Japan: A Quiet Revolution by the NEET [Not in Education, Employment, or Training]

In a post titled “Revolution of the NEET (lol)“, Sayuri Tamaki explores a new breed of NEET and how they are changing the country.

Note: The post was translated in its entirety with permission from the blogger. All links and bracketed notes were added by Tomomi Sasaki for reference.

Hope Through NEET, not War! – A quiet revolution (lol) -

People often argue that the structure of this country is one that exploits the younger generation. Nevertheless, the young people are extremely quiet, not prone to taking to the streets in anger. Hold that thought though, is that really true?

Perhaps the Japanese youth are more wily and troublesome than those who cause a ruckus. Recently, I feel that the people referred to as NEET [Not in Education, Employment, or Training] have joined a quiet uprising across the country.

Note that the word NEET used in this post does not just refer to youth that aren’t in education, employment or training. Instead, I use a wider definition that includes people that have chosen not to find steady employment.

The man of the hour in the online sphere is pha-san. Do you know of him? Pha-san is an alumnus of my university [Kyoto University], and I’ve been following him closely as someone who conducts “artist activities worthy of the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies“.


Pha-san says, “Frankly, I don’t want to work!

A woman saying “My hope is to become a housewife….” could possibly avoid social criticism. However, he is a man in our current society; a society where the contemporary labor value of “he who will not work shall not eat” remains strong and pervasive.

And yet, pha-san makes the this declaration in broad daylight. Might he be the contemporary Daisuke?

This is a reference to Daisuke Nagase, the protagonist in Natsume Soseki's novel “And Then” (Sorekara). A book review by Jessica Schneider describes the character in this way: “(…) a young man who has spent his life sponging off others. He’s received a top-notch education, he is well read, and has been granted privileges that few others have received. Yet, he is unhappy because he lacks focus and drive, but also feels misunderstood by those around him, including his father, who supports him financially.”

I would imagine that there are many people that abhor pha-san. The reason is because the Japanese education system is one that inserts in each individual an operating system that cultivates laborers with the capability to function in an industrial society. With this OS injection, people will simply view those young people who proudly swear “I don’t want to work!” as defective products. Besides, to agree with pha-san’s way of living carries the risk of having to deny the way that one has lived their own life. To emotionally respond in a negative way is also very human-like in some respects.

To be honest, there’s a part of me that dislikes pha-san at a gut level. You must remember that I’ve also been injected with the “industrious laborer cultivation OS”. However, thinking with my head has made me realize the need to exchange this OS with something else. I’m currently going through a rehabilitation phase. Enough nonsense about myself, though!

Then, what is the operating system of the next generation, you ask. I think it’s the revival of Huizinga’s point of view on human beings. In other words, a system where one cultivates the ability to live a happy life in the upcoming “exposure society” that centers around introspection. The NEET in our country could possibly be on the cutting edge for this generation.

“Exposure society” and “exposure literacy” are concepts that this blogger has coined and explored in past articles [ja]. They refer to the skill of self-producing and establishing online/offline identities, and a society that demands this literacy from individuals.

I’d like to introduce the safety nets of the elite NEET like pha-san. These are self-made safety nets that don’t depend on the country.

The Safety Net of Social Media

Elite NEET typically have very high levels of information literacy and exposure literacy. They are able to leverage the Internet to establish ties in urban environments. These ties connect individuals armed with exposure literacy with other like-minded individuals, and bleed into real life activities. On his blog, pha-san claims “the Internet will save the unemployed”. This is a claim that pha-san, with his exceptional exposure literacy skills, can make.

By the way, people give pha-san things through the Internet. It’s an environmentally friendly way of connecting two people without going through a second hand shop: someone who wants to get rid of something and a person who wants to receive it. Read more in a past post about Internet ties. [ja]

The Safety Net of Shared Housing

Shared housing is a new trend among the younger generation. By living with several other people, it’s possible to keep down fixed expenses. Also, knowing that supportive friends are always nearby, especially in times of loneliness, is a fantastic stabilizer for the heart.

There are even examples of shared housing that have managed to monetize through organizing seminars, like the “media-style housing” in Tabata, Tokyo.

NEET as Educated Idlers (高等遊民 “koto yumin”)

Although they don’t have money, NEET have a lot of time on their hands. Some NEET chose to spend time on travel, introspection, or creative activities such as blogging, writing, and making movies. While NEET are sometimes harangued by business people to work, one mustn’t forget that there might be NEET that unconsciously give birth to creative businesses through the activities mentioned above.

This is an era where business elite like Daniel Pink and Kenichi Omae preach about the importance of play. Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with NEET that don’t bring anything useful to society!

NEET are friendly to the environment

NEET don’t say aggravating things like “Hope is war!” or “Make me a full time employee!”. They create abundant lifestyles on a monthly income of 50,000-100,000 JPY. [Note: around 600-1,200 USD.
The monthly income for an entry level job might be around 25,000 USD] They are not interested in consumerism.

Tribes that are compatible with NEET

Some people might point out that I’m just talking about a small number of elite NEET. Or that NEET, as originally defined in the UK, don’t have high levels of IT or exposure literacy, the communication skills required for shared housing, or an education background like pha-san. They would be absolutely right.

However, if I could articulate my thoughts without fearing misinterpretation… I think people who dropped out of compulsory education and labeled NEET under the initial English definition have the potential to become like the elite NEET that I’ve described in this post.

Maybe supporting NEET isn’t simply helping them find jobs but accepting the lifestyles of people like pha-san. What do you think?

I’ve focused on elite NEET but this “tribe” is also highly compatible with others: people who go abroad to find jobs, sporadically work in Japan to support relaxed lives in other countries, or create jobs for themselves. All of these tribes that have broken the shackles of existing values.

And, as the Internet connects these tribes, perhaps we are experiencing the dawn of a quiet revolution.

Related links (all in Japanese):


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