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Being a freeter is a loser in Japan? – Freeter, Ie o Kau

15 Oct

‘Freeter, Ie o Kau’ is a television series which are broadcast in Japan in 2010. They story revolves around a ‘freeter’, a Japanese expression which is used for describing people aged from 15 to 34 who only work part-time job or unemployed, except housewives and students. Take Seji, the main character in this TV drama series, quits his job after three months. Without any dream and savings, he becomes a “Hikikomori”, a young adult who withdraws from social life. After realizing that his mother falls ill with depression, he starts working as a ‘freeter’ at a construction site and decides to buy a house for his family.

What is a ‘freeter’?

The blogs side of life has a post discussing ‘Japanese freeters’. The writer of that blog notes that “being a freeter now means to belong to the losers of society”. In general, Japanese students are always expected to enter a company right after their graduation. However, after the economic recession, it is very hard for young Japanese to find a full-time job. If they are unable to find any company promising them to hire them after they complete their studies, they are unlikely to get a regular job in the future. Since those who are not capable of entering a company after graduation always choose to work as freeters, ‘a freeter’ becomes a negative expression referring to loser of Japanese society.

Can a freeter be defined as a loser of society?

In other countries such as Australia, doing part time job is not a shame. It is very common for the Australia people to work as freeters rather than being full time workers. Most of the Australian ‘freeters’ believe that, as long as they can make money by themselves, they deserve respect from others. Moreover, not willing to be treated as a loser, some people refuse to do any part time job when they are still unemployed. This causes another social problem: People eventually lose all their confidence and become a “Hikikomori”, staying at home without any contribution. Therefore, to show respect to those who are willing to work and to prevent creating any further social problems, people should not define freeters losers of society.



“Rules” in Japanese restaurants – Shinya Shokudou

7 Oct

This is a 10-episode live-action TV drama based on a Japanese manga series called ‘Shinya Shokudou’ (Midnight canteen). This TV drama is played by Kobayashi Kaoru, and it broadcast in October 2009. The story revolves around an old fashioned all-night food stall which is located in a narrow alley in Shinjuku. This eatery names “Meshiya”, but customers call it “Shinya Shokudo” because it is only open from midnight to seven o’clock in the morning. Although its standard menu only consists of one dish, Pork with Miso Sauce on Rice, and three types of alcohol, Beer, Sake and Shochu, the proprietor is still willing to cook any dish that customers request.

Rules in Japanese restaurants

Most of the Japanese restaurants, like Shinya Shokudou, have their own rules. E_ting notes that ‘Shinya Shokudou’ has numerous ‘funny’ rules such as ‘customers are forbidden to order more than three drinks’ and ‘customers are allowed to order any dish as long as the owner has the ingredients’. Those kinds of rules have never dampened customers’ enthusiasm for having dinner in Japanese restaurants. Instead, customers are willing to follow the rules and come continuously because they can enjoy the owner’s hospitality, and can dine in a relaxing and heart-warming environment. This is one of the reason why Japanese restaurant are worldwide popular. However, not all of the Japanese restaurants manage to attract customers by imposing their own rules.

Notorious rules in a Japanese restaurant in Sydney

An online news article from the Sydney Morning Herald reported that in Sydney, a Japanese restaurant called Wafu was about to close within a few months due to its sequence of notorious rules which scared away its customers. Ichikawa claimed that she aimed at receiving respect from her customers. Following the rules she set was a way for customers to show their respect for her and her restaurant. There is a very interesting rule, which is listed in the photo at the right hand side.

“Say ‘itadakimasu’, when served”

Ichikawa, the owner of Wafu, believed that saying ‘itadakimasu’ before having meal is one of the fundamental elements of Japanese table manner. However, it is a Japanese restaurant in Sydney, but not in Japan. Ichikawa should also respect her customers, especially to those who have different cultural background. Customers have rights to have their meal in their own way, haven’t they? Or to put it another way, will you expect non-Christians to pray before they eat?

“Rules” in Japanese restaurants are supposed to enhance the relationship between the owner and customers, and also to create a comfortable environment for customers to enjoy their meal. Perhaps Ichikawa has already stayed at Sydney for too long that she forget what a real Japanese restaurant should offer to customers.

Many recent TV dramas are based on comics – Nodame Cantabile, Liar Game

7 Sep

Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile is a manga written by Tomoko Ninomiya. In 2006, it was adapted as a television drama which covered events up to volume 9 of the manga. The story is about the relationship between Nodame and Chiaki, who are the students studying piano and conducting respectively at Monogaoka College of Music. Nodame falls in love with Chiaki at first sight, and Chiaki is impressed by Nodame’s piano talent.

Liar Game

Liar Game is also a manga series written and illustrated by Shinobu Kaitani. This comic was adapted into Japanese TV drama in 2007. At the beginning of the story, a girl called Kanzaki Nao receives a package which contains 100 million yen, and a letter informing her that she has been chosen as a contestant of the Liar Game Tournament, in which all contestants are required to beguile other contestants of their money. When she is losing in the first round of the game, a man named Akiyama Shinichi appears and starts assisting Nao in this game.

Why are comic-based TV dramas  so popular in Japan?

John Stevens states that top Japanese TV dramas are usually adapted from the stories of Japanese comics, such as Liar Game and Nodame Cantabile. He believes that the the main reason why comic-based Japanese TV dramas become a trend is that the stories of Japanese comics usually have interesting content and charming characters, which manage to attract more young TV audience so as to boost the viewership ratings.

Original Japanese TV drama vs Comic-based TV series

In fact, original TV dramas are more popular among Japanese people though there are more comic-based TV series broadcast in recent years. “I am Mita, Your House Keeper” is an good example showing that Japanese audience are more interested in original TV dramas. The view rating of  the last episode of this drama was approximately 40%, which make it the highest-rated TV series over last decade. This proves that it is still worth spending time and money on creating more original TV dramas rather than only focusing on production of comic-based TV series.  Therefore, in order to produce a successful TV series,  effort should be exerted on creating impressive original stories instead of wasting time to find interesting stories among comics.

Keigo and Foreigners – Nihonjinn No Shiranai Nihongo

23 Aug

Nihonjinn No Shiranai Nihongo (“The Japanese that Japanese people don’t know”) is a Japanese drama based on a Japanese graphic novel of the same name where a teacher is narrating how she teaches foreign students with different cultural backgrounds. This drama provides abundant information. It explains numerous rules of Japanese language which is likely unfamiliar with foreigners, or even the Japanese people.

The emphasis of social stratification is one of the well-known cultures in Japan, and ‘Keigo’ plays a key role in communication between people from various social classes. ‘Keigo’ is a Japanese term of honorific expression used to show respect to the person address. Generally, the Japanese people use ‘Keigo’ when they talk with one whom they first met or one who comes from upper class.

According to this scene in “Nihonjinn No Shiranai Nihongo”,  the Japanese have to accommodate their use of honorific expression to those in different position in a company when communicating with them.

  • Question: Are you having lunch?
  1. To a vice-president:                 “gohan wo meshiagarimasu ka.”
  2. To a department manager:    “gohan wo otabeninarimasu ka.”
  3. To a deputy-manager:             “gohan wo taberaremasu ka”

‘Keigo’ is always the difficult part of Japanese language for learners to master, especially for English-native speakers. Japanesestudent notes that people from Western Countries tend to be slow at mastering Keigo. Even though there are some polite expressions in English, the complicated Keigo system is still hard for them to comprehend. Just like the end of this scene, a foreigner misused honorific expressions and eventually irritates his client.

So, is it necessary for foreigners to learn Keigo?

To advance Japan’s globalization, it is  unnecessary to expect or to force foreigners to master Keigo well in working place. Not being accustomed to Keigo, foreigners find it difficult to communicate well with Japanese people. It adversely affects the efficiency on doing global business and enhancing internationalization.

How about you? what do you think about the necessity of speaking fluent Keigo in globalized Japanese society?

Why do Japanese students long for getting into Toudai? – Dragon Zakura

9 Aug

“Dragon Zakura” was a popular Japanese school TV drama in 2005.  This is a story all about  how a high school teacher called Sakuragi Kenji  guides his failing high school students into Japan’s most prestigious university, Toudai (The University of Tokyo).

“If you want to change your life, get into Toudai!”

Dragon Zakura – Speech

(Please watch it from 5:20 to 8:27)

In this scene, Sakuragi Kenji is presenting a very ‘inspiring’ speech to students. He believes that getting into Toudai  is the only key to success. Those who are not capable of passing the entrance examination of Toudai will definitely become losers in the future. To excel in exams, students should exert their effort to the fullest and spend all their time on studies.

Examination-centered schooling & Juku in Japan

Examination-centered schooling is a prevailing notion of education in Japan. According to “A piece of Japan ”, Bruce W. Davidson, a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University, states that

“Everyone knows that the only important thing for advancement in society is to pass those tests, so time spent on other things is basically time wasted”.

This deeply influences the learning style of Japanese student: they study merely for examination. In order to improve their academic performance, many Japanese students attend Juku (Japanese cram school) after school. Scareylarry presents a brief interpretation of Juku: a study place for students to attend outside of school so as to catch up with school works and prepare for entrance examination. This Juku phenomenon has widely spread throughout Japan. In “Diversity and Unity in Education” published in 2010, Sugimoto notes that over one-third of primary school student and approximately two-third of middle school students go to Juku after school.

Influence on Japanese students

However, the notion of examination-centered schooling and the ubiquity of Juku put immense adverse influence on Japanese students. As the mere purpose of studying in school is to prepare for entrance examination of top schools or leading universities, learning becomes monotonous and tedious. Students lose interest in studies and behave negatively in class. In “Schooling for Silence”, Brian J. McVeigh, who focuses his research on Japan’s education system, indicates that the national phenomenon of “collapse of the classroom” is rapidly increasing. Students become undisciplined and unenthusiastic about studies. Also, the prevalent Juku phenomenon implies that Japanese students are lacking in leisure time to participate in different out-of-school activities. As a result, they lose opportunities for personal development such as enhancement of social capability, sense of group cohesion and sense of leadership.

Thanks to the belief that getting into prestigious university is the only key to a ‘promising’ future, Japanese students start loathing studies, become undisciplined, and even lack ability to socialize with others. At the end of “Drogan Zakura”, some of Sakuragi Kenji‘s students do successfully pass the entrance examination of Toudai because of their great effort. No one knows whether they will achieve in the future. However, no matter how their futures are, one thing can be sure of: both of them are pitiful victims under the rotten education system in Japan.