The rising presence of the word “shonin” in the 21st century Japan

AyumiChihara

PhD student, Graduate School of Sociology, Kwansei Gakuin University

Abstract

This study aims to clarify two key issues associated with the word shonin (recognition) in 21st century Japan: the types of social problems in shonin discourse and the rationale behind recognizing shonin important in analyzing such social problems in contemporary Japan. Since 2000s, an increasing number of people have been experiencing social isolation, and the work conditions for younger generation have also been  deteriorating in Japan. To analyze such social situations, the word shonin has been drawing attention in social critique. In western countries, the word “recognition” has been used to discuss the rights to groups such as female and ethnic minority in politics and social philosophy since early 1990s. In Japan, however, the usage of the word shonin (recognition) has a wider variety of social context than its original usage in western countries. For instance, it is often used in analyzing individual relations. By analyzing magazine articles, this study will clarify the difference between recognition in western countries and shonin in Japan as well as the social problems closely related to shonin in today’s Japan. Through these analyses, I will attempt to comprehend the issue about relations with others in Japan.