Japocalypse Watch: Attack of the Twins
Last we checked in on Japan’s transformation into a stagnant third-world hellhole the world’s third largest economy, we heard the horrifying story of healthy young men running around in skinny jeans and buying presents for their moms instead of getting wasted with coworkers and neglecting their families like real men are supposed to. Today, CNN adds ...
Last we checked in on Japan’s transformation into
a stagnant third-world hellhole the world’s third largest economy, we heard the horrifying story of healthy young men running around in skinny jeans and buying presents for their moms instead of getting wasted with coworkers and neglecting their families like real men are supposed to. Today, CNN adds its own entry to the genre, using a classic experimental method, the twin study.
Meet Toshiko and Fukuko Kubo, identical Japanese twins. Fukuko has imigrated to China, where she has a stable, well-paying job. Toshiko lives in Tokyo where she also has a stable, well-paying job. But wait, it’s not that simple:
[Toshiko] has a graduate degree in art history and longs to work amid the works of the great artists of the classical era of art. Those dreams are shelved, she says, for a job with a steady salary and benefits. She works in a job outside of the field of her choice, logging the typical 14-hour work day expected in Japan. Toshiko doesn’t hate her job, but it doesn’t exactly inspire her, either.
So you’re telling me that in Japan, it’s hard to find employment in the lucrative field of art history? Clearly, the Japanese economy is completely and irrevocably screwed.
Let’s meet Fukuko:
Fukuko decided in high school to study abroad in the UK. She became fluent in English, a key to unlocking the job possibilities with multinational companies overseas. Like her sister, Fukuko also graduated with a master’s degree, but in contemporary art, with an undergraduate in architecture.
At first, she says, she tried to work in Japan. She was employed at a Tokyo-based company when the sub-prime crisis struck the U.S. and unraveled into the Lehman Shock in Japan. The company downsized and bought out employees, including Fukuko.
Fukuko looked around and saw little hope for her young life in the mature economy of Japan. "I think people are getting less optimistic about life," says Fukuko. "You feel this kind of depression. People are sort of stuck in this environment where they are just worried about everything, and then work for so many hours. I wasn’t feeling happy either, because of all these things around me. I needed to get out of that so I could feel fine."
Without a job or any concrete employment plan, Fukuko took off to Beijing, China. Three days later, she landed an interview and then subsequently was hired by an interior design company.
So we have two twins who both majored in art and got jobs out of college. We don’t know what these jobs are because the piece doesn’t tell us, but from the context it doesn’t sound like they’re flipping burgers. One of them got laid off and moved to China where she got another job. We have no idea how much money either one makes or what, or what they actually do. I’m sorry that Toshiko doesn’t feel fulfilled by her career, but that’s not a condition that’s unique to stagnant economies.
The piece also tells us that there are approximately three times as many Japanese people living in China today as 10 years ago but admits that "the numbers are not dramatic," — it’s still about a 10th of a percent of Japan’s population. (It might be higher if not for those unfortunate riots.)
So what have we learned today? That you can get a job in Japan with an art history degree, though maybe not one involving art history, and that if you’re fluent in English and have a master’s degree from a Japanese university, you can get hired as an interior designer in Beijing. Good to know.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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