【On the Mike #1】What's left for Japan's youth?

So much of what we read here in Japan is about how the government, major corporations, and the nation is dealing with this crisis. Various measures about how to get more people to give birth, creating more “quality of life,” child raising assistance, and even encouraging foreigners to live in Japan are discussed as viable solutions on a regular basis.

The Generation Gap is a Humorless Void

Everything Sounds Like Lies

No doubt, many people in the media, politicians, corporate leaders, and parents of young people in Japan, are being sincere when they propose various “solution” to this crisis. They don’t like the future that is being imposed by this inverted population pyramid. Who could?

But to anyone under the age of 35 in Japan, everything being said about how to deal with this crisis sound like lies. Blah blah blah. It won’t do a damn bit of good for them.

And, they are right.

It doesn’t really matter whether the population of Japan is 120 million or 100 million, nor does it matter if retirement age shifts from 65 to 70. It won’t change the reality that The average age of the Japanese population is already well over 50 and in the near future, there will be more people over 65 than between the ages of 18 and 60.

No matter how you cut the pie, this is a recipe for disaster.

Who do you live for?

The less optimistic would likely say for ourselves. Being an idealist, I say for our children. I think that this holds mostly true everywhere, but in Japan, it’s a fairly culturally accepted norm. 

It should be fair to say that the vast majority of under 18s are likely to have parents who are under 60. So it should also then hold true that a large percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 60 are going to be caring for the livelihoods of not only themselves, but for at least one person under the age of 18. And, as one of 2 parents caring for 2 kids under the age of 18 in Japan, I can assure you that it’s hard work making ends meet here.

So it’s a pretty sobering truth to say that most people in the core “working age group” 18-60 year olds in Japan - not many of us have a lot of bandwidth to support anyone other than ourselves and our dependents. We live for our kids.

So what’s left?

Well, the first question, then, is who owns everything?

The answer is pretty difficult, but it’s pretty obviously not the under 18s, nor is a whole lot of it the 18-60s. So the answer is very clearly the over 60s, companies, and the public.

And, with the lion’s share of the population, it is people over the age of 60 that have the voting power, too. And the seats in government, boards of education, and the boards of directorship in all of the major corporations.

This leaves a pretty big void in power and wealth in Japan. And, more importantly, a total lack of trust. I don’t think anyone under the age of 40 in Japan believes that people over 60 can be trusted. I think that young people in Japan believe that really, fundamentally, older people, collectively, are selfish, greedy, self serving, and have no concerns for the well being of the nation and its people, and are utterly incompetent in managing wealth and welfare of the nation.

And they are, unfortunately, completely rational in their belief.

The way Forward

One possibility is for young people to revolt. Take to the streets. But that is unlikely to happen.

The other, however unlikely a solution, is for everyone over the age of 60 in Japan to give all of their wealth and power to people under the age of 35. Now. Unconditionally.

I mean this in all seriousness. Bequeath all of the land, real estate, corporate shares, seats on the boards of corporations, in government. It is drastic. It will lead to a lot of squabbles, confusion, and many other crazy issues. 

But then, at least, young people will be forced to think and respond, to act responsibly, and own their destiny. They would reap the fruits of their successes and their mistakes.  And I believe that young people of Japan are likely to care for their elders better than their elders have cared for them. 

What's On the Mike?

Mike Kato is a transplanted California who has been living continuously in Japan now since 1987, longer than his time in California - by nearly a decade. This accounts, in part, for his middle-age paunch and oyaji humor. Please don’t gag on the jokes that fall flat.

“On the Mike” will be a series of articles in which Mike will write about the things that interest him - about his loves, pet peeves, and the things that really matter about Japan and its relationships in the world. He hopes that there is something interesting for everyone here. Please follow him on Facebook and Twitter or drop him a line if you like anything in particular, agree, or even if you think that he’s just bullocks.