Books / Reviews

Precarious Japan

by Jordan Sievers

Staff Writer

“Precarious Japan” is a forward-thinking commentary on the current state of Japan, detailing a progressive history from the economic collapse in 1991 to how the country functions today in a modern, post-earthquake society.

Precarious Japan, Anne Allison, DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Based on extensive fieldwork, author Anne Allison — Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University — explores how Japanese society is on the cusp of a new transition. Prior to the country’s economic decline, gender and societal roles were firmly secured in Japan: The men became full-time workers, typically loyal to a single company for most of their lives; the woman became housewives, dedicating their lives to the caretaking of their households and families. Allison explores how this paradigm is rapidly shifting — despite the lag in society’s perceptions of gender roles.

From the scarcity of stable jobs, a decline in marriage and birth rates, and the rise of hikikomori (people who withdraw from society) and suicide, Allison gives an eye-opening view into the darker aspects of modern Japanese society, and how such instability is effecting both individuals and the country at large.

Despite being an academic book, readers in Japan will likely feel connected to the events and conditions that Allison describes. Although considerable focus is given to the economic climate of Japan, the language is never overly wordy, or presented in rhetoric inaccessible to the average reader. For those wondering just how precarious Japan’s future really is, this book is a good place to start.

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