Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Coexistence in a Capitalist Japan

Many different audiences and groups interact in Japan as a result of different job markets and commodities. Most of these affect youth, as they are the ones who consume these goods. First we see how Japan’s focus on capitalism dictates specific roles for youth. When they grow up, they are expected to contribute labor, which are gender specific. Males are expected to emanate the salaryman, whose duty is to work overtime, as hours of labor are the best for improving society as a whole, not just the individual (Kanai 213). These many hours of labor help Japan’s overall economic growth, but it also dehumanizes the Japanese male, diminishing them to just one of many that contributes to human capital. This is indicated by high rates of karoshi-health problems from being overworked- which is especially prevalent in people characterized by the salaryman (Kanai 213).

Discomfort with the idea of fulfilling the salaryman role has arisen a new identity within Japanese male youth: hikikomori. These males would rather be in the comfort of their own home rather than face the working, capitalistic forward Japanese society (Jazuka 1).  They also dislike living a life that is engrossed  by work and feel that they cannot adapt to such environments. Other subgroups arise as well: David's article explains how herbivore men, a subgroup that is the opposite of the salaryman identity, has become prevalent. The presence of these subgroups is an example of people who do not want to conform to the salaryman identity and fulfill Japan's expectations of them.

Japan therefore decides to combat the problems of the overworked salaryman and the hikikomori with women. Women are given an identity where they contribute labor that appeases and caters towards men. This is indicative in the hostess market, which serves to improve the mood of the salaryman, thus indirectly maintain good relations between employee and the company. Thus they serve as mood boosters for overworked salarymen, even if it means selling their body and fulfilling a man’s sexual desires (Quinn 2). Therefore, hostesses emanate the the Japanese womanhood ideal of making sure the husband is cared for, by providing this care abroad while the husband is away (Quinn 4). Shannon Brook's path explore's more about how women are expected to be caretakers of men by being their "stress relievers".

The Salaryman, Hostess, and Hikikomori are all identities that arose from ideas of Japanese nationalistic identity based off of capitalism and economic growth. However, the ideal male hegemony that is enforced cannot be obtained, and when attempted can possibly dehumanize the Japanese individual. The consequences of these subidentities are important in reforming the ideal to improve the overall well being of society.

Works Cited

Dasgupta, Romit. "Performing Masculinities? The 'Salaryman' at Work and Play." Academia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. <http://www.academia.edu/3691372/Performing_Masculinities_The_Salaryman_at_Work_and_Play>.

Dixon, Dwayne. "Women Serving Men: Hostess Clubs and a Genealogy of Gendered, Affective Work." Scalar. Scalar, 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <https://goo.gl/0BJ8Hg>

Kanai, Atsuko. "“Karoshi (Work to Death)” in Japan." Journal of Business Ethics(2009): 209-15. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Quinn, Suzanne. "The grim truth about life as a Japanese hostess." The Telegraph. N.p., 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9524899/The-grim-truth-about-life-as-a-Japanese-hostess.html>.



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