Growing Up in the Post-Growth Era: What Makes Japanese Teens Choose?

Growing Up in the Post-Growth Era: What Makes Japanese Teens Choose?

As Japan reduces the age of adults to 18, the older generation continues to be confused by the indifference and indifference of Generation Z. Sociologist Doi Takayoshi sheds light on the attitudes and behavior of Japanese youths in this age of low expectations.

Japan’s youth remains a mystery to many elders. who grew up in an era of increased mobility and expanded horizons Sociologist Doi Takayoshi, known for his writings on social and economic issues affecting youth. It offers insights into the challenges facing Japanese teenagers in an age of low expectations and social divides.

Investigating reductions in juvenile crime

Being a teenager in Japan today is not as easy as it used to be. As can be seen from the outbreak of school avoidance. self-harm and other disturbing behaviors But the offense was reduced. As Doi noted Juvenile crime soared during the decade that began in 1993 as the recession ravaged the 1980s asset bubble, but it has declined nearly as quickly since 2003, despite amid stagnation and stagnation. increasing economic disparity As an expert in crime sociology Doi wanted to understand why.

“It’s certainly not an improvement in the social environment,” he said. “The poverty rate among children under 18 continues to rise.”

as Doi sees The shift from rapid economic growth to a stagnant era has had an impact on Japanese society. But it turned out to be the most disruptive for people aged 50 and over. Indeed, an increasing percentage of all crimes reported in Japan are committed by older adults.

“Japan’s nominal gross domestic product has basically been stable since the early 1990s. Our society has entered a plateau,” Doi said. That values ​​changed dramatically between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. For many people in their 50s, adaptation is difficult. They come of age at a time when everyone remains resolute in the firm belief that hard work will work. This is especially true among older men who are prone to poor communication. An imprisoned feeling of frustration and isolation can lead to problem behaviors.”

As parents, that generation often pressures their children to set higher goals and try harder. Although opportunities dwindled, in the 1990s the value gap between the two generations led to family conflict. This sometimes leads to rebellion and even violence. But today’s teenage parents have gone past their teenage years. After Japanese society was in the highlands, Doi said, “The values ​​of young people today are not much different from their parents. therefore there is no conflict.”

If the poll results are any indication, Japanese teens and young adults are quite happy with what they have. In a survey conducted every five years by NHK’s Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, the percentage of respondents who expressed their satisfaction in life has increased almost steadily since the first survey in 1973. And the increase was especially pronounced among the 16-29 age group. In the latest survey, conducted in 2018, 95% of respondents in that age group were surveyed. Overall, their lives were satisfactory.

“The reason they are more satisfied even at the rising level of poverty is that they expect less from their own lives,” Doi said, “because they don’t let their hopes get too high. Their dissatisfaction never builds to the point of causing a crime.”

era of anxiety

However, Doi believes that another factor behind the decline in juvenile offenses is fear. In the past, it was possible to imagine creating a life even after a breach here or there, but nowadays children believe that once you’re off the tracks, There won’t be a second chance I think this is a big reason for the decline in juvenile crime.”

Although anxiety can reduce crime But it also led to more problematic behaviors, including avoiding school and self-harm. moreover Such anxiety-provoking behavior can escalate into serious crimes. Doi said this has become the driving force behind juvenile crime. Instead of rebelling against the powers of the rulers or society as a whole.

Doi referred to the case of a high school student who stabbed three people with a knife in January last year. outside the University of Tokyo which other students come together for the university entrance examination The perpetrator told police he was disappointed by his failed grades and had decided to wreak havoc before taking his own life. “His concerns about the future escalated to the point that he took it out to others,” Doi said, “it was self-harm.”

Fragmentation and Separation

Another major source of anxiety among young people today is their relationships with friends and colleagues. Since 2000, the Cabinet Office’s Youth Attitudes Survey has recorded an increase in such concerns. Doi sees this as another consequence of the shift from an era of upward mobility and volatility. Struggling resolutely into our current socioeconomic plateau.

“During the growing year Everyone has a higher goal that they strive for. Even though they climb different mountains,” Doi said today, with unclear goals and fluctuating judging criteria. So people are increasingly looking for advice on how to behave from their neighbors. “Everyone looked at each other. to look for more and more signs of anxiety.”

Coupled with this anxiety is a pronounced tendency towards social fragmentation. “Since the 2000s, people have tried to reduce the strain of interpersonal relationships by limiting their interactions to a narrow group of friends who share similar values. together a lot In this age of increasing diversity People seek stability and confidence by limiting their interactions to a close circle of friends who share the same values, income levels, and lifestyles,” observes Doi.

But strategies for limiting social interactions are risky. “The minute you are rejected by that close friend. you are alone to maintain those relationships You must comply Be tolerant of pressure from those around you. And when you can’t speak your mind with your friends. You will feel lonely even in a group.”

Doi is worried that the COVID-19 outbreak severely affecting the trend of social divisions

“At school, it’s harder to maintain this kind of discrimination. You get outside noise. And that helps the social life of children. more complete But since the epidemic Athletics and other extracurricular activities has been greatly reduced. will meet and interact outside of school Social media has become the main medium of communication. and with social media You can easily choose who you want to interact with. You are closed off from everyone but the selected group. In that sense, the pandemic has disproportionately affected youth. And the thoughts that dominate during adolescence are quite difficult to shake.”

New Fatalism

Increased income inequality and socioeconomic stratification are part of the problem. Children of wealthy families tend to be convinced to go to high school, which gives them an advantage in being admitted into a high school. university As a result, they have virtually no contact or awareness of adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This situation gives rise to socio-economic determinants. especially among the disadvantaged Over the years of growth and upward movement Educational and professional success is seen as a reward for one’s efforts. Today, when rising up is an exception rather than a rule, many things in life seem to be inextricably linked with immutable situations. in birth This idea was included in the vocabulary. until—Roughly the “parents lottery” used by young people on social media. Derived from the name of a vending machine that randomly distributes capsule toys to children. This word represents the perception that success or failure is determined by family background, which no one has said.

Such a fate ends with a more deteriorating trend towards fragmentation by socioeconomic status, the more the “winners” and the “losers” of until Lotteries move in completely different circles and are considered indifferent to each other.

Japan’s young people are not consistent in their behavior or values. Teen entrepreneurs and social activists stand alongside teens who limit themselves to gaming and messaging in small groups of friends. But there is little interaction that is valuable amidst this diversity.

social responsibility

Is there any way to reverse the trend towards social fragmentation?

“We need to deliberately create a place where young people of diverse values, income levels and lifestyles can meet,” Doi said. He sees Japan’s rapidly growing potential. Kodomo Shokudoor “Children’s Canteens,” originally intended as a response to childhood poverty. They have started opening doors to young people from all backgrounds. Some are generation after generation to provide a place where members of the older community can gather and blend with the youth. Doi applauds the initiative and calls for expansion with a particular focus on teenagers.

“Unless adolescents are open to other worlds and ideas through interaction with different people. My own feelings about what is possible in life are still limited. Society has a responsibility to create an environment where teenagers can experience different worlds and be inspired to try new things for themselves.”

Economic assistance for needy families is a big part of the equation. because poverty can be separated Of course, need-based scholarships are important. But Doi argues that uncommitted assistance is also important.

“Some children lack pocket money for social activities. So he was fired,” Doi remarked. “Even participating in intramural sports and after-school clubs requires resources that some children don’t have. Many people decide it’s easier to not make new friends. This also limits their chances of revealing and destroying their motives.”

The youth who disliked the changes of Japan.

Japan’s voting age dropped from 20 to 18 in 2016, but voters in the 18 and 19 age bracket have been disappointing, as Doi saw. The main source of this political apathy is aversion to change. There is no reason to believe that social change will improve their lives. They looked at him with suspicion and anxiety. “If they want to change the world they will vote They don’t vote because they have no incentive to change things. People who go to the polls tend to vote conservatively.”

In a 2020–21 survey of high school students in Japan, China, South Korea and the United States (conducted by the National Institution for Youth Education), 45.6% of Japanese respondents agreed with the statement. “It is better to accept than to accept. more than trying to change the status quo,” the highest percentage among countries surveyed. In the 2019 Nippon Foundation survey of 18-year-olds in nine countries, only 10% of Japanese respondents. (Least of all the countries surveyed) to think that things will be better in their own country and less than 20%, which is the lowest rate So far—believe that they themselves can contribute to social change.

Doi has a message for young people who are content with and dislike Japan’s change.

“I want to remind them that if they are too comfortable with the status quo. They are unable to adapt when the status quo changes. They need to be aware that avoiding that risk comes with its own risks.”

He also urged them to expand their social interactions. “Young people today say they know themselves well. but they were wrong We learn about ourselves as humans through the reactions of the people around us. When our relationships are limited to people like us All we see is a reflection in the mirror. We never face ourselves that we have not yet met. Blocking people who are different from you You are limiting your horizons and limiting your own possibilities for the future.”

(Originally written in Japanese by Kimie Itakura of Banner image: © Pixta.)

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