Beyond the Century of the Child: Cultural History and Developmental Psychology

By Willem Koops; Michael Zuckerman | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The History of Children
and Youth in Japan

HIDEO KOJIMA

The main task of this chapter is to compare theories and practices regarding Japanese children and youth in two historical periods. Taking the time span between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries (the early modern and modern periods), when, in my view, meaningful comparison in this field can be made, I will focus on the period from 1700 to 1870 to represent non-Westernized, preindustrial Japan, and the period after 1910 to represent Westernized, industrial Japan. I will take the intervening four decades between 1870 and 1910 as a transition period during which Japan transformed itself from a feudalistic, preindustrial country to a modern, industrial nation.

The objectives of this investigation are to understand childhood and youth in Japan and, more important, to understand how psychological inquiry into the child is organized in Japanese society. I will characterize the developmental study of the child as a joint endeavor by agents with different roles in the society. Lay persons, practitioners, expert advisors, and academic researchers all participate in the construction of child development theories and practices. This view is the outcome of my rethinking of psychological research on the basis of two decades of historical inquiry into child development and family life in Japan. I hope that my delineation of our discipline in its relation to other disciplines and other people in society will point a path for studying the child in the twenty-first century.

I begin with an explanation of a traditional method of counting age in Japan. For example, when people in preindustrial Japan said, “Before seven, among the gods,” their age of seven was not ours. The following sections deal with folk beliefs concerning the place of human life in a cycle of the transmigration of soul and the place of childhood and youth in the total age grading systems of preindustrial and industrial Japan. Thus childhood and youth are nested in the human lifetime at the level of the social system and human life is nested within the transmigration cycle of the soul at the level of folk belief. It is my view that a deeper understanding of childhood and youth in Japanese

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