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Home arrow Political science arrow Capturing contemporary Japan: differentiation and uncertainty

Ami: Caught in the Middle, in Search of a Desirable Job (Yaritai Koto)

Atsuko's younger sister, ami, is the middle child. At twenty-eight, slim and pretty, with her long hair dyed chestnut brown, she sat next to me on the floor of the living room, trying to answer the questions i put to her. She seemed much less self-confident than her elder sister and a bit shy. She has had a tougher time than her sister figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

Ami and her girlfriend both decided they would attend the two-year junior college affiliated with their private high school, although it was not particularly oriented toward anything she wanted to do; she just wanted to avoid going to work. She told me she had wished to enter the cosmetics or beauty field, but no one gave her any advice as to how to go about this, and the junior college was simply a repeat of easy technical courses she had taken in high School.26 when she graduated, she tried working for a spa, but she did not last there longer than three days: “i think i was just yearning to be in that line of work, and that was the problem. . . . You had to talk with the clients, ask them what sort of [skin] problems they had, and give them counseling. . . . You had to touch their skin and do treatments of some kind.” She watched the process and thought it seemed hard (taihensō): “you had to work standing up, and you had to encourage the clients to purchase courses of treatment. I saw that and i thought, 'no way.' . . . I couldn't continue. So i went to a drugstore.”

The drugstore job, only three days a week, was the first of several part-time jobs ami would try. She loved that job, selling cosmetics to clients. Although she wanted to become a regular employee there, the management refused to hire her as a regular because it did not want to pay her insurance. She noted that most of the employees were housewives who worked as irregulars. She quit to look for a real job at age twenty-three. Her next job was full time, but with hourly pay, at a hot-stones spa. She enjoyed the work, but the place went bankrupt after a year. At age twenty-four she found her next job at a general store selling accessories and cosmetics. This too was an irregular job without benefits, and she quit after a year because the store manager was unpleasant, strict, and oppressive: “He was scary,” she said with a laugh. “i couldn't take it!” Ami's next job was at a small one-man retail shop downtown, where she did office work and earned about ¥2 million a year ($26,000 at ¥77 per $1).27 although she was a regular employee, her pay hardly differed from when she did part-time work, but her job was six days a week with sundays and holidays off. She was lonesome in this job as she hardly interacted with anyone all day long, so she had no opportunity to use her brain. She told me she wanted to quit at the end of the month of our interview. Yet she had not lined anything else up. She remarked, “i can't stick with something. I don't know what it is that i want, and because i don't know, i can't stick to something. Because i haven't got any goals.” Ami told me that she planned to always work, however: “Because i want to buy clothes and stuff. I want to buy clothes and cosmetics, so i want to work.”28 at the end of our conversation i ask ami if there was anything in life she wished she had done differently. Eventually she said maybe it would have been good to have acquired a practical skill. I asked, “Like what?” The examples she gave me were all negatives. “not a hair stylist. Not a nurse.” She added, “nobody i know has continued with a certain job and is happy with it. My parents never suggested any particular kind of work to me. They just told me to do as i pleased.” Ami is the only child left at home now, as atsuko and

Yūji married in 2011 and 2012, establishing their own households.29


 
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