Discussing Japan's Social Issues

Tiffany Sun
October 25, 2016

I am aware that I have quite a few acquaintances who seem to be enamored with the fact that they believe Japan can do no wrong. How could a country with such innovative technology, productivity, rich history and culture possibly have as many issues as, let's say, the United States? Some people seem to think that Prime Minister Abe may be "cute" when he showed up to the Olympics in his Mario hat, but they also seem to use these cover-ups to gloss over real issues with PM Abe and his policies. Perhaps it is ignorance bred out of the fact that we are entrenched in our own country's current issues and usually only intersect with other countries superficially, which is perhaps an acceptable reason to be this way. Regardless, I'm hopefully here to dispel some of these beliefs.
As an American, I've been quite concerned with the social issues and dynamics of my own country. However, as a student studying abroad in Japan, I felt it necessary to educate myself about Japanese society. This serves as a "palette whetting" crash course on some issues in Japanese society today that are also issues today in American society. Due to time limit I could only quickly go over politics, LGBT rights, and gender with regards to employment, but it should be known that these are obviously not the only issues, and that these issues themselves are not black and white, but are simplified for the sake of quick explanation for time.
I thought it to be very important to provide a video on a more serious vein regarding my time spent in Japan, and I hope it is semi-enlightening to those who do not know much about Japan's societal issues, or simply assume that one country's issues are "better" or "worse" than the other, or think that a country can do no wrong. If there is anything that I have learned from studying abroad in a foreign country, it is that every country has its own set of issues and way of solving said issues (or perhaps a lack thereof). I believe it important to understand and acknowledge these issues, but also recognize one's place with regards to these as a foreigner (in that one's preferred methods of resolving or expressing these issues are different due to cultural upbringing, and that it may not be one's place to pass judgement on these issues or act upon them, situation depending), but also to try to use this stance to understand a larger scope of the issue. I hope this comes through!
There are many other issues not mentioned and if you are interested, to name a few, feel free to check out historical revisionism, the koseki, the Ainu people, Okinawa, ethnicity and nationality, and birth rights, to start! I am deeply thankful to Professor Dale, of our society class, who has informed us about these topics, which has caused me to include them in this description and in the video. The further readings below are also cited from hers!
Special thanks to Callie for helping me shoot this video and being my idea bouncer!
Further readings, taken from Professor Dale's "Introduction to Japanese Society" class:
Cook, Emma.  "(Dis)Connections & Silence: Experiences of Family and Part-time Work in Japan." Japanese Studies 26:2 (2016): 155-172.
Gottfried, Heidi. “Temp(t)ing Bodies: Shaping gender at work in Japan.” Sociology 37:2 (2003): 257-276.
Liu-Farrer, Gracia. "Making Careers in the Occupational Niche: Chinese Students in Corporate Japan's Transnational Business." Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:5 (2011): 785-803.
Inoue, Masamichi S. Okinawa and the U.S. Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. Chapter 2, pp. 31-69.
Nakano, Koichi. “The Legacy of Historical Revisionism in Japan in the 2010s.” In Gilbert Rozman (ed), Misunderstanding Asia. Palgrace Macmillan: 2015, 213-225.
Tsukada, Jun. “Examining Japanese youth’s perception of political citizenship What is my normative role in democracy?” ejcjs 15:3 (2015).
Kamano, Saori and Diana Khor. “‘How did you two meet?’ Lesbian partnerships in present-day Japan.” In Stevi Jackson, Liu Jieyu, Woo Juhyun (eds), East Asian Sexualities: Modernity, Gender and New Sexual Cultures. Cumbria: Zed Books, 2008: 161-177.
Mackie, Vera. “Birth registration and the right to have rights: the changing family and the unchanging koseki.” In D. Chapman & K. Krogness (Eds.), Japan’s Household Registration System and Citizenship: Koseki, Identification and Documentation. United States: Routledge, 2014: pp. 203-220.
Muramatsu, Naoko and Hiroko Akiyama. “Japan: Super-Aging Society Preparing for the Future.”The Gerontologist 51:4 (2011) 425-432.
Roberts, Glenda S. “Work and life in challenging times – A Kansai family across generations.” In Satsuki Kawano, Glenda S. Roberts & Susan Orpett Long (eds), Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2014, pp. 27-59.
Additionally, the Japan Times has specific tags for some of these issues and is a good source for news.
Thank you for watching!

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<p>Live every day to the fullest! I&#39;m a proud Eph of Williams College, travelling around Tokyo and wherever else Japan may take me! I hope you&#39;ll stick around to see what I do, whether it&#39;s eating my weight in food or crying over my tests. Trust me, I&#39;ll be doing plenty of both.</p>

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