From the traditions of J-horror to the representation of kakusa shakai in Kurosawa’s film Tokyo Sonata

Rosenbaum, Roman GND

This article investigates the popular cultural implications of the “gap-widening society” (kakusa shakai) as identified by Yamada Masahiro. A recent revival of sociological terms like freeter and NEET in popular cultural media reflects an increasing concern with the rapidly changing social landscape in contemporary Japanese society. Starting with the phenomenon of postwar economic growth, each subsequent generation of Japanese has allegorically and symbolically represented the dramatic social changes they experienced through popular cultural media like film and manga. This article also examines how Japan’s growing stratification is situated within the popular cultural media of recent films. Special consideration is given to the plight of Japan’s older working-class generations who are profoundly affected by the accelerating kakusa shakai trend of recent years. This concern is especially evident in the film Tokyo Sonata directed by Kurosawa Kiyoshi in 2008, which depicts a family in crisis because of the traditional breadwinner losing his job. In comparison, Tanada Yuki’s Hyakuman-en to nigamushi onna [One million yen and the nigamushi woman], which was also published in 2008, depicts the contemporary social challenges of the much younger freeter generation upon graduating from university. The aim of this investigation is to gauge how the current discourse on Japan’s “gap-widening society” is encoded in recent literature and films.