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Theses


June 14, 2009

Generation shift in Japan--some fundamental change may be coming

Teaching students, commuting in subways, and reading newspapers lately, I sense that some fundamental changes might be in the offing in Japan. Japanese baby-boomer generation is now retiring en masse. Younger generations, especially under 35 are very, very different from elder ones.

They take for granted the developed economy, and yet are not spoiled by it unlike the generations between some 40 and 50. Many of them have experienced hardness in finding jobs after graduation, and it makes them more realistic in their life. They are aware that only better qualification brings better job.

Most of them, especially young women, are more independent than their predecessors. Japanese popular songs, main themes of which used to be about the dependence of women on men, have totally changed. The melody is now happy and rhythmic.

All said, they are "foreign" to us, the baby-boomer generation. And we are alien to them, too. The issues which used to interest us do not interest them at all. We simply do not know what makes them tick. The younger generation does not read newspapers anymore. They think that they can get all necessary information via cellular phone and PC. TV stations and major newspapers are getting far less advertisements lately, which will eventually necessitate substantial restructuring.

Unfortunately, this change has coincided with the global economic recession, which makes it difficult to maintain current standard of life and intellectual level. In this milieu the fundamental change in values in the society might incur some chaotic situation in Japan.

I talked to one younger diplomat lately. He told me that he has a feeling that the Bakumatsu era has come again, and I share his sentiment. After those chaotic 10 and some years in mid 19th century the Samurai government was toppled and totally new people (they were samurais, too, though) came to power.

Sure, in the next election the Democratic Party may take power, but I have a presentiment of something more fundamental.

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