I have become a spy. I take pictures with my phone while pretending to send emails. I time the noisy trains so that people don't notice the shutter noise. I have been a spy to present you with snapshots from the train and my busy life.
I’d say on average, I listen to Paul Simon’s “Obvious Child” once a day.
“why deny the obvious child?” he calls. I peer to my left or right, as I have no room in the crowded train to actually turn my body, and watch the child passed out in its mother arms. Disney logos gratuitously cover their belongings. the child 100% zonked, existing on a plane of existence a million miles away. I doubt this little person knows how rare a creature they are. I doubt they are aware of the huge burden that is confidently being placed on their little shoulders.
the mother and father are in a growing minority in Japan. the parents will be the rare saviors of Japanese society, which is quickly growing thin as an egg shell, as the birth rate plummets. there are rumors that the Japanese government will give new mothers/families the equivalent to 10 grand for each kid. Japanese society is that scared of the falling birth rate. but my students say that the bribe won’t help the problem. money isn’t the problem.
the problem is equal rights.
Japan is fighting through a time where women realize the discrimination they are up against. some bow to it, happy to become housewives as soon as possible. many are putting off marriage because the wedding vow in Japan also symbolizes an acquiescence to the patriarchal society. saying ‘I do’ means both to commit to love and obey but also serve a society run by men. it means that society will look down on you if you continue to work full time, god forbid try and seek some leadership in your job, ie have a career (your new job is supporting your husband, after all). support you husband a get some kids out. obviously.
so while more and more women are entering the work force, they often only work full time until they are married. the career women don’t get married. they don’t have kids. they have to choose. and since my students (ambassadors for their culture, as much as I am for mine) practically laughed at me when I suggested that the father could contribute time to the child rearing process. for Japanese women, choosing to have a child is choosing to be a good docile wife too. choosing to have a child is choosing to uphold the values of patriarchal japan. choosing to care for a little life is a serious matter here. and fewer women/families are thinking that it’s a good idea. more an more women are choosing to keep their independence, even at the steep price of not having children.
but in the mean time, the rest of Japan is aging. people are dying and new ones aren’t filling their spots. Japan cannot continue if there are not more youngsters. There won’t be more youngsters until Japan reforms its views on daycare, working mothers, and women’s rights.
lets just say I’m not holding my breath.
but I look at me students, eager to please and full of youthful spunk. I see them laugh and rough house until I give them a fatally withering look and tell them to sit down. they set to fill an amazingly powerful role in shaping the future of Japan. this generation will need to decide what to do about a country that is killing its own culture by not letting it reflect the international movement for civil rights. they will need to tackle the dichotomy of japan’s ethnic purity and its need to bring in more workers. they will given the weighty task of keeping Japan alive and well with loosing its soul and unique identity. I do not envy them. this crisis is not trivial.
so in class today we practice ABCs. dance the hockey pokey and talk about the vegetables we don’t like. because coming to English class is more than learning English, its also about understanding that foreigners are real people and having fun. it’s a children’s class. as it should be.
here’s some other opinions on Japan’s childless crisis: a bbc article about a year ago
anyone remember my friend Mark that was an exchanger in Beppu with me? here’s his site. he’s still awesome (and maybe reading this so I’ll also add that the world needs more tall quirky Canadians who refer to my home country as ‘merica, otherwise known as the land south of Canada.)