Tokyo Sonata

10 October 2016

Critically discuss the changing family values in contemporary Japan as represented in Tokyo Sonata (2009). <<Tokyo Sonata>> is a realist film about a Middle Class Family of Japan. This film have not mention about the warmth of a family, unlike other Japanese Drama ,they prefer another way to present the most common situation of Japanese family – dull diary life.

Inside of Sasaki’s family, they have perform a typical personality of normal Japanese family: a father being concerned about face-saving, a mother who have a lot of pressure and desire to suppress, a eldest son (18-22 years old teenager) who rarely go home and a younger son(11-13 years old) who have a unpleasant primary school life. We can find the different type of Japan’s ‘Traditional Family Value’ by their consisting of Family. 1) Led to father as the core of family structure In Japanese culture, and even look to the Southeast Asian countries (China, South Korea), people are generally adopted “men are breadwinners; women are homemakers”, that mean the whole family financial income are rely on father, that make a lot of problem and unusual phenomenon become normal in Japan, for instance, ‘Fatherless Society’[1]. Fatherless Society’ that mean the majority of children are more intimate with his/her mother, because of their father need to work outside the home with longer time, and the responsibility of educating their children falls on the mother. At the movie, Sasaki’s family seem like that, we can see the two sons are more willing to share their own thing with his mother, a eldest son, Takashi, he always avoid to face his father, and when he need the parents to sign a agreement of apply for an American army, he also first to find his mother, Megumi, to sign it.

Moreover, the younger son, Kenji, when the mother knows his secret, his just told Megumi does not let his father know. Now we know the father of Japan as a middle-class family, the communication and relationship with the child is very weak, and there is another reason of this phenomenon, is the “dignity” and the paternal authority of Japanese Father. There are several movie scenes that we can find out that feature of Japanese Family.

The paternal authority is inviolable of Japanese Fathar, they not allow the family members have any challenge with his authority as a father, at the film, when Ryuhei suffer Kenji’s throw the keyboard to him, Ryuhei promptly run to stairs want to catch Kenji and careless throws him down the stairs ,it also in order to send a message of paternal authority Moreover, another scene is when Takashi back to home has dinner, even Ryuhei know the other family members are waiting for him ,his also slowly to have a beer ,and he finally said “?????? ”(Let’s eat),the other family members just can start the meal.

Japanese in the 1980s experienced economic bubble, and dropped out of school when most young people are choosing to join the workplace, resulting in the 21st century, a large number of middle-class people without any skills and knowledge, such as Ryuhei, it is difficult for them to keep their jobs, when the industry are facing Economic Crisis. So, Ryuhei have to maintain his “dignity” as a father, he cannot tell the family about the layoff. We can also see the “Sense of Shame culture”[2] of Japanese in Ryuhei, he refuses to admit the mistakes to his son, and also use “the parents have to maintain the dignity” as an excuse. 2) Japanese housewife is under a lot of pressure In a “Fatherless Society” culture, Japanese housewife need to become an “Education Mama” to care and education of their children. Those missions are making Japanese mothers lack of freedom to do what them wants. In the movie, Megumi just keep in secret to her husband of her learn to drive, when she spend time to cook a donuts ,she still cannot get anyone to eat it, and she also find out nobody to care her in this house. ” Someone pulls me up..? as Megumi said, when she feel tried, did not have any other family members to care her, that situation are seems to be other Japanese housewife, because of their husband work outside the home in dairy life, as a housewife, she just can spend a lot of time at home with nobody, which will make them to have a huge fell of loneliness, and they will always expect something different, or special thing will happen in their life. So, we can see when Megumi meet an escaped criminal breaks into the house and Megumi decides to run off with him, the shallow nature of Megumi’s commitment to her place in the world is revealed.

She feels comfortable when she can drive the car to escape, which also she feel good when she can abandon the burden of her family, she finds herself restless against a social system that has casted her as an individual who should only cook, clean, and nurture her family, nothing else. We are easily to see many Japanese Drama or Movie have mention about the suppression of Japanese Housewife, which may be a desire of sexual, money, family concern or freedom. This phenomenon is usually happen in a normal Japanese Family. 3)Communication barriers of family members Because of the family members have a huge different view of “Family value”, and also have a lot of factors to influence the relationship of family. Firstly, is a Generation Gap of family members ,in Tokyo Sonata, we can see the brother of Sasaki’s family are lack of communication, they didn’t have any converse in movie ,even Takashi have a big decision to left to this home ,Kenji seems didn’t have any concern about it ,just be a bystander of a conflict of his father and his brother .

And then, some survey and research display the Japanese teenagers are trend to against adults or their parents ,they will not listen and follow the instruction of adults unthinkingly, and they choose to believe the thing was right by their opinion, not allow people to judge or doubt. For Takashi, he believe that be a US Army can protect his family; for Kenji, he choose to use his lunch-money to attend the piano lessons. Teenagers are persist to action what they want, meanwhile, all parents are want them kid listen to hem and follow the most idealized role of parents ,which will become a reason why the family usually have a conflicts. Moreover, some research[3] claim that a most primary 4-6 students are feel depression, a school bullying are common in Japanese school, the students are influence by internet, animation or comics, they may feel self-satisfied of bully others. As example of Kenji, he may not being bullied by classmates, but he receives the unequal treat from his teacher, that makes feel loneness and seek for the care of adults. 4) The lie is a way to destroyed, the honest is a only way to build For the main causes of crisis of Sasaki’s family, is not by Ryuhei being laid off, the seeds of the crisis have already planted in the family deep inside, the family members each have their own secret, but by the limitations of the traditional family culture, they pretend nothing, so when the hypocrisy of the truth was broken, it caused a storm to destroy everything.

Ryuhei being laid off, he pretend nothing to protect his “dignity”, Megumi get the driver’s license, she just hide to her husband and younger son ,when she realize that Ryuhei are lose his job ,she also keep in secret. Kenji do not share about his situation at school, use his lunch-money and leave early from school to learn piano, those lie are make the relationship of family become worse, we can see even there are sit together for a dinner, but they didn’t have any interflow with each, also do not want to have it.

In last part of movie, we can see finally they turn back to have meal, three of them are also just experience the unusual happening, but they prefer to go back “home”, and Ryuhei finally give up the huge sum of money, and wear his cleaner uniform to face him family, because in their mind, “home” is the only destination of their life, it is ultimately and irreplaceable, and also are unchangeable “family value”.

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