Tokyo Sonata: a look into precarious Japan

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marina Furuichi

Tokyo Sonata” is a film which describes a breakdown and a faint ray of hope in a family. The outline of the story is this: In Tokyo, the Sasaki family lives in a town. Ryuhei, the father of the family, is fired, but he can’t tell his family the fact. His two sons also have their own secret. In addition, one day, his wife Megumi is drawn into involvement in a robbery. In these situations, however, little by little, they begin to find a faint ray of hope while all the family has each their own feeling. In this movie, some parts of recent precarious Japan which Allison states such as jikosekinin is depicted. I will states the review in terms of jikosekinin, kodoku, and mendōkusai which are the issues that Allison states.

First of all, I’m going to state my analysis of the movie in terms of “jikosekinin”. In the beginning of the movie, father, Ryuhei, is fired because the company decided to employ Chinese workers who work for a smaller salary than Japanese. In the scene, after the company tells that he isn’t needed in the company, his superior says, “What can you do for this company? Do the rest by yourself.” I think the line is one of the best examples of idea of “jikosekinin”. As the movie shows us a negative side of “jikosekinin” in Japan, I think they easily abandon people who is not useful by using the word “jikosekinin” because especially, Japanese company place great importance on their benefits. Government also imports on their policies such as “privatizing more and more of (what once were) government services under the banner of “individual responsibility (jikosekinin),” as Allison (2013, p52) states.

Second, I will state my analysis of the movie in terms of “kodoku” and “mendōkusai”. There is a scene which Kenji who is a younger brother talks with his piano teacher. He learns the piano without saying it to his family. One day, he happen to learn that the teacher decided to divorce. Then, he says to her, “I understand you. There is more time I want to be alone than that with someone. I have to be worried about hurting someone when I’m with someone.” In this scene, I think people who choose “kodoku” to live in easier human relationships without “mendōkusai ningenkankei” is described. According to Anne Allison (2013, p100), “young people say marriage is mendōkusai [a nuisance]; they’d rather protect their money and time for themselves.” There is a link between the scene of the movie and the passage in Allison’s book. I think that both of them refer to that there are many people who want to be alone to run away from “mendōkusai ningenkankei” in Japan.


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

Japanese issues in “Tokyo Sonata”

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Tomohiro Doi

In class, we watched the film “Tokyo Sonata.” This movie showed issues in Japan. A man was fired and he looks for work but he cannot find it. In his family, he tried to hide that he was fired. And his family became hopeless and worse than ever before. Then his family members broke up and relationship of that became weak. He frantically tries to bring his family together. However, his family still broke up.

I think this movie shows the modern Japanese society faithfully. The minority which is no job people and fired people are despised by the majority. A certain people were driven to suicide. And then I think this movie displayed not only unemployment but also all problems in Japan.

In Anne Allison’s book, Precarious Japan, an important issue in Japan, especially the breakdown of family is described and it is connected with this movie. Allison interviewed the Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko. She argued about this problem appropriately. She said that the Japanese stereotype that is male work outside female stay at home as housewife has broken down. Therefore the male as breadwinner broke down. And the man’s family corporate system has ended little by little.

Allison said that the family corporate system linked a particular structure of work to one of family and home. However, this system have changed. In this movie “Tokyo Sonata,” the man behaves as a breadwinner male and worries about himself authority in family. But he was found out to be unemployed and work as a non-regular employee. Allison wrote about hope for the breakdown of family. In this book, it was about Tamura Hiroshi, who is a Japanese talent now. In his middle school student time, his family broke down. In his family, his mother died two years ago and his father brought up his two children. However, he could not work and he abandoned his two children. In the movie, father could not work and looks like to break down his family.

Now, the break down of family could connect with a case. In these days, a certain man divorced and broke down his family. And he was not able to bring up his son and to kill him. Like this, like “Tokyo Sonata,” this breakdown of family may connect with a crime and disintegration of relatives.

Discovering the importance of ibasho

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

Anne Allison views the problems Japan faces from a lot of perspectives. I am very interested in topic about human relationship and ibasho. Therefore I want to think about it related to my experiences.

I became a university student one year ago, and I began living by myself. What I felt strongly in my university life as a freshman is that life consists of a continuance of acts of choosing something. Because I can choose almost all things by myself, I have to take responsibility by myself. I have had more time to face that by myself and imagine my future since I had such an idea. When I think about my future, that is almost shushoku and shukatsu, I often talk to myself what is most important thing in my life at the same time, because I consider future plan is deeply connected with what I value. In thinking about that, I realized that my view on the family has changed so far.

In short, it was not until I left my hometown and lived alone that I understood how valuable my family is. I knew that the greatness of my mother who raised me and my brother by herself with working every day, and how much I have been supported by family for the first time. If I am worried about something, my family always listens to my worries and gives good advice for me. My family accepts and loves me no matter what I am, and filled with my desire of recognition absolutely. I was sure that family is ibasho for me after reading Allison’s paper.

As Allison says, current Japanese society is unstable, liquid and precarious. Human relationships get to be thin more and more, and many people seek their real ibasho. I know it is important to have a “good” job and earn much money, and praised by many people, however, it is more essential to get deep human relationship and feeling of spiritual satisfaction in like there society.

I have not decided concrete my future plan and what I choose as my occupation yet. However, I have the core of myself, that is, I want to be a person who can be proud of myself to the family and protect ibasho. Moreover, I also hope to become a person who can support someone as one of their

Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Family would be my ibasho

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

I hope to get a job as a regular worker and get married and have children for my future. Actually I have only indefinite work plans for my future, however I really hope to get a job in which I can communicate with many people because it will bring me up to talk with all sorts of people. It would make me feel narrow and uncomfortable if there is only one or two ba for me even now. My life is full and enjoyable because I have several my ba, family, friends, relative, university, workplace as a part time. All of them help me differently to have great every day and any one can’t lack in my life. Therefore I hope to get married and have my family and keep working while I can work.

Family would be my ibasho. I consider ibasho as where I can show my everything and don’t need to pretend to be tough. Family is the most suitable place to be ibasho. That’s why I hope to get married and have a family. My mother works part-time and she welcomes me whenever I come back home from school, therefore it is difficult to imagine both mother and father working full-time. However I hope to raise children and keep working. I’m not sure it would go well because I’ve never experienced the family I hope to have in my future. My father and mother are almost typical a husband and wife, my father is a sarari-man and works to support my family, and my mother is a part-time worker and does all household work.

The media often says it is getting difficult to raise children in Japanese modern society because of the insufficiency to guarantee child rearing. It is one of the serious problems that the number of children who need to go to the nursery school exceeds the actual number of the children that nursery schools can accept. It can be said that one of the causes of the declining birthrate in Japanese society is related to lack of satisfaction with such guarantees. I hope there will be a better society in which to raise children, and that the birthrate would recover.

I’ve thought family would help me anytime, even though some people consider that having family might bring more risks than staying alone. I would like to get married and raise children while continuing to work because my family would be my ibasho and working would give me the strength to get through my life.

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

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Ayaka Sasaki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Establishing economic and human relationships

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

There are two aspects when I consider my future plan: one is about job and economic situation, and the other is about family and human relationship. Firstly I will focus on my work plan, and secondly I will explain my family plan.

I am thinking of becoming a journalist as a full-time worker, which means I have to do job hunting. However finding a job is becoming more difficult these days because of the deep depression and irregular employment problem. Therefore, I am considering two ways to realize my dream. One way is to do job hunting while I am a university student, and the other way is to go to a graduate school, study more about journalism and do job hunting. I have already decided which company I would like to work for as a regular employee, so I do not really care the process to get in the company. Actually, the Japanese present economic situation has affected my decide of a company. These days, it is usual for women to get job and work even after they get married and give birth, so I will work as long as possible.

My second topic is about my family plan in the future. Since I am going to take care of my parents when they get old, I have to live with my parents or live close to my parent’s house. This decision may make it difficult for me to find a partner, but I want to get married with a person who has a regular job and have my first baby before I am thirty, when I have enough energy to take care of the baby. I will share the housework with my husband, as both of us will continue to work. I may have to go back to work in one year or so after giving birth, but I will try to make time to spend with family. It is said that the connection between family is becoming weaker and actually the similar thing is happening to my family now, so I want to keep the family relationship good and strong. I want to make home as each family member ibasho, the place which everyone want to come back and feel comfortable. No matter how difficult it is to keep balance of work and housework, I will try hard to live a happy life.

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Free style life in liquid Japan

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Maya Hattori

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

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

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

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

Planning a future with family and relationships

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Takashi Nakai

In the first class, when the professor asked me what I want to be, I must have answered that I have no idea. However, as I joined in this class and discuss the contents with some classmates there, I think that I need to have a clear vision of my life, because as I read Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, I learned a lot from the current precariousness of Japan.

I will start to think the expectations of my work. The author says that there is a large number of irregular workers in Japan. They have as high a risk of being cut off as regular workers. Also, today even if you can be a regular worker, many people might have an uncomfortable impression on their working conditions. One of this is that some workers are forced to work hard beyond their working time. It is not until know these facts that I would like to be a regular worker in the office and when I have to choose what kind of working in the future, I should have no mistake of choosing the office.

Allison analyzes the current relationships of Japan. I begin to think from this what I want to be about them. Today there are many cases that people meet the end of their lives. Especially, this situation may apply to the old who live alone because of the lack of the relationships around the community and their family. When I read or listen to the fact, I strongly hope to avoid dying alone. To do it, I might have to have a family of mine and have children and grandchildren. Add to this, I should have the good relationships of the community, for example: office, family, friends, neighborhood, and so on. In the various kinds of categories, I should have what the term of “ibasho” expresses.

I will make the conclusion about my expectations. After graduating from this university, I may well enter the office and continue to work for long years of my life without the special reasons. On the other hand, needless to say, it is difficult for me to get some job which I am eager to, due to the recession of this society. After all, I think it is essential for me to make many kinds of experiences.

A “normal life” is no longer “normal”

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Marie Kosaka

First of all, I would like to spend a normal life in the future. However, what is a normal life for us? Some decades ago, it was seen as a normal life to graduate from university, get a regular job, get married, have a baby and watch your child grow up. Now, such a “normal life” is no longer “normal” for today’s people. Though the percentage of students advancing to higher education in Japan is increasing, whether we get a permanent job is not guaranteed. In addition to this, Japanese tend to get married later in life. Because of this, a normal life which was thought the general standard becomes an age-old idea.

So, I thought about my future plan. Firstly, I think that graduating from university and getting a regular job is still important point for my future plan because they are essential factors to become independent. Without them, I can not even live without my family. My parents have worked so hard since I was born, so I would like to repay the favor of them by becoming independent. Even though it is certainly not easy to get a regular job, I hope to recover employment situation in Japan in the future.

Secondly, “kodokushi” (dying alone) is recently a very serious social issue in Japan because of the lack of connection with each other, especially marriage. People who don’t marry in their lifetime are increasing, and they will feel alone after they retire from their job. It leads to “muen shakai” (relationless society) and “kodokushi“. I think that marriage is the most important connection in society. If I marry someone, I will feel less lonely and keep the social connection. In order to keep the connection with society, I would like to marry a person who I can believe the most. While I hope for new connections, old connections such as my family, old friends, and my teacher are also significant. Even if I become independent, I want to meet my family with my new family sometimes a year, and seeing my old friends and talking about how I am doing are also important things.

Finally, I can’t expect where is my ibasho in the future. However, I should be in the place where I am satisfied with, and play a role as a member of society. Though Japan is a very precarious at present and its future can not be said bright, I can change a situation around me by myself.

Finding my ibasho in society

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Yusuke Sugiyama

When I think about my future, I cannot imagine that what kind of work I would do, and what kind of people I would connect with. However, one thing which I want to value in my life is relationship with others. I want to place emphasis on a time, opportunity and ibasho which I can deal with others.

I was born in Kobe and lived with my family before I entered Ritsumeikan University, and it is my ibasho where my family and my friends who spent a same time for 18 years live. Then, I entered this University and I started to live alone in Kyoto, and all is new for me. Naturally there is no ibasho where I can really get comfortable, and it was not until I am away from a familiar ibasho that I understood the importance of family, friends and that is ibasho. Everyday life was terrible before I found my ibasho in Kyoto.

I think ibasho is one of the most important things in our life, and the people who cannot find own ibasho in society have possibility to be hikikomori. Maybe there are many people such them in present Japan. Now I have some important ibasho, it is indispensable for my school life. That is why I would like to place emphasis on connection with people in the future and also I will improve my communication skill for it in University life.

In addition, as my future direction, I would like to overcome a linguistics barrier and get an ibasho because people who live different countries have different ideas. I like the surprise which I feel when I realize new idea from different point of view, and so I would like to over the border, and find my ibasho. Also, I think that I can realize a Japanese precariousness and a good point of Japan. Therefore, I will go to a lot of countries in my life.

When I think about my future job, I do not have a concrete idea, but I want to earn enough money to be able to make a trip, play with my friends, and repay my parents for raising me so well. Indeed, Japan is an unstable society now and it might be difficult to get stable job, but if I am into such a situation, I will find my ibasho in society, and place importance on a connection with people.