Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In this paper, the author “returns” to the site of her doctoral fieldwork, a rapidly aging neighborhood in Sakai City, a steadily declining industrial hub. Nestled between Osaka’s Namba to the north and the Ishizugawa industrial district to the south sits Dejima. For over 25 years (almost precisely the age of the on-going so-called “Lost Decade”), a corrugated steel structure has served as a gathering space for an extended network of predominantly middle-aged, working-class “Sakaiians.” Throughout the year this uninsulated space hosts various types of musical performances by group members and friends, various seasonal “matsuri,” sales of local organic products grown or crafted by group members, and barter and gifting of unneeded household items. For its habitués, this space offers respite from the demands of the workplace, in most cases from spouses and children, and to an extent from the cash economy. Through email interviews, this project explores the history of this community and life histories of its constituent members, the activities of which center around this DIY space. It takes a somewhat longer view of the process of “precarization” (Lorey 2011) in a very specific, yet unexceptional, local Japanese milieu. While studies of precarity often focus on younger or older Japanese, this paper explores the way precarity is and has been experienced by the members of the middle generation who have enjoyed, in many respects, what Allison describes as hitonami no seikatsu, “now … a privilege of a diminishing minority” (Allison 2013: 33).