Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Families in Japan: Changes, Continuities,and Regional Variations

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Families in Japan: Changes, Continuities,and Regional Variations

Article excerpt

Dr. Fwnie Kumagai. FAMILIES IN JAPAN: CHANGES, CONTINUITIES,AND REGIONAL VARIATIONS. University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland, U.S.A., 2008, pp. 173.

When the possibility to review this book first presented itself, I immediately seized the opportunity. One reason for my enthusiasm is that I have coauthored a similar book (FamiUes in Canada, 3rd edition, 2005) and was of course curious about what other scholars in other countries have accomplished in this regard. Another reason for my willingness to review this book is that I was not only familiar with Dr. Kumagai 's work and reputation, but also had the opportunity to meet her during her brief stay in Canada. So I approached this book with great anticipation and enthusiasm. Indeed, I was not disappointed.

The aim and purpose of Families in Japan is quite different than other more introductory texts aimed at undergraduate students. This book may certainly be read by undergraduates, but its target authence is largely fellow academics and scholars. The goals, cited by Kumagai in the preface, is to explore the variations in families in Japan and to also give outsiders a clear picture of the current state of Japanese families. She states that".. .the level of understanding of Japan among people overseas remains somewhat distorted.... My hope, therefore, is that Families in Japan: Changes, Continuities and Regional Variations will help to narrow this gap in understanding between the Japanese and other people throughout me world" (pp. xi-xii).

The book is organized into an introduction and six chapters. The introduction provides a brief historical view of Japan and a model of the dual nature (tradition and modernity) of Japanese families. The remaining six chapters build on titis 'dual structure' of influences. The first chapter reviews the general historical influences and changes in family structure from the Edo period to the current time. This historical perspective is then placed in relation to theories of family form such as Litwak's modified extended family (1960) and theories of family change such as Goode (1963). The remainder of this chapter presents demographic data profiling the Japanese family and me variations in the 47 prefectures. For any crosscultural scholar this incredibly informative chapter is well worth the price of the book.

Yet the remaining chapters of this book supply a depth of perspective in the areas of marriage (chapter 2), divorce (chapter 3), fertility (chapter 4), elderly (chapter 5) and work and family (chapter 6). …

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