Barcodes for Tokyo’s Ageing Population

This is not the best way to deal with an ageing population. Barcodes and similar types of identification have been exploited throughout history.

“A company in Iruma, north of Tokyo, developed tiny nail stickers, each of which carries a unique identity number to help concerned families find missing loved ones, according to the city’s social welfare office.”

Source. My analysis of ageing population policies in Japan, Sweden and Australia, on Social Science Insights.

Sociology of the National Arboretum

Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

One of the themes of my visual sociology is the representation of science. Conservation is as much about social practices as it is about earth science, biology and other natural sciences. Today’s post is about the sociology of the National Arboretum, which sits on Ngunawal country. Ngunawal people are the traditional custodians of this part of Acton, west of the city in Canberra. Less than a seven minute drive central business district, this is one of the world’s largest arboretums for rare and endangered trees. I am no arborist. I cannot even claim to be a fan of gardening. I was interested in the Arboretum first in an attempt to capture a visual sociology of Canberra, and second to see how people interact with this place as a science centre. The focus of my post today is on the social dynamics of the Arboretum, especially on community aspects of conservation and the trees that drew the greatest interest amongst the crowds I saw: the Bonsai and Penjing Collection .
National Arboretum (18)

Continue reading Sociology of the National Arboretum

Art and Culture in Multicultural Melbourne

Our visual sociology for March to June 2015 includes the Japanese Summer Festival in Melbourne, extraordinary public art in Canberra and a quick trip to Sydney.

World’s Most Liveable City

Melbourne: the world’s most liveable city! In late 2014 Melbourne was named number 1 of 150 capital cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index. This is the fourth time we topped the survey. We rated highly in healthcare, education and infrastructure. Part of Melbourne’s appeal is our multiculturalism. First and second generation migrants (people born overseas and their children) make up around half of all Victorians. Melbournians come from over 200 cultural backgrounds, speak over 260 languages, and belong to 135 different religions. 2 March

I took this photo off Hosier Lane. Artist: kilproductions. See the artist’s website. Continue reading Art and Culture in Multicultural Melbourne

Anime as a Transnational Cultural Product

Although anime has its origin in Japan, Japanese sociologist, Dr  Yoshitaka Mōri, argues that anime can be understood as a transnational cultural product welding together Japanese, Korean and Chinese histories. Mōri shows how some sub-genres within anime are tremendously popular in overseas markets, while others have yet to find a strong international audience. Continue reading Anime as a Transnational Cultural Product

Letting Women Shine: Undoing Gender Inequality in Education

Australia’s Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne recently defended Budget changes that will make education highly unaffordable for most Australians. To add insult to injury, he used a sexist argument. On ABC Australia’s 730 Report Pyne was asked about the collective concerns of Australian Vice Chancellors, who fear the proposed increased university fees will create further inequity, especially for women and economically disadvantaged groups. Pyne argued that women go into teaching and nursing and that these courses won’t cost as much as the courses that men take.The problem here is that Pyne fails to recognise that women actually study a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Moreover, given his portfolio, it is startling to hear the Education Minister speak so flippantly about women’s higher education debt given that countless studies show women are severely disadvantaged within women-dominated fields, and beyond. There’s a lot that the Minister might learn by looking at the research on gender disparity. Taking a leaf out of Japan’s economic policies, Mr Pyne would see exactly why women are at the heart of their economic reform.

Undoing Gender Inequality
Undoing Gender Inequality

Continue reading Letting Women Shine: Undoing Gender Inequality in Education

Transmormon

Eri Hayward shares her story of being a transgender woman in Utah, USA. She is of Japanese descent and was raised in a Mormon community, where she says she didn’t get an “opportunity to learn about things that were different,” like the support available to her as a transgender woman. This short documentary includes Eri and her parents reflecting on what it was like to understand her gender identity. She initially “came out as gay” but her story reflects that at the time this was a stepping stone “to be myself, which is a woman.” Continue reading Transmormon

Valley of the Dolls

This short video is poignant and haunting. Ayano Tsukimi is a 64 year old woman who grew up in Nagoro, a village on one of the main islands of Japan. She moved away to live with her family in Osaka, but returned 11 years a go and now lives with her elderly father, though her husband and daughter still live in Osaka. Nagoro was once a vibrant town with a dam and a “big company” that employed residents. Today, only 37 people remain in the village – the rest have moved away in search of work. Ayano has populated her village landscape with 350 dolls to represent the townspeople who moved away: construction workers, people waiting for the bus, the school principle and students (the school was closed two years a go as there were only two children enrolled).

There’s so much going on in this story, from the discussion about what the dolls represent (companionship, a comment on social change, loss of community and the perpetual reminder of death), to what remains unsaid. Tsukimi’s work represents the untold story of progress: when big companies who monopolise local resources move away, they take with them people’s main source of income. Ayano says: the dolls “can only live” for 3 years, “the dolls don’t live as long as humans… I don’t think dying is scary. I’ll probably live forever.”

Japan’s Disposable Workforce: Alienation, Suicide and Social Responsibility

By Zuleyka Zevallos

Shiho Fukada’s Pulitzer Centre project on Japan’s “disposable workers” focuses on people who are precariously employed in casual and “dead end” jobs. They are underpaid, working long hours but without any of the benefits or sense of stability of full time employment. This affects people who are homeless as well as white collar workers who are driven to suicide due to mental and physical exhaustion. I see that Fukada’s photo essay offers an insightful visual critique of economic progress and the rapid increase of an “underclass” in one of the world’s most advanced societies. I argue that Fukada’s work might be understood through the sociological concept of anomie, a term that describes the social alienation that follows a society’s shift in morals and values. In this case, I explore how a cultural change in attitude means that workers are less valued in Japan, leading to socio-economic and mental health problems. I draw a comparison between the Japanese and the Australian workforce. I conclude by showing how sociologists seek to help governments, employers, developers and community organisations work together to better support a sustainable and ethical economic future.

Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Centre
Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Centre

Continue reading Japan’s Disposable Workforce: Alienation, Suicide and Social Responsibility

Fluid Traditional Families

globalsociology:

It always amuses me when I hear people or pundits discuss “the traditional family” as if there were such a thing. Look guys, there is no such thing as “the traditional family’ historically or anthropologically. Family structures have always been fluid arrangements that reflected social, economic, political and cultural structures under the umbrella of power arrangements, mostly in patriarchal contexts.

Case in point:

“Japan has the world’s second highest adoption rate of more than 80,000 a year but most are adult men in their 20s and 30s.

“Historically, it’s been far more common with families in the western part of Japan where merchant families tried to choose the most capable successor,” says Mariko Fujiwara, a sociologist at Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.

If you did not have a capable son to succeed, you would try to find a more capable man to marry one of your daughters, she says.

“But the chances are, you didn’t have as capable a son as you’d want so you’d search through your network to find a more capable man to marry one of your daughters.”

“It was a very pragmatic decision for that family business to survive,” she adds.

Even today, the vast majority of Japanese companies are considered family businesses. They include household names such as car-makers Toyota and Suzuki, camera-maker Canon and soy sauce firm Kikkoman.

(…)

Suzuki is famously known to have been led by adopted sons. The current chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki is the fourth adopted son in a row to run the company.

“Family businesses that are run by sons-in-law are much better in many cases than family businesses run by their own sons,” says Yasuaki Kinoshita who invests in Japanese companies at Nissay Asset Management.

“When I make a decision to invest in a listed company which is still owned by a family, the big negatives are corporate governance and succession.”

At Matsui Securities, its fourth president Michio Matsui was adopted into the family, but this meant ditching his own name.

“I was my parent’s oldest son so I was a bit hesitant to be adopted by another family,” he recalls. “But my biological parents said maybe it was my fate.”

Historically, however, changing names wasn’t a big deal because many simply didn’t have one.

“Only 150 years ago, people didn’t have family names unless you came from a significant social class of Samurai,” sociologist Mariko Fujiwara explains.

“And when you changed your name, it was usually because you were given a new name as an honour or as an award for something that you’d accomplished.” It became aspirational, she adds.”