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Shun nuisance 'obligations' and do what you want to do

17 Comments

Katsuhiko Eguchi, 78, doesn’t go to his friends’ funerals. Isn’t his affection for them enough? Before retiring, he was a high-powered business executive. His life belonged to others. He met his obligations to society and now considers himself free of them. How many years does he have left? The life that remains will be his own, he has decided.

Shukan Gendai (Oct 5) applauds that course, and recommends it to all retirees. What is old age? It can be a long debilitating descent into death, or it can be what it is so often called, or miscalled – a “second life.” There’s only one way to bring it to life, the magazine says: Do what you want to do, and don’t do what you don’t want to do.

Social, family, friendly, even personal obligations weigh on all of us. Someone dies – we must go to the funeral. It’s a holiday season – we must visit or entertain the family. The offspring are struggling – we must help them financially. The grandchildren will come of age – we must leave them an inheritance. Here’s a notice from the ward office, warning me I’m late for my annual medical checkup. But I feel fine, I don’t need a checkup – good, I won’t go.

And with that declaration of independence, or something similar, you really do embark on a second life worthy of the name.

Inertia is a powerful force – it keeps us doing things we’ve always done, not because they’re enjoyable or useful but precisely because we’ve always done them. Take golf, for instance. Business people connect on the golf course – it’s de rigueur if you’re in business. Retired, you keep playing with the same people, which is fine if you like them and like the game, but what if you don’t? It’s a wrench, but refuse an invitation to play and set yourself free, the magazine advises – and if it hurts, think of the 15,000 yen you’re saving and can put to more satisfying use.

That’s relatively easy, but family is family, after all, and has its claims on you. If they expect you, or expect you to host them, at Obon or New Year’s, it’s hard to say no, and besides, it’s a pleasure – isn’t it? Not really. Same faces, same talk – about who inherits what property, and so on. Granted, you can’t keep yourself altogether apart, but, says Gendai, you can, at least once in a while, refuse an invitation, or refuse to extend one – and once you’ve done it once, the second time is easier.

School reunions are another thorn in the side of the elderly. Not all – some people enjoy them, but if you’re of a crustier temperament you’d be happier not receiving the invitation, which is in effect (or can seem like) an order. But the more you’ve attended, the more alike they all come to seem – same aging faces, same talk of illness, medicine, old memories too often rehashed. Skip it! says Gendai.

There are the visits to the ancestral graves – a pious nuisance, but a nuisance all the same. Why bother? There are businesses that specialize in gravesite maintenance, and it’s the feeling you harbor in your heart for the deceased that really matters, isn’t it? Of course it is, says Gendai – and as for your own grave, it adds, do you really need one? Can you really be bothered with funeral arrangements? Here, too, there are businesses that take care of that sort of thing, simplifying procedure and cutting costs. Good – that’s one more worry off your mind.

Shukan Gendai’s list of millstones to free yourself from in your old age is quite long. Here, one final one must suffice – that of regular medical checkups. Going to a hospital if you’re feeling healthy strikes the magazine as the height of absurdity. So what if your blood pressure is a little high? And if it’s something more serious, wouldn’t you feel it? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t. What in life – in second life as in first – isn’t something of a gamble?

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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This might be good advice for young people, too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Do what you want to do, and don’t do what you don’t want to do.

It is freeing to live this way, but there are some obligations which must be handled until you are dead.

But if you don't care whether anyone goes to your funeral, then don't go to anyone else's funeral.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Agree with almost all of this, not being Japanese I don’t feel the same pressure in respect of “obligations” imposed by others that their society imposes, so yes I do what I want and don’t allow society to impose obligations I have no interest in. But the again I always did. The one thing I don’t agree with is health checks. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer for a reason. There is no symptom or indication that you have it until it is too late, so picking it up early at a check means you go on living to enjoy your obligations free retirement and the treatment is very simple these days.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

32 years of living in Japan, i was shocked in the 1 st year of arriving in Japan from 1987 that people who hate each other goes to the hated person's funerals or anything for concerns of business. Till this day, I cannot understand , Why ???. I just told a Japanese family that I do do anything like furnerals or being togather , just for business. Business is business and usually, it takes only 30 minutes. Stop bad actions. No excuses for using another human being. What had happened to integrity and human morals ???.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Here, one final one must suffice – that of regular medical checkups. Going to a hospital if you’re feeling healthy strikes the magazine as the height of absurdity. 

I have to disagree with that and have discovered a serious health problem which would have been better had I discovered it earlier. I now need several major operations which might have been avoided had I had it checked each year.

Every person over 50 years should have a once a year health check. I few hours, half a day could save you many days and your life later on.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Yes, I agree, the health check is not a bad thing at all. There are so many health problems that will on;y start to hurt, when it is too late. Better to go in for the 3 hours bite the bullet and get it over with.

But if you were the gov't, you might not be upset if people didn't have the health checks and they ended up leaving this earth a little early, that is what this almost sounds like.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It sounds like whoever wrote the article has had a lousy life.

Spending time with family isn’t a tiresome obligation, it’s a joy.

If one of your kids is struggling financially (or in any other way) then OF COURSE you want to help them. Be grateful that you have the wherewithal.

Leave the grandkids an inheritance? Better to spend time with them now while you can both enjoy it, spend your money on them now.

Why bother visiting the ancestral grave? Because doing so brings happiness to the old lady whose husband (your kids’ grandad) is interred there and who is now too frail to make her own way there.

Which brings us to the last ‘obligation’, the annual health check. What utterly brainless self-destructive moron would not take advantage of the free/ridiculously cheap health check the local authority makes available every year? The whole point is that it can catch problems BEFORE you notice any symptoms.

Cherish and enjoy your family and friends. And watch your health so that you can continue to enjoy them for a long, long time.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So, basically, Shukan Gendai is recommending that retired people become selfish, misanthropic a-holes.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Interesting. So Shukan Gendai is suggesting that Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I've heard that before somewhere....

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It sounds like whoever wrote the article has had a lousy life.

Living a life under the yoke of extreme social obligations in Japan is a lousy life.

My (Japanese) wife is constantly operating under the constraints of overwhelming social obligations, none of which benefit her but all of which she is forced to comply with under threat of social sanctions if she rebels. Most women in this country operate under this system.

Heck, half the economy is probably based on the commodification of these obligations. Funeral services that nobody wants to take part in but cost millions of Yen? Yup. God awful choreographed weddings in plastic churches that cost everyone attending huge amounts of money to take part in something 90% of them will not enjoy? Yup. Formal gifts for every occasion that will be of zero use to the recipient but demonstrate that the giver has sacrificed something in order to acknowledge a social obligation? That is probably 20% of the retail industry right there.

Cherish family and friends? YES! But if you don't have time to do so because you are constantly trying to comply with meaningless but expensive and time consuming pro forma social obligations then you aren't going to be doing any family or friends a favor.

One of my main goals in life as a parent in this country is to NOT place any such obligations on my kids. No funerals for me, no stupid concrete gravestone that they have to clean, nothing like that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

overwhelming social obligations, none of which benefit her but all of which she is forced to comply with under threat of social sanctions if she rebels

For example?

Funeral services that nobody wants to take part in

I've never met anyone anywhere who looked forward to a funeral.

God awful choreographed weddings in plastic churches that cost everyone attending huge amounts of money to take part in something 90% of them will not enjoy?

It's the new couple's big day. Either join in in the spirit of the thing, or stay home and mutter to yourself.

Been to lots of weddings, all different styles, can't say there was a single one I didn't enjoy.

Formal gifts for every occasion that will be of zero use to the recipient

S'up to you to choose something that will be of use, innit.

you don't have time to do so because you are constantly trying to comply with meaningless but expensive and time consuming pro forma social obligations 

You must live in a veritable whirlwind of social obligations. Weddings and funerals don't occur on a regular basis (though the older I get, the more often the funerals seem to happen). Can't think of any other social obligations that are meaningless and expensive.

One of my main goals in life as a parent in this country is to NOT place any such obligations on my kids. No funerals for me, no stupid concrete gravestone that they have to clean, nothing like that.

I'm with you on that. I've already told my family that when I go (hopefully not for a good few years/decades yet) I want my ashes spread to the wind, preferably over a balmy tropical sea. No grave, no meaningless religious hocus-pocus.

It would be nice though if lots and lots of people I'd interacted with in life gathered to mark my passing, in a totally secular manner.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Shukan Gendai is recommending that retired people become selfish, misanthropic a-holes.

The focus on retirees also means they are talking about people who can refuse "obligations" with little or no consequences. The inverted commas are because some of them are not even obligations. Having family at Obon is not an obligation. Japan already has millions of abandoned graves, so millions of people have already been liberated from that one.

We have lots of obligations but they mostly come from our kids and their schools and activities. My wife and I could say eff it, we're not being on the baseball team committee or the PTA or going to cut the weeds at 5am, but that would just lead to social stigma and someone else having to more. The task itself does not disappear. I think there is also a very high chance of our children being ostracized for what would be the sins of their parents. I would have zero trust in Japanese teachers, sports coaches, etc. fairly treating the offspring of "problem" parents. No trust at all.

If you want to be free, my advice is to not wait for retirement. Don't have kids, the main cause of financial and social obligations, and just do your own thing, scraping together whatever income you need to support your interests.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For example?

Formal organizations: Chonaikai, PTA,

Informal: The various demands of every older woman in our neighborhood. Endless social oblligations among school moms.

These are not exhaustive lists, family obligations are also time consumers.

I've never met anyone anywhere who looked forward to a funeral.

Me neither. But in Japan I am expected to attend way more than I am in my home country (Canada). Not just friends and relatives, but anyone who works for the same employer, for example. And while funerals vary significantly in their degree of formality in my home country, they are all uniformly strict and heavily choreographed affairs in Japan which require way more financial and time commitment.

It's the new couple's big day. Either join in in the spirit of the thing, or stay home and mutter to yourself.

> Been to lots of weddings, all different styles, can't say there was a single one I didn't enjoy.

Yup. I've been to weddings (and had my own) and I'm not some oaf who mutters these complaints out loud. But every wedding I've been to in Japan has been the same: highly impersonal, choreographed affairs which allow guests and participants zero opportunity to relax. Now some weddings are like that in North America too, but most (at least all the ones I've been too) have been way more relaxed and casual and allow for some spontaneous interaction among human beings (in the reception, not necessarily the ceremony itself). In Japan they are ALL the same, which is why a lot of people avoid having one altogether and just go to city hall to file the paperwork.

S'up to you to choose something that will be of use, innit.

Yup. Which makes it so perplexing that so few gifts actually given in the many formal occasions which require gift exchange in this country are actually useful.

You must live in a veritable whirlwind of social obligations. Weddings and funerals don't occur on a regular basis (though the older I get, the more often the funerals seem to happen). Can't think of any other social obligations that are meaningless and expensive.

Yes, I do. I've attended a lot of funerals and while they aren't daily occasions if you have elderly relatives they happen. I just had to attend a funeral a little while ago for a colleague who I had never actually met in person. This took up most of a day, and I had to give a cash gift. This was expected of me and while I did it without complaint it doesn't mean it wasn't a burdensome obligation for someone I never met. This is not an isolated incident but the type of expecations people here have to deal with regularly. Individually these (and other) obligations aren't the end of the world but cumulatively they add up. Glad that you live in a different world.

It would be nice though if lots and lots of people I'd interacted with in life gathered to mark my passing, in a totally secular manner.

I'd be happy with that, but in Japan it is very difficult to avoid having something like that get turned into the sort of formal occasion that you'd want to avoid. Its just the way everyone assumes things should go and in order to avoid offence they'll err on the side of making it super formal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The whole point is that it can catch problems BEFORE you notice any symptoms.

But there are times when it may catch symptoms where there is no problem, leading to more invasive checks that in turn cause problems. I read today of research that suggests routine bowel screening, which is standard in the UK for over 50s, may not be such a good idea.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-10-experts-routine-bowel-cancer-50s.html

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is all about balance. I have for example an elderly aunt that my father harasses me to visit every time I return to my home town. She gets on my nerves and I do not enjoy it and if he ever is not around I certainly won't spend time with her.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are lots of social obligations that I already shun.

End of year work party - nope! No need to spend 10,000 yen when I don’t drink, don’t eat half of what’s served and get stuck to someone I don’t want to chat with.

Daycare PTA - I work and daycare is a business to take my kids while I work. No need for all the events that are forced upon us on our rare family days.

Weddings - I go to ones I would like and didn’t have one myself.

I still go to family funeral anniverseries Erie’s because I enjoy seeing my relatives. I host dinner parties for my family and friends. However, I have no problem saying no if I have too much on my plate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Never too late to start thinking for yourself.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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