“What Do I Do Now?” Post-Retirement Leisure in Japan

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: F206
Oral Presentation
Scott NORTH , Osaka University, Osaka, Japan
Japan’s dankaisedai, the generation that was the foundation of the country’s “economic miracle,” are retiring. As their careers come to an end, Japan’s “greatest generation” seem at last to be in position to enjoy the fruits of their labors. But can they? Japan has the greatest average longevity, but its post-retirement leisure cleaves along lines of class, gender, and age. This paper first reviews leisure trends during the past 50 years, noting how they conditioned inequality inleisure expectations and practices. Three main factors affecting variation in leisure are then investigated in detail. 1) Class. Who actually retires and how? Analysis highlights the roles of retirement bonuses, pensions, and savings, as well as government supports. Japan’s elderly control much of the nation’s privately held wealth and many who are not rich have been lifted out of poverty, but poor elderly increasingly continue working out of necessity, while other carry on because work gives meaning in life. 2) Gender. In Japan’s strongly gendered society, retirement often finds two people whose leisure ideas have grown quite apart looking at each other across the breakfast table. The gendered nature of social participation remains evident in post-retirement leisure activities for men and women. Although “retirement divorce”is a danger, couples with sufficient means may find shared post-retirement leisure activities to be grounds for renewed mutual appreciation and affection 3) Age. Japan’s retirees exhibit significant variation in age (the so-called young olds, middle olds, and oldest olds), which influences leisure practices. As with gender and class, age-related leisure trend differences seen in Japan have parallels across East Asian societies. The paper concludes by considering the usefulness of the framework deduced from the Japanese case for studying leisure other Confucian catch-up economies.