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  • Publicado : 5 de septiembre de 2010
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All that glitters is not gold. The once affluent Japanese society that arose like a phoenix out of the ashes of the Second World War is showing signs of ill health. Over the last decade it has been going through a period of intense social transformation. Old systems are malfunctioning, traditional values are dying and new ones have not yet emerged. A prolonged economic slowdown, scarcity oftenured jobs, the graying of the population and decline in birthrate have all added to the woes of the common man.
Some people can cope with these post-industrial problems and some cannot. Those who cannot, find it difficult to adjust to the bewildering social changes, become maladjusted, and show symptoms of abnormal behavior. In recent years many bizarre crimes are reported in the Japanese mediafrom fratricide and matricide to infanticide and suicide. Not that these crimes have not happened earlier or are uncommon in other societies but their recent exacerbation are a sign of the weakening of the affluent and stable Japanese society. There has also been a rise in standard criminal activity, which has been further aggravated by the use of modern technology like the Internet and mobilephones.

A fortnight ago in Nagoya, a 40-year-old man, Kenji Kawagishi, heavily in debt and living out of a van, posted a chilling message on the web, seeking accomplices to help him rob a woman and then kill her. Two men, Tsukasa Kanda and Yoshitomo Hori responded to help him accomplish his �dark work.� The waylaid a woman, Rie Isogai, at night, robbed and murdered her and then abandoned her bodyon a mountainous area of Mizunami in Gifu Prefecture. All these three Japanese men were in such desperate need for money that they resorted to killing the woman with a hammer as she had seen their faces. With the widening gap in incomes, desperate men are now seeking desperate remedies.

After the Second World War successive Japanese governments have worked hard to equalize wages and create auniform middle class, which was symbolized by the well-dressed Japanese �salariman�. The bursting of the bubble economy in the 1980s, the economic slowdown of last two decades, and recession of the last ten years, have all created their own imbalance. In the April-June quarter of 2007, the Japanese economy shark to 1.2 percent, making it the largest contraction in four years. This shrinkage wasmostly attributed to low capital investment, private consumption and exports. All these three factors pushed the gross domestic product into the negative. Though both the government and economic analysts downplay the fear of economic recession the fact remains that the economic reality is rather grim.

The burgeoning economic gap between the haves and the have-nots has once again brought backmany problems associated with a classed society, especially of people living on its fringes. The increase of Freeters (furita or part time worker), NEETS (no education, employment, nor training), Net-caf� refugees (spending nights in net caf� cubicles), parasite singles (young adults living living with patents), hikikomori (social recluse) and homeless, apart from poor and jobless, have shakenthe complacency of the once predominantly middle-class society. It is possible to see a 4-tiered Japanese society�from rich and middle class to poor and semi-employed or unemployed. Japan is now facing a problem not only with increasing number of homeless, which are easy to identify, but a growing population of �hidden homeless� which are more difficult to recognize.

Since the hiddenhomeless are not as grubby as the regular homeless they cannot be distinguished from the rest of the population. Some of them are the semi-employed young who look quite fashionable with mobile Internet phones, colored hair and trendy clothes. Incidentally, there are over 10 million Internet phone subscribers in Japan. The semi-employed young, often called the Brown Men and Brown Ladies in dyed hair,...
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