society and economy. However, he couldn’t receive enough benefits from the company. Moreover, suddenly he was fired, so he lost his ibasho both in the society and his family. People work hard and contribute to the society, but it is obvious that there are many people who cannot get enough welfares. I think that the traditional Japanese society system should change. For example, the labors should be guaranteed their positions more in their company.

In conclusion, I thought that probably there is a relationship between family and economy through this movie. Many people work hard, and they don’t have enough time with family. From this, the relationship in the family may sour. Therefore, if the economy starts to get worse, the number of families which have breakdown of relationship may increase. In our future, we will depend a great deal on the society and economy.

Reference

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

Can We Start Over Again?

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

We watched Japanese movieTokyo Sonata” in the class. This movie strongly appealed to us that how the Japanese society is. In particular, it focused on one family which is a normal one in Japan. But existing problems which brothers had have come to the light and their father was fired. In other words, one trouble causes another one. Their mother suffered from them. And all of them seeks their new ways in this story. As the most interesting point, they not only act as members of a family, but the film shows the actual example that Japanese people have now.

I can say that this movie relates to Anne Allison’s book deeply. In short, this shows how Japan is precarious. For instance, their elder brother was like typical young person of today in Japan. Like Allison says, many young people do not have hope or dream for the future. And they do not know what they want to do or should do. Finally he joined the American army in the movie. Moreover, their father who was fired by his company was also important. He met with some misfortune; dismissal, the death of his friened who was in the same situation, coming out of his dismissal and being a contract worker. Halfway through the movie, the family seemed to be about to split. However, they wanted to start over again in spite of such a bad situation. But I have a question. Can the loser really start over again in Japan?

In the movie, they understood the situation they were in and stood together again. But how is it in this real world? Now Japanese society is regarded as a strict society. In terms of failure, if someone makes some mistakes, he/she can not get over them. So people try to avoid the risk and seek safe lives. When such lives collapse even if they are safe, they fall in panic. Many Japanese will try to hide the fact if they lose their job. In the movie, in fact, several contract workers were wearing suit before working despite they did not need to wear. This scene means Japanese care too much about appearance. They never want others to know the dismissal.

In conclusion, I think Japanese society have to be more tolerant. Of course, I know that people are too tired to give a helping hand to others and all they can do is to support themselves. So we must aim to let this society be like that. And then loser will try again easiliy. Failure is not big thing.

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/

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/

 

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.

Japanese fixed concepts and weak relationships

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Misaki Kosaka

First of all, while Anne Allison’s book refers to the homeless and they have merely lost their home materially, Sasaki Ryuhei, who is a main character in the film Tokyo Sonata, has lost his home space mentally. That is, he has no place inside of his home. After WWⅡ, family roles in Japan have been rigid, such as “sengyo shufu” or the breadwinner of the family. Especially, the fixed view that a husband should work very hard for his family is an idea accepted by most Japanese. Ryuhei could not tell his family the fact that he was fired due to this fixed idea. He acts as if he is still working, wearing his suit and having card holder after his dismissal because being at home without any jobs of a husband is often recognized as ashamed things in Japan. Ryuhei’s former classmate who was fired like Ryuhei was even sets his cellphone ringing in designated time. They were afraid that people around them, especially their families, find out they have lost a job. Husband or father in Japan have to be just existence as people imagine. Ryuhei rejected a work as cleaning man and hoped a work people there wear suits at first, then it is also a kind of the fixed concept of people in Japan or himself.

But such an idea is not only a cause of not telling the truth but also of a weak relationships. In Allison’s book, Japanese tend to seek their identity at workplace and have few connections with their family or neighbors. The characters in this movie also put their place on workplace, so Ryuhei would feel to take away “ibasho” when he lost his job, and he could not tell the truth his family because of disconnectedness and incommunicativeness. Allison says that this family is “ordinary” in Japan.

In this movie I was most impressed by the scene that the family gather and start to eat a meal. This scene seems to be ordinary family’s life, but I felt something strange because although they are sitting in front of same table, they hardly talk each other. We generally think that they don’t need to gather for a meal if no one speaks, but I guess that sitting around the table with one’s family keeps a few relationships, and it may be only evidence that they are “family” even if nobody speaks. This strange sight can be seen in any Japanese home. Japanese are losing a spiritual home.

Reference

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

Present Human Relationships in Japan

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho...

English: Signage for hostess bars in Kabukicho, Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Narumi Ito

Anne Allison mentioned “global affective labor” in her book. Affective labor need not only physical strength but also restrain on emotion and tension on their work. Thus they always smile and pay attention to customers. Japan has affective labor such as a waiter, a flight attendant, hostess and maikosan. Especially, maikosan is unique to Japanese culture. They play Japanese instruments and perform traditional dances. In addition, a person who has never been to Japanese restaurants in which maikosa work cannot get services by maikosan because of ichigen san no kotowari (maikosan rejects people who do not connect with other customers). Thus maikosan tend to have “good” relationships with their customers.

On the other hand, a hostess is different from maikosan. They drink with customers, especially, most of them are office workers and hear their talking. Some customers talk proudly about themselves and complain about their jobs or families. Thus hostesses have to praise and pay compliments to them. There are two reasons why people want to go to clubs in which hostess provides drinks and chat with their customers.

The first reason is that people do not have “real” relationships. They are under stress, feel lonely and worry about their ibasho. After the Second World War, people worked hard and they could have time to spend with their families and friends. They could not consult with their parents about their worries. In addition, it was more difficult for them to keep company with their coworkers than with their families because fellow workers were just people who work with them in same offices. Thus they cannot find their ibasho in their lives any more.

However they think that they want to have someone hear their troubles. If they cannot consult their troubles with their families or friends, they will come to seek people who can advise to them, even if the people are stranger for them. They go to hostess clubs and confide their feelings. A hostess always hears their worries. Moreover, a hostess always praises her customers thus they can feel better.

The second reason is that customers do not need to worry about relationships with hostesses. People do not have opportunities to meet hostesses unless they visit hostess clubs. Thus if they have a quarrel with a hostess, they do not mind about it because they are outsiders in each other’s lives. It connects with mendoukusai. In modern Japan, they consider relationships as troublesome things because it is hard for them to keep and continue on good conditions.

In conclusion, if muenshakai is worse, people need to depend on stranger to solve their problems in Japan in the future. Thus people should have strong relationships even if they have only one. Japanese people have to own the same image of Japanese future which people have closer relationships and Japan will become stable.

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.

The connection between Tokyo Sonata and precarious Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yume Furumura

Tokyo Sonata is a movie which shows a breakdown and a bit of hope in an ordinary family in Japan. There are a lot of messages of this movie, but I’d like to analyze it focusing on “ibasho” and “jiko sekinin” of the ideas in Anne Allison’s book, Precarious Japan.

Allison writes “If only we have hope and respect, we can live. But without a secure means of existence, many today have no place or sense of home at all [ibasho].” In this movie, each member of the family looks for their own “ibasho”. For example, Ryuhei (the father and husband) lost his job, but it was the only ibasho for him. Then, he starts to pursue his new ibasho. The other members of the family also search for it. However, Allison has doubts about Japanese’s having problems of “ibasho”. She says as follows, “instead of finding shelter for their dream making, many feel exiled but not to anywhere else as much as to nowhere at all?” It does not necessarily mean that all Japanese don’t have their house. However, if it is a form-only house, it doesn’t occupy their mind. In fact, the family of the movie has a house, but it is just the house for them. It was not ibasho.

The older son loses “kibo” (hope) because he cannot find a good job and believes that he will never be acknowledged by society in Japan. The son got tired of the structure of Japanese society, kakusa shakai. Therefore, he decides to be a soldier in America for finding a new ibasho and for his family. Ryuhei was strongly against what he tried to do. However, the son went to America with “jiko sekinin” (self-responsibility). According to Allison, “Couched in a rhetoric of ‘quality of life’ and ‘living independently,’ this turn to individual responsibility (jiko sekinin) and return to family or household is the signature of government attempts to privatize care and cut back on state spending.” Even if the son dies in America, the government of Japan wouldn’t do anything, because it is his (the son’s) jiko sekinin. In fact, Megumi tried to confirm her son’s safety, but she couldn’t do even that. If I were in the son’s shoes, I would probably think that whatever the outcome, it is better to go to America than live in disgrace in Japan.

I was surprised at the close connection between the movie and what Allison’s book says, because it is a Japanese who made the movie, and it is a foreigner who wrote the book. Japan has been thought as a rich country by people in other countries. However, a lot of Japanese feel that they are not happy now, and the perspective of the future of Japan may start changing. I want Japan to be the society that all of the people can have hope, and I expect the hopeful story will be made next.

Reference

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