Another Story Pecoross’ Mother and Her Days, a Japanese Drama Film about Nursing Care, Depicts

Directed by Azuma Morisaki
(TC Entertainment, 2/7/2014)
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Written by Yuichi Okano
(Nishi-Nippon Shimbunsha, 7/7/2012)
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Pecoross' Mother and Her Days (the original Japanese title: Pecoross no Haha ni Ai ni Iku, which literally means “Pecoross Visiting His Mother”) is a well-reputed Japanese drama film directed by Azuma Morisaki, which was voted as the best Japanese film of 2013 by Kinema Junpo, one of the most prestigious movie magazines in Japan. I guess many people have watched the film in a movie theater. This film is based on a manga of the same title by Yuichi Okano, who wrote it from his own experience of caring his mother. A “pecoross” in the title means a small onion, but it is also the pen name of Okano.

The film depicts many different events happening with relation to the care of Yuichi’s demented mother Mitsue, sometimes amusingly, sometimes calmly and empathetically. Yuichi’s cynical and humorous attitude toward Mitsue and the people around her often makes you giggle, and adds a comical taste to this film with the serious theme of nursing care. I believe most of the episodes are familiar to anybody who has experiences of caring. 

But despite the film’s comical interpretation, the nursing care is basically not a laughing matter at all. In those everyday exchanges among the people who are involved with Mitsue, I saw a lot of challenges and difficulties surrounding nursing care, which stirred strongly my emotions. The people in the film also experience swings of emotions, where they one moment feel the joy of living together with Mitsue, but the next hope this endless-looking situation to be finished. The film’s overall lighthearted descriptions even more made me realize the sorrows and uneasiness they are feeling time to time.

This film has another point beyond nursing care. That is the life history of Mitsue, who was born in the 12th year of the Taisho era (in 1924) and now has been losing her sense of time. And in this film, she relives her past life and the audience re-experience it, which was really moving. The beautiful descriptions of times and life which Mitsue and her family have lived also make this film brilliant. In her life, Mitsue had a friend she grew up with and lost her. And Mitsue had a husband who was alcoholic and committed violence against her. 

I felt tears in my eyes as her memories of these events become more and more vivid toward the ending. I cannot forget the overwhelmed expression of Kiwako Harada, who played the young Mitsue, at the time she lost her friend. This scene embodies the injustice of life many women must have felt in the early years of the Showa era (1920s-40s), when they had no other ways to live but to obey somebody else’s will or to serve their husbands. There would also be another findings when you watch this film from Yuichi’s point of view. I totally recommend this film to everybody.

Original article written by Natsuko Nakamura
Translated by A. Tawara

Women Who Confronted with Their Days--- 8 Women in the Tumultuous Meiji Era

This is a biography of eight women who lived the tumultuous Meiji Era(1868-1912): Chiyo AOYAMA, Nioko WAKAE, Empress Haruko (the wife of Emperor Meiji), Kakei ATOMI, Osamu TAKABA, Ei WADA, Etsuko SUGIMOTO, and Kikue YAMAKAWA. They all had strong will and a sense of responsibility to get through the period.

 ‘Never Abandon the Desire to Learn’ Chiyo AOYAMA: a member of the inaugural class of the Tokyo Women’s Teacher’s School (the current Ochanomizu University). She is the mother of Kikue YAMAKAWA.

 ‘Objection to the Meiji Government’ Nioko WAKAE: The private tutor of Empress Haruko. She advocated the exclusion of foreigners as a Cofucian and was expelled from Kyoto by the founders of the Meiji Government, such as Tomomi IWAKURA.

 ‘To Be the “Model” of the Japanese Modern Women’ Empress Haruko: The empress dowager praised as the “spirit of the Japanese royal family” in the dawn of the modern Japan.

 ‘Strategies to the School Administration!’ Kakei ATOMI: The founder of the current Atomi University. She introduced liberal arts to her school while implementing the traditional Japanese-style education for women.

 ‘Training Rough Guys with Spirits of Rebelliousness’ Osamu TAKABA: The head of a private school called Koshi-juku. She was a Cofucian and dressed as a man. One of her students was Mitsuru TOYAMA. Toyama went on to be the leader of Genyosha, one of the Japanese main political organizations at that time.

 ‘Taking the Responsibility for the Encouragement of New Industry’ Ei WADA: A daughter of an official of the Matsushiro Domain. She worked for Tomioka Silk Mill and wrote The Tomioka Diary.

 ‘Working as a Cultural Bridge Between Japan and USA’ Etsuko SUGIMOTO: A daughter of an official of the Nagaoka Domain. She taught Japanese language and culture at Colombia University and wrote A Daughter of the Samurai.

 ‘Expressing Herself in a Bold and Frank Way’ Kikue YAMAKAWA: The wife of Hitoshi YAMAKAWA, who introduced Marxism to Japan as a communist. She stood in her political belief despite the suppression by the authority and became the first Director of the Women’s and Young Workers’ Bureau after World War II.

Some of them were so unique that they might have caused you some troubles if they had been your sisters or friends. Some did much more effort than no one ever could. You get overwhelmed by their remarkable energy and vitality, and moved by some tragedies beyond our imagination and dramatic events in their lives.

They went a little beyond the “conventional norms” before they knew it. Not all of them enjoyed honor and high social status or made their dreams come true. But when you imagine their lives from the anecdotes by those who knew them well, you can feel compassion for these women from the bottom of your heart. “Compassion” is not enough to describe the feeling you have when reading about them; it’s a kind of “co-vibration.” It should be a waste not to know such evocative stories of their lives.

This book includes 80 pictures and figures, as well as three columns, so that it would be accessible by those who may not be familiar with the Meiji Era. This book will provide you with a good opportunity to discover about these women.

Original Article written by Chizuru SAKAKIBARA (The author of this book)

Translated by N. TAJIMA


The Present Situation of Single Parents in Japan (from “Traveling is Loitering” No. 52)

It has been two years since my daughter decided to be a single parent. Her child is now three years and nine months old and has fun at kindergarten every day.
“Single-Parent Households (Hitori-Oya Katei)” by Chieko Akaishi (Iwanami-Shinsho, published on April 19th, 2014) is a very useful book for single parents. The author herself is an unmarried single mother.
After all these years, the media has finally started to report about women’s poverty. Especially, stories about cases caused by single mothers who are in social and financial difficulties appear in newspapers from time to time. However, books telling actual data on real situations of single parents or their actual voices had been seldom published.
“A single parent has a more than 50 percent chance of living in poverty. She and her children may manage to get by, but often she can’t earn enough money to spend on her children’s education.” Some facts are behind this reality. According to the government’s report on single mothers, etc. in 2011, the annual income of about 35 percent of single-mother households was between one million and two million yen. The average annual pay from a single mother’s job was 1.81 million yen, and the average income including child-rearing allowances, child benefits and so on was 2.23 million yen. On the other hand, the average annual income of single-father households was 3.8 million yen, and 3.6 million yen without allowances or benefits. The average income of all the households with children was 6.58 million yen, which probably reflected the fact that mainly men earn a living in the Japanese society. This means the average income of single mothers was only 34 percent of the whole households with children, while the single fathers’ was 58 percent.
The reality of single parents is that although most of them are working, their income is low. Though earnings were not much, single mothers used to be hired as full-time employees, but nowadays most of them are part-timers or temporary staff. Their homeownership rate is 29.8 percent, and it is not so easy for them even to find inexpensive apartments to rent.
Only 19.7 percent of divorced mothers receive child support from their former partners. 37.7 percent of divorcing couples decide on child support, and the average amount is 43,482 yen per month, while at least 57,000 yen is needed to pay for food, clothes, educational expenses, etc. for one child. If the reason for their divorce is their partner’s domestic violence, they can’t even demand financial support, just desperate to escape.
Don’t let men get away.
However, single mothers in this book are all cheerful, dealing with their hard life and child rearing, as if they have no regrets about having divorced to raise their children alone.
When asked “What do you want to appeal to the society?” they answered they needed time rather than money according to the “Work and Life of Single Mothers” survey. This seems to show they are extremely busy and do not have time to do what they want.
Paying national health insurance and national pension premiums is such a big burden on low-income single mothers. They could use welfare loan systems for divorced or widowed mothers to pay school fees or entrance fees when their children reach school age. That could help mothers and children get through, but after graduation they will be very likely to struggle to repay their loans. It is said the delinquency rates of such loans and also student loans have been high recently. Many of them end up being plagued by debts.
Ms. Akaishi is supportive of single parents and gives useful advice based on her own experience. The single mothers she interviewed and their children live strong despite their financial difficulty while using occasionally consultation services and being supported by many people. I especially like it that they are not obsessed with the idea of “the ideal family.”
They are already making full efforts to live by themselves. It’s time for them to help each other by forming a community or network to be able to believe that they are not alone. In addition, it’s our duty to call for more support from national and local governments, which has been really little in this country.
Each single parent has their own way to live. They are responsible not only for following their chosen path for the better but also for ensuring an equal society in the future for children who have to grow up to be independent adults, and so are all of us.
My daughter, still a fresh single parent, has a long way to go in terms of both child rearing and her own independence, but she and her daughter have many friends around to support them and some people who are sympathetic to them. That makes me really happy.
During the Golden Week holiday, when new green leaves were beautiful, my granddaughter ran around the Old Imperial Palace and the Kamogawa River, and we took her for a drive to have a short trip to Amanohashidate or the Bridge to Heaven. On May 5th, the Children’s Day, she went to the long-awaited “The First Classical Music Concert for Children” performed by Kyoto Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. The concert’s theme was “Music and Story,’ and she enjoyed listening to “Peer Gynt,” a verse drama by Ibsen set to music by Grieg.
She is surprisingly growing up fast, and I want to be just beside her, trying hard not to be left behind.
Original article written by Yagi Mine
Translated by Ai Sakaguchi



June 30, 2014

WAN protests against the sexist comments made in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

Japanese lawmaker Akihiro Suzuki (LDP) has apologized in response to the protests from Ayaka Shiomura (Your Party) though the apology was considered to be too late. The apology was made due to the pressure from public opinion. In addition to Suzuki, there were other male lawmakers in the Assembly who either made sexist gibes or jeered, but remained silent.

The Assembly did not pass the resolution calling for the identification of the speaker and their resignation. The Assembly tried to bring the incident to an end without charging anybody. It shows that sexist attitudes are deeply rooted within the Assembly.

Since similar sexist comments and behavior have been made in other legislative assemblies in Japan, WAN urges that these assemblies take remedial actions against prevalent sexual harassment in the assemblies.

Executive Board; Certified NPO, Women’s Action Network

Translated and adapted by Fumie Saito
Original Statement on the WAN Website (June 30, 2014): http://wan.or.jp/emergency/?p=1765