Jahrestagung 2022

Deviance and Norms in Times of Change in Japan

University of Zurich, November 18-20, 2022

Conference Abstract

Japan has been considered a modern society of strict social norms and high levels of social integration that led to low levels of deviant behavior and conspicuously homogeneous life courses. However, since the 1990s, Japan’s former success model is in deep crisis. The economy is stagnating, fertility is very low, population is (over)ageing and decreasing, the employment model is becoming frayed, and public debates are dominated an outcry over social equality and a crime panic. The dire need of reforms and the inability to reform are marking political discussions. Overall, the future viability of many social norms is increasingly questioned.

This conference analyzed deviance and norms in times of change in Japan. Deviance is understood not only as negative norm violation like e.g., criminality, but also as positive deviance of progressive norm transgression that may lead to social change and a redefinition of social norms. The conference addressed classical questions of deviance research in current Japan: Is the perception of norms and deviance changing? Are norms and deviance redefined? Is control of deviant behavior undergoing change? How are social actors pushing for such changes? The conference allowed not only to gain a full picture of deviance in current Japan, but to understand Japanese society from this perspective. It addressed six topics that are especially relevant and interesting concerning deviance in current Japan: transnationalization, private life, youth, political norms, labor market, and social control.


Friday, November 18, 2022

14:30-15:30 Gracia Liu-Farrer (Waseda University) Keynote speech: Normalizing Exceptions and Accepting Differences: A Changing Japan through its (Pragmatic) Immigration Journey

The prospect of Japan becoming a society of immigration might be one of the biggest normative challenges in post-war Japan. This presentation examined both immigration policy making and immigrant settlement practices over the past decades and argued that an immigrant society is precisely the direction Japan is moving toward. Garcia Liu-Farrer highlighted two parallel processes in this development: the normalization of exceptions and the acceptance of differences. The first process is largely political, happening in the policy arena, and the second is more broadly social, involving a wide range of people and organizations. Although the national government continues to hold a no-immigration position in its public discourse, confronted with increasing demographic crisis and labor shortages as well as skill demands brought by economic globalization, Japan has for decades adopted a patchwork policy approach toward immigration. Some of these pragmatic tactics include adjusting existing entry channels, creating special zones, expanding and merging visa categories, stretching skill definitions, and issuing new measures for integrating migrants. Such policy revisions, often posed as provisional and exceptions, have continued and become mainstream, rendering Japan’s no-immigration political discourse merely an empty ideological discourse instead of a reflection of policy substance. Meanwhile, the expanding presence and increasing visibility of immigrants and people of mixed heritage in Japan’s social and cultural life have challenged Japan’s normative ethno-nationalist identity, calling for a search for a new self-understanding at the societal level.


16:00-17:30 Rebellious youth, Chair: Celeste Arrington (George Washington University)

Christopher Gerteis (University of Tokyo and SOAS University of London) The Non-Politics of the Disaffected: The Motorcycle Gangs of 1970s Japan

This talk explored the collision of individual freedom and state authority in 1970s Japan. News media reported waves of youth crime perpetrated by gangs of motorcycle-riding high school dropouts taking over the streets of urban Japan. They sensationalized the phenomenon as a threat to all Japanese society by explaining to their readers how these gangs reveled in criminal violence. State authorities decried these bōsōzoku – as labeled by the media in 1972 – as an incorrigible class of “bad youth” who were too lazy – at best – or too stupid – at worst – to succeed in society. Yet, the first-person narratives of bike gang members portray the biker subculture as a new way to express their sense of «self» – a new way to be a person – that flew in the face of rigidly hierarchical education and employment systems that put sacrifice and obligation to the collective above care of the self. This paper explores the crossroads of youth in pursuit of individual freedom and elite who judged them to be little more than criminal deviants.


Sharon Kinsella (University of Manchester) Cross-dress Boys: Parody, Passing, and Encounter with Feminine Deviancy

Deviance and the youthful folk devil appear to be very much a thing of the political and social past, along with liberal democracy and mass societies and social norms. The social deviant was famously reconfigured as the outsider artist and source of cultural value and cool by Howard Becker in his early critique of the American psychological construction of deviance in the 1950s. Nevertheless, deviance continued to outlive its analysis by Becker, and Stanley and Phil Cohen, until the early 1990s, having moved from jazz, to mods, rockers, punk, ravers, and black youth gangs. In the Japanese context the focus of deviance moved from lumpen and criminal male youth of the fifties to mid-eighties to young women and schoolgirls in the 1990s, which saw a carnival of fascination with their delinquency. As this decade of media entertainment came to an end in the early 2000s, attention to girls’ fashions, culture and deviancy vanished along with pre-digital street fashion and subculture in its last stand. What arose and has taken attention in the 2000s have been various animation, ero-ge, and otaku-linked boys’ cultures and within these cross-dressed characters, cross-dress beauty contests, and virtual shojo avatars have been a central form. This paper explores the pick-up of girls’ street style in boys cross-dressing, and the re-assemblage of girls’ cute aesthetics as a form of masculine style and resistance in the 2010s.


Keiichi Satoh (Hitotsubashi University) Value Clusters in Contemporary Japan: Exploring their Features, Political Behavior, and Cleavage Structure

Social values are drivers of sociopolitical behavior in modern societies. Social values make citizens develop certain worldviews, inform them of an adequate way of political behavior, and tell them who the preferred politicians are. While many studies investigated the effect of social values on various behavior (i.e., correlational approach), only a limited number of studies examined how citizens embody several sets of values together (i.e., value cluster approach). The latter aspect is critical for understanding the dynamics of the change in society because the agent of the social change is the citizens, not the values themselves. Based on the survey conducted in 2017 with around eighty thousand citizens in the greater area of Tokyo, this paper addresses three basic questions: (1) how can citizens be grouped into value clusters, and what are the demographical features of each cluster? (2) How does each value cluster behave in the political process? (3) What is the manifested cleavage among citizens therein? The analysis identified eight distinct value clusters. The middle cluster accounts for almost half of the citizens. While the left-libertarians are one of the most active clusters in the political process, they only account for around ten percent of whole citizens.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

9:00-10:30 Changing private Life, Chair: Chiara Fusari (University of Zurich)

Aya Ezawa (Leiden University) and Chisa Fujiwara (Hosei University) Cycles of Precarity: Single Mothers Making Ends Meet during the Pandemic

In September 2014, a single mother living in a subsidized public housing apartment in Chiba prefecture killed her teenage daughter in a tragic attempt to commit a double suicide because of severe economic distress. Costs connected to the transition of her daughter to middle school, in particular the school uniform, a fluctuating income and loans she had taken up from loan sharks to be able to pay for everyday expenses had apparently driven her to the edge. How can a family’s everyday expenses and school necessities become such a source of economic distress for an employed single mother living in a subsidized apartment? In this paper, we argue that the troubles faced by this mother are far from unique. Based on a survey of single mothers conducted in Japan during the 2020-2021 pandemic, we argue that the precarity experienced by many single mothers is institutional and cyclical in nature, causing repeated fluctuations in income and expenditure which result in extreme economic distress. Single mothers’ accounts on their financial situation shed light on the impact of systemic contradictions on their daily life, as well as how they try to manage on the social and economic margins of society.


Nora Kottmann (DIJ Tokyo) (Not) Alone: Being Single in a Marriage Centric “Hyper-Solo-Society”

While marriage – a cornerstone of the post-war social contract in Japan – continues to be the norm and aspirational goal for many, the number of singles (here in the sense of “legally unmarried individuals”) continues to grow across all age groups and social commentators predict the emergence of a “hyper-solo-society”. This development is accompanied by an increasing de- standardization of formerly institutionalized life courses. Yet, despite these trends, singles continue to be a legally and discursively marginalized subset of the Japanese population, sometimes referred to with deprecatory terms that indicate their perceived non-conformity with gender(ed) roles, norms and life courses. Focusing on singles between 25 and 49 years and based upon both qualitative and quantitative data – interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in different share houses in the Greater Tokyo Area and data from an original online survey (2021) on singles’ practices of intimacy designed with Dr. Laura Dales (University of Western Australia) – this paper addresses the question of how the heterogenous group of singles of “marriageable age” navigates changing socio-economic realities, and, in so doing, (re)negotiates what a “normal” adult life looks like or could look like.


James M. Raymo (Princeton University) The Link between Marriage and Fertility and Changing Pathways to First Marriage in Japan

In this study, we use data from large national surveys in Japan to 1) describe how pathways to first marriage have changed across marriage cohorts and 2) examine differences by educational attainment in these pathways to first marriage. We focus particularly on better understanding the meaning of premarital cohabitation and premarital conception by using information on the timing of engagement, initiation of married life, pregnancy, and marriage registration. What, if any, evidence do we see of patterns of change consistent with widely referenced frameworks describing a second demographic transition and children’s diverging destinies in a low-fertility society where there is no evidence of a decoupling of marriage and childbearing? To what degree does a historically homogeneous family life course and the continued link between marriage and childbearing obscure growing heterogeneity in the nature and meaning of pathways to first marriage and parenthood in Japan? Answers to these questions not only provide a needed update on changing pathways to family formation in Japan, but also establish a valuable empirical basis for contextual modification or adaptation of two of the most influential theoretical frameworks for understanding family change in low-fertility societies.


11:00-12:30 Contested political norms, Chair: Jane Sarah Khanizadeh (LMU Munich)

Celeste Arrington (George Washington University) From Manners to Rules: Shifting Modes of Governance in Japan

Japanese governance historically favored informal, bureaucratic, and legally non-binding “soft law” measures. In contrast, U.S.-style adversarial legalism entailed formalized rules and enforcement mechanisms. While not converging on the U.S. model, Japan has enacted more legalistic social policies in the past two decades, and the role of law and courts in politics has grown. What accounts for this shift in modes of governance? Most explanations are top-down, emphasizing politicians’ strategies to cope with increased electoral competition or economic and social complexity and international law developments. While not wrong, such explanations overlook the role of civil society actors. Through comparisons of recent reforms related to accessible public transportation, disability discrimination, and secondhand smoke in Japan, this paper argues that activists and lawyers are contributing to the legalistic turn in governance by demanding and using more formalized regulations and participatory policy processes. Inductive qualitative analysis of Japanese policy deliberations, legislation, interviews, documents from advocacy organizations, news coverage, and Japanese scholarship uncovered four causal mechanisms that link activism to the legalistic turn in governance. This study contributes to broader scholarship on varieties of legalism, policy diffusion, the judicialization of politics, and changing political norms.


Ken Hijino (Kyoto University) “Deviating” Ideologies in Japanese Gubernatorial Elections

The ideological conflicts of Japan’s subnational politics have tended to be interpreted as either being largely muted or contained within a national cleavage dimension. Following two decades of substantial decentralization and growing local autonomy, however, a diversity of new ideological response to local issues have appeared. These include neo-liberal parties and executives in wealthier regions like Tokyo and Osaka or a rising regionalist identity politics such as that found in Okinawa. Nativist right and populist left (Japan First Party and Reiwa Shinsengumi) along with single- issue (NHK) parties are also now fielding candidates for subnational elections. Despite this increasingly crowded field, there is still no systematic understanding of the divergent ideological worldviews and dimensions of conflict operating at subnational level. Nor do we know how these worldviews “deviate” from the traditional “norm” of progressive vs. conservative and/or welfare vs development assumed to characterize Japanese subnational politics. This paper begins to fill this gap by investigating the campaign discourse of gubernatorial candidates in three regions – Tokyo, Okinawa, and Fukushima – both before and after the pandemic outbreak. In particular, the paper analyses how the ideologically divergent candidates have understood the changing role of local government and autonomy during the recent crisis.


Kenneth Mori McElwain (University of Tokyo) Constitutional Attitudes and Voting Behavior: Lessons from COVID-Era Japan

Constitutional revision has long been a key ideological cleavage in postwar Japan, with strong proponents and opponents being reliable supporters of right- and left-wing parties, respectively. This was particularly true when Article 9 was the primary topic of dispute, but the nature of constitutional debate has evolved since the 1990s to include a broader range of institutions and rights. The salience of these topics has also changed in the last decade, due to ex-PM Abe Shinzo’s emphasis of concrete amendment goals and the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do political attitudes shape preferences for constitutional revision today? This paper explores this question using data from original panel surveys that cover the 2021 HR and 2022 HC elections. The analysis focuses on (1) the ways in which political ideology is associated with the salience of and preferences for distinct amendment issues, and (2) the extent to which constitutional attitudes shape voter behavior. The papers concludes by discussing how attitudes towards constitutional revision has changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


14:00-15:30 Transnationalization, Chair: Gracia Liu-Farrer (Waseda University)

Helena Hof (University of Zurich) Deviant Innovators? Foreign Entrepreneurs in Tokyo’s Startup Ecosystem

Due to a lack of innovation, the Japanese government has devised policies to drive entrepreneurship and has created a new visa category in order to attract foreign startups. This presentation zoomed in on the foreign entrepreneurs who have founded innovative firms in Tokyo’s startup ecosystem. The study combines qualitative online interviews with entrepreneurs and experts (government officials, founders of startup networks, mentors) and online observation of networking events of the Tokyo startup community. A superdiversity lens demonstrates the diversity of the foreign startup community not only in terms of country of origin, ethnicity and languages but also of the migration channels, visa categories and business ideas, the latter of which emerge from entrepreneurs’ embeddedness in multiple transnational networks. These foreign entrepreneurs might constitute cases of both positive and negative deviance; their bifocality as transnational entrepreneurs sometimes leads to business models outside the norm and thus has the potential to create innovation. At the same time, the foreign entrepreneurs face several legal and structural obstacles upon venturing their businesses, which drive them towards engaging in informal practices. This renders them deviant in the eye of the state and underlines larger problems in the Japanese labor market and society.


Kaoru Kurusu (Kobe University) Deviation or Business as Usual? Human Security and the Transnationalization Deficit of Japan’s Multilateral Diplomacy

Human security, taking a human-centered approach, calls for promoting policies and actions to avoid downside risks of human existence. Such threats range from pandemics, disasters, and armed conflict to terrorism. At the United Nations, the first resolution referring to human security was the World Summit Outcome Document of 2005, of which paragraph 143 contains only a vague statement about human security. The third resolution on human security was adopted in the UNGA in 2012 [A/RES/66/290] due to the initiatives by the governments of Japan and Mexico (the 2010 second resolution was with no substantive content). The questions here are, how did the normative concept of human security emerge within the Japanese foreign policy-making? How did Japanese domestic politics and structure affect Japan’s norm internalization process? How has Japan acted in the process of international norm diffusion as a norm entrepreneur? Japan’s promotion of a normative concept of human security, serving as a norm entrepreneur, can be considered a new direction of Japan’s foreign policy. However, the leading policy promoters have been policy elites without adequate support at the domestic and transnational civil society levels. This limited societal level involvement is conducive to the weakness of Japan’s diplomacy.


Ayaka Löschke (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg) The Regulation of Hate Speech: Transnational Norms and Japan-specific Understanding of Deviance

The regulation of hate speech has attracted international scholarly attention since the Japanese media started to report about far-right demonstrators’ deviant behavior in 2013. Activists’ efforts which were intensified by a strong transnational network and transnationally circulated human rights norms bore fruit, as the Hate Speech Law passed in 2016. Since then, far-rightists’ street activism continues to decline until today. However, the following question arises: To what extent did transnational norms frame the Japanese approach to regulate hate speech? Based on the results from 70 interviews which were conducted in Japan between 2016 and 2022, this presentation analysed counter-activists’ requests and the government’s way to implement the 2016 Hate Speech Law in terms of basic norms and understanding of deviance. It argued that the Japanese approach is framed not entirely by transnational norms, but rather by a Japan-specific concept, namely social harmony. Not only far-right demonstrators who make noise and commit hate speech on the street, but also activists against hate speech who try to drown out far-right demonstrators with their own voices and electronic sounds have been regarded as harmful to social harmony or negatively “deviant”.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

09:00-10:30 Social control under transformation, Chair: Christopher Gerteis (University of Tokyo and SOAS University of London)

Koichi Hamai (Ryukoku University) The Paradox of Criminology in a “Safe” Country: The Case of Japan – How Has Japan Maintained a Low Crime Rate?

Japan enjoyed its post-war reputation as one of the most crime-free countries. The number of homicides reported in Japan has constantly decreased since 1955, to an all-time low of 874 in 2021, which is around 0.2 per 100,000 population. At the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, one of the Japanese delegates claimed that the Japanese people “have developed trust and confidence that their laws are formulated through a legitimate process and are applied in a fair manner, thereby fostering a culture of lawfulness rooted in society”. Is this claim valid and the reason for the low crime rate?

While the number of crimes has been decreasing, the prison population contains many elderly and handicapped people. In 2021, nearly 13% of new inmates were above 65 years of age. Many are suffering from forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. In Japanese society, people are very intolerant of the behaviors which disturb social and moral order or cause trouble. Therefore, people are afraid of disturbing conformity. Considering these aspects, this presentation explored the social mechanisms of the low crime rate in Japan and the future of criminology in the shrinking Japanese criminal justice market.


David T. Johnson (University of Hawaii at Manoa) Is Rape a Crime in Japan?

Rape ranks among the worst experiences a person can have, and most countries have law-on-the-books that prohibits it – including Japan. But what about law-in-action? By some accounts Japan has one of the lowest rape rates in the world, and Japanese police claim that 97 percent of rape cases are “cleared” (solved). Yet the available evidence shows that only 5 to 15 percent of people who are victimized by rape in Japan report it to the police. Moreover, Japanese police record only about half of the rape cases reported to them, and Japanese prosecutors charge about one-third of recorded rape cases. The result is that for every 1000 rapes in Japan, only 20 or so result in a criminal charge and conviction (a similar pattern obtains for the crime of “forcible obscenity”). Impunity for sex offenders is common in Japan, and it is reasonable to wonder why. This paper uses available statistics to explore this question and discusses the patriarchal social and legal norms that result in the vast majority of Japanese sex offenders getting away with it.


11:00-12:30 At the labor market margins, Chair: Stefanie Schwarte (LMU Munich)

Reiko Ogawa (Chiba University) Shifting Norms in the Care Labor Market: Migrants, Diversity and Citizenship

Responding to the population aging and labor market shortage, Japan has deregulated the migration regime in specific sectors, including long-term care. The labor shortage in the care sector has been chronical but has further accelerated under the pandemic. Even though the borders were closed, many migrants are entering the care sector through different channels. A broad range of care facilities is tapping migrants as part of their workforce, which is changing the homogeneous landscape of Japan.

The presentation discussed the social actors attempting to challenge the exclusive “Japan(ese) centered” attitude by grounding themselves on various norms, including international norms of business and human rights, strengthening the gatekeepers, and empowering migrants to be part of the community. These challenges portray migrants in a positive light respecting human rights and dignity, making the workplace more diverse. At the same time, we are at the crossroads where neo-liberal market forces that continue to devalue care work remain vital. Migrant care workers play a pivotal role in sustaining long-term care in Japan, so if Japan wants to provide welfare to its aging population, it needs to assure the citizenship of migrants.


Nora Gilgen (University of Zurich) Labor Market Integration of People with Disabilities in Japan: The Role of “Special Subsidiary Companies”

For more than 40 years, Japan has had a comprehensive set of regulations for the occupational integration of persons with disabilities, based on a mandatory employment quota. In the context of the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in society and the labor market have been added. While the number of persons with disabilities employed in Japanese companies has grown significantly, they still represent a disadvantaged group in the labor market. A controversial instrument for improving the occupational situation of people with disabilities are the so-called “Special Subsidiary Companies” (SSC). These are established by private companies specifically for the purpose of employing persons with disabilities. While SSCs contribute to an increasing number of jobs for people with disabilities, critics fear that as the number of SSCs grows, people with disabilities will be further marginalized in the labor market. This presentation highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of SSCs in promoting the vocational integration of persons with disabilities.


Tom Gill (Meiji University) Japan’s Digital Day Laborers

Day laborers deviate from norms in that their relationship with employers is the most unstable and insecure of all the various forms of non-permanent labor. Traditionally they have gathered in street labor day labor markets called yoseba. In the epilogue of his book, Men of Uncertainty (SUNY Press, 2001), Tom Gill described how the yoseba were gradually losing their function, although the trend in the Japanese economy was moving steadily away from “lifetime employment” and towards various forms of insecure labor. That trend has now continued to the point where insecure labor broadly defined now makes up about 40% of the workforce, while the yoseba have turned into giant low-budget social housing centers, populated mainly by elderly men living on welfare, the bars and gambling dens largely replaced by day care centers and old folks’ clubs. But day laborers have not disappeared from the Japanese labor market. They have deserted the yoseba in favor of online gig economy employment agencies which match workers with employers much like an online dating site. With no real-world gathering place, day laborers have become almost invisible, which may account for the dearth of scholarship on the subject. Legislation in 2012 attempted to outlaw supotto haken (“spot dispatch personnel”, one of the euphemisms for digital day labor), but there are various exceptions, and a range of illegal black-economy operators ensuring that the practice survives. This presentation discussed the phenomenon of digital day laborers and introduce Gill’s recent ethnographic work on them. The digital age has made day laboring more convenient for both employers and workers, but the loss of the physical gathering place has atomized the day laboring population, destroying the possibility of solidarity and organization which used to attract left-wing activists to the yoseba.