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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Free employment and employment free in Japan: individual lives in a time of crisis and globalisation (日本の自由業及びフリーターの実態について)


Wim Lunsing, University of Tokyo

This anthropological research project is concerned with individuals in Japan who find their livelihood outside steady employment. It focuses on ‘freeters’, free-lancers, people depending on family, lovers or friends, sex workers and watertraders(mizu shōbai) and people combining more than one of these categories. The research consists predominately of in-depth free style interviews and participant observation in gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual circles, art circles, voluntary activist (borantiā) circles and a variety of other mostly young people’s circles.
Findings include: People individualize their income situation to an extreme extent, hardly ever relating it to problems like the present economic crisis. Though aware of this crisis, hardly anyone takes it into account when quitting steady employment. The main reason to quit or avoid steady employment lies in unsatisfactory work situations and a quest for self-development. Women appear be better prepared for a live outside corporations than men.
Preceded by a short video of the researcher at work, the talk will focus on a limited number of cases, and incorporate discussions such as those on ‘parasite singles’ and the sex work debate currently (not) taking place in Japan.

Wim Lunsing is a Japan Foundation Research Fellow at Tokyo University. He is the author of Beyond common sense: sexuality and gender in contemporary Japan (Kegan Paul, 2001) and numerous papers on homosexuality, sex work and fieldwork in Japan. He can be contacted at: