Journal - Volume 7, May 2016

Perceptions of Poverty and Neighborhood Effects in Osaka

Author
Eiji KAWANO
Keywords
Perception on Poverty, Social Exclusion, Welfare Reform, Conflict among the Poor, Neighborhood effects, Osaka

Preface

Most of the large number of field studies done on poverty and social exclusion in Osaka have been descriptive studies of specific neighborhoods or minority communities. The field research done on the minorities living in Osaka has clarified the types of discrimination, poverty and other social disadvantages they have faced. A new situation has developed, however, as unstable employment and low incomes have led to an ongoing generalization of poverty, and it is difficult to say that sufficient research and analysis have been done on such questions as where and among whom poverty exists in Osaka and what are the best approaches are to dealing with it. Along with studies helping to develop an accurate assessment of the actual nature of impoverishment in the city, we need to clarify how residents look upon poverty and what ideas or ways of thinking are emerging in regard to developing countermeasures. This is because the trends in efforts to alleviate or eliminate poverty differ according to the ways in which general citizens understand poverty and look upon the strata of the population suffering from it.

It is well known that the rate of unemployment and percentage of residents receiving social assistance (Seikatsu Hogo) is higher in Osaka than it is in most other parts of Japan. A sharp increase in welfare recipients occurred in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, and in the following years those in need of assistance have had to struggle against unfairness and iniquities in the welfare system. In 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party defeated the Democratic Party to return to power under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. With the conservatives back in power, it became increasingly difficult for the poor to press for fairness in welfare payments, and welfare recipients came under attack from politicians and were subjected to increased "bashing" in the media. In 2013, social assistance payments for food expenses were cut back, and assistance for housing expenses was reduced starting in 2015.

Among the background conditions leading to these responses are the sharp increase in welfare spending that has strained public finances and the people being led to believe that many of the working poor feel that it is unfair for them to have to squeeze by on very low wages while welfare recipients are supported by social assistance. More than a few expert observers are pointing out that a situation in which the incomes of people earning the very lowest wages are lower than incomes from social assistance is leading to divisions and confrontations between the working poor and welfare recipients. However, no empirical verification of actual confrontations among the poor has been provided, which is one reason this study of Osaka residents is being undertaken. We will analyze the results of our study to find answers to four questions.

The first is to analyze opinions gathered to see if the view that poverty is the fault of the poor themselves is a determining factor in decisions made on anti-poverty measures. The second question requiring verification is whether or not it is true that people who have fallen into financial distress actually support cutting welfare payments. The third question we will examine is whether neighborhood effects exist in Osaka, a city with striking differences between residential neighborhoods. In other words, do the living environments in the various residential neighborhoods affect the ways in which residents think about poverty? The fourth question we will address is whether or not residents’ perceptions of poverty actually have a determining effect on policies adopted to deal with it.

Database, Pakuri (Rip-offs), Hatsune Miku

Author
Satoshi MASUDA
Keywords
Japanese popular music, otaku’s derivative works, Database Consumption, postmodern subjectivity

Explanatory Note

This paper was published in the inaugural issue (featuring Japan) of the critical journal Shisō Chizu, jointly edited by Hiroki Azuma, the leading critic on contemporary thought in Japan, and the sociologist Akihiro Kitada. Shisō Chizu was published in Japan as a new journal on cultural and social thought in the 2000s and aroused widespread interest throughout Japan.

Departing from Azuma’s concept of "Database Consumption" (Azuma 2001), the present paper discusses cultural creation, originality and the changing subject in musical production through multiple topics, such as the comparison of derivative works in manga/anime culture (otaku culture) to sampling/remixing in DJ culture, critical discourse on the issue of "pakuri" (rip offs and the act of ripping off) and the acceptance of software for synthetic singing.

Intertextuality, oftentimes cited as a feature of postmodern culture, is a significant quality of contemporary Japanese pop culture as well. Fanzines (dōjinshi), or derivative works created by anime/manga fans reusing existing characters in different stories, are a prime example of this. At the same time, DJ culture, dependent upon sampling and remix techniques, can also be seen as the appearance of postmodern eclecticism within the realm of music.

Azuma states that, in the otaku world, elements from individual works (such as characters, settings, and the various elements that constitute such characters/settings) – rather than the works themselves – are collected in database form, and cultural expression takes place by users then selecting and arranging these various elements. Musical expression in DJ culture assumes a formal similarity to this. However, it varies on an important point. This paper identifies two major differences between otaku and DJ culture in terms of "creative effort" and "publicity" and investigates the varying forms of the database consumption phenomenon in manga/anime as compared to music.

Studies from these perspectives of creative effort and publicity are then applied to the following discourse on "pakuri." Examining the history of the term "pakuri," once jargon for economic fraud and later employed as a term for describing cultural plagiarism, the author reveals the presence of two varying reasons for criticizing "pakuri" conduct: the undeserved shortcutting of creative effort and the embezzlement of publicity value.

The effect of database consumption in music appears as the overlapping of developments in the field of shortcutting creative effort and the act of toying with publicity. The surging popularity of the synthetic singing software "Hatsune Miku," released in 2007, is a prime example of this dual nature. "Hatsune Miku," initially developed as a software program for substituting human singing with computerized singing, was adopted as an almost real singer in the minds of the users after its release, and (the character’s) publicity came to be the object of consumption.

Although it is already customary to understand the creation and consumption of popular culture in contemporary Japan through the framework of postmodern culture, this paper attempts to further develop this discussion in the realm of popular music.

Deviation and conformity in fanwork: Narrative transformation in yaoi

Author
Yu ISHIKAWA
Keywords
fan culture, yaoi, manga, narrative, diegetic transposition, character

Abstract

This paper investigates how yaoi deviates from and conforms to source texts through analysis of manga fanwork, drawn in Japanese comics style. Yaoi, a popular form of fanwork in Japan, refers to women-oriented productions that borrow male characters from source texts and develop their male bonding into a romantic relationship. This paper focuses on yaoi that transposes the diegesis from the original world to an alternative one. This diegetic transposition in yaoi also carries with it a transformation of plots and character traits. While this type of yaoi is not regarded as particularly similar to the source text, it is identified as derivative work rather than independent work. What is the identifiable derivative element of the source text? Why is the diegetic transposition needed in yaoi? Using dōjinshi, or self-published work, of One Piece, a popular pirate adventure manga in Japan, as an example, this paper investigates the mechanism and function of narrative transformation, especially the diegetic transposition, in yaoi.

Branding of Horie, Nishi Ward from the Viewpoint of Long-term Residents: A Case of Urban Change in Osaka City after the Collapse of the Economic Bubble

Author
Meric KIRMIZI
Keywords
Osaka City, bottom-up redevelopment, loss of place identity, use value of space, place branding

Explanatory Note

The aim of this paper is to understand post-bubble urban change in Osaka City, by observing this process at the level of a downtown neighbourhood called Horie in Nishi Ward, Osaka City. With reference to the concepts of post-industrial city, gentrification and neoliberal urbanism, this study comprises an analysis of narratives of long-term residents and people who have been affiliated with the area for a long time regarding changes in the neighbourhood. In the summer of 2013, based on references from a neighbourhood hall in the area, fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted by snowball sampling. Despite its close proximity to the central business district of Osaka City, Horie has a residential character, except for its old shopping street of furniture stores, Tachibana Street, which was renamed Orange Street in the 1990s. The shopping street revitalization was initiated by local business owners, and later developed through the use of outside capital. Consequently, the identity of the area changed, as young people were attracted to the new shops, which sold primarily apparel brands and accessories. Horie’s current atmosphere is similar to the Western examples of gentrified neighbourhoods, with up-market condominiums, Western-style cafes, specialty stores, and trendy, young people strolling around. Nevertheless, this new atmosphere is not so welcome for older residents who feel alienated by it.

Editorial Note