- Suffering Forces Us to Think beyond the Right–Left Barrier
Amamiya Karin is a writer with a complex and interesting relation to the notion of fandom. She came to the media's attention as the subject of a 1999 film documentary about an ultranationalist punk band, of which she was a member. Since then, she has attracted wide notice and a wide following as a spokesperson for a generation that increasingly feels left behind.
Amamiya was born in 1975 in Hokkaido and now resides in Tokyo. She is a prolific writer and speaker with an agenda that has its roots in her own background: she has written extensively about her own personal history of ijime (being bullied at school), self-mutilation, and multiple suicide attempts, relating her own experiences to a wider trend of "suffering" (ikitzurasa) among members of Japan's "lost generation." Her early sense of loss, economic instability, and lack of direction led her to seek comfort and a sense of belonging in Japanese nationalism, and she became a member of the right-wing organization Totsugekitai as well as the singer for the ultranationalist punk band "The Revolutionary Truth." [End Page 251]
Amamiya has also allied herself with Japan's "working poor" and the "precariat" movement (a neologism made by combining precarious with the -iat of proletariat). "Precarity," "precariat," and related terms have been used in various countries to refer to groups of workers in unstable or precarious positions, and the material and psychological effects on their overall quality of life. Among Japan's precariat, Amamiya includes such groups as furiitaa or "freeters": freelance workers, temporary workers, undocumented workers, and others with low or unstable wages, few or no benefits, and little job security. The concept of precarity thus brings together various groups of workers through shared vulnerability as the basis for a common cause.
Amamiya has worked with Tsuchiya Yutaka on the films Atarashii kamisama (1999, The new god) and Peep "TV" Show (2004).1 Atarashii kamisama uses a documentary style to delve into the conflicting views between Amamiya's right-wing nationalism and Tsuchiya's views as a leftist, activist film-maker with an antinationalist, anti–emperor system stance. In the film, we see the beginnings of Amamiya's search to find common ground through pro-active dialogue and debate between her right-wing politics and that of older ultraleftist members of the Japanese Red Army. The idea that people of radically opposed political views can work together against a "common enemy" or a common social problem such as precarity is also taken up in the text below.
After Atarashii kamisama, Amamiya and Tsuchiya cowrote the film Peep "TV" Show, which looks at the experiences and angst of the generation of Japanese living in a post-9/11 surveillance society. The film questions such concepts as "public" and "private" in an information age in which narratives of "terror" circulate on a massive scale.
Amamiya recently wrote the introduction to the rerelease of proletarian writer Kobayashi Takiji's Kani kōsen (1929, Cannery ship), a novel that she felt spoke to Japan's contemporary precariat despite a gap of about eighty years since its original publication.2 Norma Field notes that "Amamiya observed [in the daily Mainichi newspaper] that, reading Cannery Ship, she was struck by how the conditions depicted mirrored the current desperate situation of young workers."3 A leftist writer who had garnered little attention since his torture and death at the hands of authorities in 1933, Takiji has enjoyed a recent surge of interest in Japan, particularly among a younger generation, and Amamiya's contribution to the new release of Takiji's novel has arguably played a role in this. This sudden and explosive interest in Takiji coincided with recognition of the severity of the economic situation and realization of the role political and economic policies were playing in creating an "income-gap society." Norma Field argues that the "Takiji boom" was "manufactured and real": [End Page 252]
What was required for that to happen was not only a widespread acknowledgement of economic crisis, but the much more difficult recognition—for a society...