Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The changing face of Post-Modern Japan

While the western world looks at Japan from the outside, admiring all the odd inventions and lifestyles, the nation is in a cultural crisis as it struggles to adjust to a post modern world.

The culture and mind set of Japan is changing so fast that the Japanese are at a cross roads in their history. From dealing with the slow change in the relationship between company and employee, a increase in the growing gap of `haves` and `have not,` and several other changes the Japanese are having to become more self-aware of their culture and the direction the nation is going in as a whole.

The change in the relationship between company and employee has been a slow, and often, painful process for many in Japan. The days of the loyal salary man is slowly becoming a thing of the past. While most Japanese men still consider bring a salary man as a much desired goal in life, there is a change, from the employee standpoint, as to defining loyalty to the company. In recent years the salary man has been turning on his company when the company is involved in wrong doing. Bring a `company rat` is a very new idea in Japan. Those who do roll over on the company cite that they wanted things to be done the right way. It is still a big risk to report wrong doing. Those who have went to the police reporting illegal actions taken by companies have suffered grave rewards for their actions. Many can no longer find work in their chosen profession. Even worse some even end up homeless because others companies will not hire. The good news is that the government passed a law making it illegal for companies to attack employees who report illegal actions. In time many see the Japanese company salary man becoming the independent salary man.

The raise of workers demanding more rights and resisting company policy is also making its way into the cultural fabric of Japan. This is not to say that Japan lacks in workers rights. Japan does have over all the basics of protecting workers for the most part. The difference is that workers themselves are coming together apart from any government laws meant to protect them. The growth and strength of worker unions has lead to more successful strikes and improvements in pay and employee input. Slowly employee are becoming more brave in break from the traditional feudal bonds of loyalty with the company.

Starting in the 1990`s a new sub-cultural emerged in Japan; the freeter. In the west a freeter is know are a slacker; but in the Japan the raise of the freeter is very different. A freeter does not actually choose to be a freeter in all cases. The raise of the freeter was due to the economic melt down which occurred in Japan in the 1990`s. Suddenly many young people found themselves unable to attain stable decent paying jobs. Not wanting to simply live at home or go back to school many of the youth started to live a hand to mouth lifestyle. Working one temp job after another, sleeping in all night internet cafes, or opening up a small second hand clothing store, the Japanese slacker was borne. Content to make just enough money to survive and enjoying a beer and a cup of instant noodles for dinner, freeters are leaving their own mark on Japanese culture. The raise in popularity of internet cafes are due in large part to freeters. Lacking a place to call home many freeters will bed down for the night in a internet cafe. Most net cafes in Japan now offer small private rooms complete with a computer, shower and cheap food. During the day hours in Tokyo it is common to see people walking the streets with one small bag of luggage on wheels; the mark of a freeter. Their entire lives and all their belongings crammed into one bag of luggage. Freeter is fast becoming the lifestyle of choice for many young people in Japan.

Another new cultural development in post-modern Japan is the social status which working women have gained in recent years. While women`s lib has been apart of the social fabric of Japan for decades only in recent years has a new generation of young women emerged who relish in their social status as fully independent working women. A fast growing number of young women in today`s Japan are choosing to live on their own and unattached by the bounds of relationships. Young women are now enjoying, more than ever, some of the social perks traditionally reserved for men. Many young women are becoming a force in the business world and finding it much easier to break though the class ceiling. They are also taking the stance of `love on my time` which is traditionally an idea that a salary man would take. Oddly enough many working women are preferring freeter men because they usually have more time on their hands and can be available when women want and need them. Many young women say they don`t mind paying for dinner as long as he can spend the amount of time with her that she wants.

The culture of post-modern holds with it many new ideas and lifestyles which are not part of traditional Japanese cultural. The new face of Japan is slowly emerging.

1 comment:

billywest said...

The group mentality here is strong, though. I suspect that the change in corporate culture will continue to make things better for the full-time company worker. Already, many large companies are incorporating merit-based promotion systems.

Like you said, however, it'll take awhile to become more ideal.