Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Meditation: Labor, and Women

Labor, and Women: As best we can tell, everybody who wants a job has one. While we’ve read that the economy here has stagnated since the real estate bubble burst in the 80s, we think things are fairly comparable to the US in prices and yet a lot more people are working here to support everyone else. Service is top notch, things run on time (the exceptions are shocking when they occur), people take a slower pace yet things get done efficiently (sorry, not entirely consistent with the Lost diatribe), you never have to tip (thank goodness, one of the small pleasures in life as a tourist is not having to know when or how much to tip) and yet service is always very good.

We see only one or two people that might be homeless, and even then we’re not quite sure. There appear to be no pariahs out there walking around.

Maybe people are paid less, entry level jobs must open up frequently given the ages of the people in them, maybe people spend less on major items (we don’t think so, since everywhere we go outside of the inner cities there are single family two story houses and large cars, and energy prices are set by world standards, not local ones).

And, we’ve heard that all jobs are treasured (train conductor equal to salary man paper pusher), there isn’t much of a gap in salaries. Having heard that, it is damn clear that women are in a lot of the poorly paid service jobs and men aren’t as often. Well, I’ve segued to another topic, which is that women still have quite a ways to go here. We see plenty of women in Tokyo commuting in standard blue jackets and skirts, matching the men in their dark suits. I would estimate this is probably equivalent to the US of the 80s, with women gaining more ground in the work force and emulating men rather finding another path.

In only one of our house visits where men were present did the wife (or partner) come anywhere close to sitting at the table, and she was still expected to get the coffee and treats ready (and his hearing aid). At the hot pot dinner in Tokoname, some of the men were actually helping to clear dishes near the end of the meal, not many and only reluctantly under some kidding from the others. We never saw the women that had spent all afternoon prepping the meal, they stayed in the background (or kitchen). Men are always served first (and sometimes only served even if a woman is sitting there). Do women have independent thoughts they feel comfortable sharing? I think for most yes on former and no on the latter. You never saw a women interrupt a man, even if it meant the tea got colder and colder.

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