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Can a Freeter Buy a House? Contemporary Housing Issues in Japan from the 'Lost Generation' to 'Generation Rent'
Can a Freeter Buy a House? Contemporary Housing Issues in Japan from the 'Lost Generation' to 'Generation Rent'

Since the collapse of its speculative asset bubble in the early 1990s and the onset of Japan’s first ‘lost decade’, it has become evident that younger adults have been finding it increasingly difficult to adopt standard life courses, inhibited, in particular, by shifts in economic and labour market conditions. One issue that has seemed to symbolise this shift is the emergence of so called freeters, young casual workers who seemingly reject the Japanese traditional life-course in favour of flexible work and personal goals.

Tapping into these contemporary social concerns,  the  2010 Fuji Television drama ‘Furita, ie o kau’ (Freeter, buy a house) followed the life of Seiji, a recent college graduate who quits his secure office job but resolves to work as a part time labourer to buy a house for his family. But, can a freeter really buy a house in contemporary Japan? And to what extent is Seiji’s dream of home ownership still a key life goal for new generations of Japanese young adults today?

This seminar will approach the various issues thrown up by Japan’s changing social and economic environment through the lens provided by housing.  Drawing on a range of sources, including examples from television drama, art, and architecture, Dr Chris Perkins (University of Edinburgh) will investigate the role of housing in post-war Japan, examining ways in which housing has been used to mobilise the workforce, and how some activists in Japan are now radically reconceptualising housing.

Professor Richard Ronald (The University of Amsterdam/The University of Birmingham) will then place this media and cultural reaction into the broader context of shifts in housing markets and the household careers of young people in Japan, exploring recent trends such as a rise in one person-households, a surge of younger people residing in private rental sector rather than purchasing a family home, and also recent data which suggests that the latest generation of Japanese millennials may be readapting ideas of home and household around various forms of shared living.

This seminar will provide an opportunity for reflection and debate on the role of housing in advanced industrial economies: an issue that, in an age of austerity and increasing income inequality, is as pertinent as ever.


Dr Chris Perkins is  Lecturer in Japanese at The University of Edinburgh, a position initially funded by a Japan Foundation Staff Expansion grant. He completed his  PhD thesis entitled ‘National Thinking and the Politics of Belonging in Contemporary Japan’  at Royal Holloway University of London and has since published on a range of subjects including television and film, memory, nationalism and borders. His most recent publication is The United Red Army on Screen: Cinema, Aesthetics, and the Politics of Memory (Palgrave).

Professor Richard Ronald is Associate Professor at the Centre for Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Professor in the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, UK. His work focuses on housing in relation to social, economic and urban transformations in Europe and Pacific Asia, with his latest research project (HOUWEL: Housing Markets and Welfare State Transformations) supported by a European Research Council StG grant. He has previously held Japan Foundation as well as Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowships at Kobe University in Japan.