The Word Works

Consuming Japan


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Published By: John on 10/11/12

What do Japanese see as weaknesses, especially weaknesses in themselves? This is the question addressed in the September 2012 (Vol. 2) edition of ??????@?u????????????????z??[??[?v(Seikatsusha: A concept paper for people who create tomorrow), published by HILL, the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living. The lines at the bottom right of the cover suggest that we grasp the meaning of “weakness” by examining everyday life and then imagine the future starting from what we discover.

The first two spreads present comments from a dozen individuals interviewed for the project.

  1. A single woman (26). She feels awkward in groups of women who are always and forever chatting. She would like to leave but knows that the relationships formed in such groups can be important for her future.
  2. A self-employed barber, male (43), married with three sons. Digital technology makes him uncomfortable. His car has a digital navigation system, but he always has someone else look at it and tell him where to drive. Else, he prefers a paper map.
  3. A married woman (43) with a husband and three sons would like to keep her house spic-and-span. It isn’t just that she doesn’t have the time or money, she never feels like doing the cleaning.
  4. A man (41), who lives in an apartment with his wife, a college classmate, and their fith-grade son.  Feels like a big third-grader who has never grown up. He has gotten older and fatter but doesn’t do what grownup men do, go to hostess bars, play golf, or gamble.
  5. A single man (33). Finished graduate school and works as an IT consultant. Tried living by himself for a year but has moved back in with his mother and sister.  He would like to be the cool guy who walks into a bar by himself and orders a drink,  but he is too shy to strike up a conversation with strangers.
  6. A woman (38), just got married last November (2011) after energetically pursuing a mate. She is wondering if she doesn’t dress too young for her age. Should she stop wearing short skirts? She still likes to dress like a single woman in her early 30s.
  7. A man (63), retired, lives with his full-time housewife spouse. He feels like zero without his company and the co-workers with whom he used to pal around. He has no community in the neighborhood.
  8. A single man (25). LIves with his parents, two sisters, and his grandmother in a six-person household. Finds it hard to converse with the people close to him but has no problem speaking up at work-related meetings organized by others.
  9. A woman (17) in her third year of high school. Weak at math and wonders why she has to study it.
  10. A man (50), a company employee who lives with his wife and two daughters. Feels like he doesn’t have the courage to stand up for what is right.
  11. A woman (70). She ran her own beauty shop for more than 40 years and now does volunteer work, cutting the hair of elderly people in nursing care. But she was brought up with a clear set of does and don’ts.  She loves sushi but is still too embarrassed to go into a sushi shop by herself.
  12. A man (17), in his third year of high school. Sings in the chorus and belongs to the calligraphy club. He says that it is hard to explain but that he is very uncomfortable calling himself “ore” (a rough, masculine way of saying “me”). He never uses this term for himself.

As I read the comments from these twelve individuals, I am struck by how ordinary they seem to me. Have I lived in Japan for too long? Or am I right to think that we can find people everywhere who feel that they have these kinds of weaknesses?


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