Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Japan`s Lost Generation

I have heard many references to the `lost generation` of Japan. I have also come across many attempts to define the meaning of the term. As I have discovered, most attempts to define Japan`s lost generation only touched on one part of a much larger and far reaching issue which shakes the very core of Japanese society.

A quick search on google and you can find countless references to Japan`s lost generation. Some articles focus on the growing problem of suicide among the youth. Others zero in on the Hikikomori; people who completely fall out of society and become hermits. From what I have learned about Japan`s lost generation, Hikikomori become hermits because society demands so much that they fall behind and `give up.` They locked themselves in their bedrooms refusing to come out. Instead of reaching out to these folks, Japanese society pushes on leaving the Hikikomori to becomes ghost in the shadows.

Before I go any deeper into this let me just say I am by no means an `expert` on Japanese culture. It is just that I live here. I see and experience so much living in the land of the raising sun. Japan is kind of my home. I feel that sometimes it is worth sharing my thoughts on the culture of this island called Japan.
*just had to go ahead and say this to prevent some asshole fucker coming along later and starting some shit. God Damn the Internet!

Anyway where was I...

The Hikikomori was just one part of a much larger group of young Japanese known as Japan`s Lost Generation. It seems there is an entire generation of Japanese being left in the dust and forgotten about. A lot of them are highly educated and intelligent. Yet, due to situations beyond their control they did not get a chance to live up to their true potential. Some of them have been working for a while now. They got stuck in lower paying jobs waiting for their `turn at the table.` Sadly, they got passed over. I have seen first hand people in their late twenties and early thirties get overlooked for higher paying jobs in favor of younger `freshmen` entering the work force. This is just not happening in the job market but from within companies as well. Again I have seen examples of freshmen entering companies and getting higher paying jobs and positions than the `lost generation` types who have been working for said company for several years.

Yet, the lost generation seems to be not just one generation of Japanese youth. It appears that the social ills which created the lost generation is effecting a new generation of Japanese. The video I linked to earlier in this post features a few shots of young Japanese hanging in Shibuya in a very down and out manner. I can offer witness that if you go to Shibuya any night of the week you can see these kids. They really have nothing better to do than hang out in Shibuya looking for something to get into. I can relate this these kids. I remember growing up damn poor in an area with little opportunity to get ahead in the world. I saw a lot of kids give up pretty quickly in the mountains of West Virginia. A lot of them would end up just hanging out everyday doing drugs and getting into fights. While a lot of Shibuya`s lost do not get into fights so often, I am willing to bet that a lot of them are living a lifestyle of daily drug use, at the same time, using sex to make a little yen and provide the majority of their entertainment. These kids have fallen though the cracks in a system which does not provide a place for them in society.

So, how can Japan`s `lost youth` have hope of a decent future? Well like I said, I am not the expert on Japanese culture. There are many sides to the problem of Japan`s lost generation. Yet, I think that there must be a change in Japanese society. It might be a good idea for Japanese society to be more accepting of people who think a little different. It seems that when the economy went bust during the 90`s Japan did not know what do to with their upcoming youth; so they did nothing. These people grew up without knowing what to expect; so they expected nothing. Maybe Japanese society should stop thinking there is only one way to live life and be successful. A little outside the box thinking would be good for Japanese society. You know, when a person cannot hang with the `social standard` there should be other options for them to live a happy successful life.

I struggle to understand the idea of `get with it or get left behind.` Where is the logic is simply leaving anyone who cannot keep up with the pace in the dust to fade away? In order to avoid the social ill of a `lost generation` other life paths must be developed for people who are a little different. Not everyone is going to be a future leader of society. Of course, everyone should be pushed a little to achieve the highest level of success but not everyone is interested in such a goal. It is these kind of issues Japanese society is going to have to face up to sooner or later.


Mustache Rider said...

What do you expect, if you had straight pubes you'd think differently.

the fashionate traveller said...

I was astonished to see some of the lost generation living in tent camps in Shinjuku Park (etc) - I really didn't know they existed before I went to Japan. Amazing that the gov't gives them tents to live in (compensation for having failed them, perhaps).

I like seeing the kids at the alternative clubs there be really different, even if its only for one night a week, cos it's some form of self-expression and keeps 'em sane.

TheGhost said...

Those people are really nice and polite despite their situation.

The alternative kids have a least found something to burn their inner rage out.

billywest said...

Anybody who has taught Japanese kids has seen why it's easy for some of them to eventually fall through the cracks. I mean, they all but get away with murder until (and they even get away with that until they're 20 - but that's another story) they get to junior high school. Then they have to fall in line and constantly get kicked in the ass for things they could do freely in years prior. It's becoming a lot like the States where parents make minimal effort to instill a sense of social responsibility in their kids. Let's face, people should be required to get a license before they have kids.

TheGhost said...

Some Japanese kids I have taught were pretty wild at times. At times, they can get really out of control.

Sometimes the parents speak up and say something to the kids. To my surprise, the smallest glare or words from the parents is usually enough to encourage the kids to chill out.

Anonymous said...

And who then, can blame the current population decline?