Title: Precarious Japan
Author: Anne Allison
Source: from publisher for review
Fun Fact: Until the 1980’s when this was made illegal, many Japanese companies required that women leave work when they married or had children. 80% of women still follow this custom.
Review Summary: Parts of this book read like narrative non-fiction and gave fascinating insight into the state of Japan, but other bits were full of sociology-speak and very hard to follow.
Currently in Japan regular employment is becoming scarcer, the population is aging, and recovery from the nuclear disaster of 3/11 is still underway. All of these factors have made life more uncertain in Japan. Many people feel a lack of belonging and connection to other people. The author, Anne Allison, addresses these issues both through social theories about Japan and her extensive interviews with Japanese citizens.
This is one of those books that is a three star book because there were four star bits and two star bits. I loved when the author shared interviews with individuals, her personal experiences, and news stories. I also enjoyed learning about the history of Japan and how it impacts the way people feel now. The theories the author had about current events were fascinating, as were her tentative suggestions for ways the Japanese might recover a feeling of security. Despite being full of facts and clearly well researched, parts of this book were very profound and emotionally moving.
The only bad bits were places where the language got too dense for me to follow. There were some bits where I would google word definitions (because not all of them were in my kindle dictionary) and re-read a sentence several times without ever feeling like I really understood what they were saying. Sometimes I felt like it was some academic just trying to sound smart without saying much, but I think it’s more likely that these words have different meanings within the field of sociology. This happened the most when the author was integrating ideas from other scholars. It was almost as though there was a dissertation mixed in with my narrative non-fiction.
Overall, this was a good book and I think there were far more interesting, understandable bits than bits that were hard to follow. If, like me, you’d like to know more about different cultures and current events, I’d recommend giving this a try. The published version might even add some clarification at which point I would highly recommend it.