Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty
368pp. January 2014
Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty
Editor: Kawano, Satsuki; Roberts, Glenda S.; Long, Susan Orpett;
What are people’s life experiences in present-day Japan? This timely volume addresses fundamental questions vital to understanding Japan in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Its chapters collectively reveal a questioning of middle-class ideals once considered the essence of Japaneseness. In the postwar model household a man was expected to obtain a job at a major firm that offered life-long employment; his counterpart, the “professional” housewife, managed the domestic sphere and the children, who were educated in a system that provided a path to mainstream success. In the past twenty years, however, Japanese society has seen a sharp increase in precarious forms of employment, higher divorce rates, and a widening gap between haves and have-nots.

Contributors draw on rich, nuanced fieldwork data collected during the 2000s to examine work, schooling, family and marital relations, child rearing, entertainment, lifestyle choices, community support, consumption and waste, material culture, well-being, aging, death and memorial rites, and sexuality. The voices in these pages vary widely: They include schoolchildren, teenagers, career women, unmarried women, young mothers, people with disabilities, small business owners, organic farmers, retirees, and the elderly.
". . . the volume is an excellence resource and significant contribution to the anthropology of Japan. I am using the collection in my undergraduate seminar in Japanese society with great success. . . . the ethnographic depth of each chapter will certainly spark lively debate and discussion among more senior graduate students and scholars." –Pacific Affairs

"Capturing Contemporary Japan, a collection of neatly unified and carefully researched case studies by leading anthropologists takes a thorough look at Japan's current "questioning of post-war, middle-class ideals" and the "exploration (by its people) of new identities." . . . [and] provides a detailed introductory description of Japan's recent economic history." –Times Literary Supplement

"Anyone who teaches courses on contemporary Japanese culture and society will welcome this collection, which draws upon the work of some of the most highly regarded anthropologists presently working on Japan. It offers a complex yet immensely readable, clearly organized, and jargon-free picture of the what, why, and how of Japan today. There are riches here to satisfy the palate of both the distracted undergraduate and the seasoned Japan specialist." —Christine Yano, University of Hawai`i, Manoa

"I have no doubt that Capturing Contemporary Japan will quickly be adopted by a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on Japanese society. The book is remarkably cohesive for an edited volume and presents the best set of ethnographic portraits of contemporary Japan since Takie Sugiyama Lebra's Japanese Social Organization (1992)." —Roger Goodman, University of Oxford
Editor: Kawano, Satsuki; Roberts, Glenda S.; Long, Susan Orpett;
Satsuki Kawano is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Guelph, (Canada). Glenda S. Roberts is professor and director of international studies at Waseda University (Japan). Susan Orpett Long is professor of anthropology at John Carroll University (U.S.).