Much has been made in the media recently about the “widening gap between the rich and poor” in Japan (also symbolized by the buzzword "kakusa"). Both foreign newspapers and ones based here state that Japan used to have “100 middle-class people.” And now, according to the Emperor of Japan, there is a “new widening gap between the rich and the poor.” It appears that Japan is turning into a classist society. The Social Democrat opposition leader Mizuho Fukushima also recently told the Japanese media: “We are being divided into rich people and poor people, and the gap is widening.” According to the UK’s Independent newspaper, “Japan is becoming a two-tiered society.”
Japan has always had a class division and to suggest otherwise would be false. The class-divide—whether this be measured in money, education or state-of-mind—has always existed in Japan. A visit to Japan’s many state-subsidized apartment blocks will show you that the poor remain poor—lack of education, lack of money and a different mind-set all contribute to a division between the “middle-class” and “working-class.” It’s now blamed on the bubble bursting and people going bankrupt as well as former PM Koizumi’s “neoliberal economic reforms.” However, class division has been prevalent throughout history—it was here during the war, during the bubble and is still here now.
Can Japan put a plaster on the scar in reputation as a classless society? Probably by doing what it does now — sweeping the poor under the carpet and pretending that everyone is middle-class. Japan can then regain its former glory as a homogenous society.
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