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Civil Society, State, and Institutions for Young Children in Modern Japan: The Initial Years

  • Kathleen Uno


Research on the history of children and childhood in modern Japan (1868–1945) reveals that issues related to civil society, state, and the establishment of institutions for young children can be explored beyond the transatlantic world. This brief essay considers the role of state and nonstate agents in the genesis of institutions for young children in modern Japan after briefly surveying historiography, a few basic terms, and earlier patterns of state and private involvement in education. After that, it proceeds in chronological order, treating first the founding of kindergartens and then day nurseries, focusing on the initial four decades.



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1 Recent Western monographs treating children's institutions include: Marshall, Byron K., Learning to be Modern: Japanese Political Discourse on Education (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994); Uno, Kathleen S., Passages to Modernity: Motherhood, Childhood, and Social Reform in Early Twentieth Century Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999); and Platt, Brian, Burning and Building: Schooling and State Formation in Japan, 1750–1890 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004). For the modern period, on foreign missionary kindergartens, see Roberta Wollons, “Black Forest in a Bamboo Garden: Missionary Kindergartens in Japan, 1868–1912.” History of Education Quarterly 33, 1 (Spring 1993): 135; Wollons, Roberta, “The Missionary Kindergarten in Japan,” in Kindergartens and Cultures: The Global Diffusion of an Idea, ed. Wollons, Roberta (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 113–36; and on day care centers, see Uno, Kathleen, Passages to Modernity.

2 Uno, Kathleen, “Japan,” in Children in Historical and Comparative Perspective: An International Handbook and Research Guide, ed. Hawes, Joseph M. and Hiner, N. Ray (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991), 396–97; Hardacre, Helen, Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 26–28, 43. Although there is no space to discuss it in this essay, the end of childhood at around age 15 also showed significant variation by region, class, and occupation.

3 Uno, , “Japan,” 390, 392–95; Uno, Kathleen, “Women and Changes in the Household Division of Labor,” in Recreating Japanese Women, 1600–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 2526, 34–35.

4 Early Childhood Education Association of Japan, ed. Early Childhood Education and Care in Japan (Tokyo: Child Honsha Col, Ltd., 1979), 9. As relief institutions, “day nurseries” can also be called day or child care centers, for in addition to physical care, their programs included educational content, see Uno, Passages to Modernity. For lack of data, factory day nurseries are not discussed in this essay.

5 Introduction: Ideas of Civil Society,” in Civil Society: History and Possibilities, ed. Kaviraj, Sudipta and Khilnani, Sunil (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2001, 2006 ed.), 2.

6 Japanese names are given in Japanese order, surname first, for works written in Japanese and in Western order for works written in English. Norman, E.H., Japan's Emergence as a Modern State (1940), reprinted in Origins of the Modern Japanese State, ed. Dower, John (NY: Pantheon, 1975); Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966); Maruyama, Masao, Studies in the Intellectual History of Early Modern Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Scalapino, Robert, Democracy and the Party Movement in Prewar Japan: The Failure of the First Attempt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953); Pittau, Joseph, Political Thought in Early Meiji Japan: 1868–1889 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967); Ienaga, Saburo, The Pacific War, 1931–1945 (New York: Pantheon, 1975); Gluck, Carol, Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985).

7 Gluck, , Japan's Modern Myths; Irokawa, Daikichi, The Popular Culture of the Meiji Period (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985); Vlastos, Stephen, “Opposition Movements in Early Meiji, 1868–1885,” in Cambridge History of Japan 5, ed. Jansen, Marius B. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 367–341; Bowen, Roger, Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan: A Study of Commoners in the Popular Rights Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press), 1980; Strong, Kenneth, Ox Against the Storm: A Biography of Tanaka Shoozoo–Japan's Conservationist Pioneer (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1978).

8 Kaigo, Tokiomi, Japanese Education: Its Past and Present (Tokyo: Shinkokai, Kokusai Bunka, 1968).

9 Dore, Ronald P., Education in Tokugawa Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965); Rubinger, Richard, Private Academies of Tokugawa Japan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982); Najita, Tetsuo, Visions of Virtue in Tokugawa Japan: The Kaitokudoo Merchant Academy of Osaka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); Yamakawa, Kikue, Women of the Mito Doman: Recollections of Samurai Family Life trans. Kate Wildman Nakai (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1992). Prosperous families also placed children, especially girls, with families of higher social standing for education in manners and household management, Uno, “Japan,” 390, 394.

10 Marshall, , Learning to be Modern, 39. Marshall did not provide data on the ratio of public to private elementary schools.

11 Kaigo, , Japanese Education, 65–66. For enrollment lists by gender between 1875 and 1960 see page 65.

12 Early Childhood Education Association of Japan, Early Childhood Education and Care in Japan, 91.

13 Ibid., 19; Makoto, Tsumori, Ito, Kubo, and Masuko, Honda, Yoochien no rekishi (Tokyo: Koseikaku, 1959, 1978 ed.), 203.

14 Monbushoo, , Yoochien kyooiku hyakunen shi, (Tokyo: Hikari no kuni kabushiki kaisha, 1979), 34. Also, in 1871 in Yokohama, foreign women established a short-lived institution that took in children not being cared for by their parents, but its expensive tuition contributed to its early demise. In 1872, it was converted into a girls school. See, al., Tsumori et, 204; Monbushoo, , Yoochien kyooiku hyakunen shi, 33.

15 The modern peerage was established in 1885, in advance of the Constitution of 1890 making the House of Peers the upper house of the Imperial Diet (legislature).

16 Early Childhood Education Association of Japan, 22; al., Tsumori et, 204.

17 al., Tsumori et, 205, 210–11.

18 Uno, , Passages to Modernity, 51. The girls’ department of the Peers’ School was established in 1877, became the separate Peeress’ School in 1885, and from 1907 once more became a department of the Peers’ School See, Naruse, Jinzo, “The Education of Japanese Women,” in Fifty Years of New Japan, vol. 2, ed. Shigenobu, Okuma (1910; rpt. New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1970), 206–7. Exclusion of the kindergarten from compulsory education tended to make kindergarten education the province of the affluent, although a few poor children attended charity kindergartens. See Tsumori et al., 204.

19 Monbushoo, , Yoochien kyooiku hyakunen shi, 821–22.

20 Uno, , Passages to Modernity, 41–42, 52–56. Regarding babysitters (komori) early in the modern period, see Uno, , Passages of Modernity, 32–33; Tamanoi, Mariko Asano, Under the Shadow of Nationalism: Politics and Poetics of Rural Japanese Women (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1998), chap. 2.

21 Uno, , Passages to Modernity, 60–65.

22 Ibid., 76–78.

23 Ibid., 72–73, 76.

24 Yasuko, Ichibangase, Jun, Izumi, Nobuko, Ogawa, and Takeo, Shishido, Nihon no hoiku (Tokyo: shuppan, Domesu, 1962, 1980 ed.), 286, 278; Takao, Terawaki, “Jidoo hogo jigyoo choosa,” in Senzen Nihon no shakai jigyoo choosa, ed. Shakai fukushi choosa kenkyuukai (Tokyo: Keisoo shoboo, 1983), 190; Uno, Passages to Modernity. Before the founding of municipal day nurseries, a few elementary schools established facilities to care for young children in 1911 and 1912.

25 Kyuuichi, Yoshida, Shakai jigyoo no rekishi (Tokyo: Keisoo shoboo, 1981), 145161; Uno, , Passages to Modernity, 97, 127–137.

26 Uno, , Passages to Modernity, 136. This essay does not discuss orphanages, for they did not care exclusively for children under six.

27 Monbushoo, , Yoochien kyooiku hyakunen shi. 131.

28 Ibid., 132.

29 Hiroshi, Urabe, Takeo, Shishido, and Yuuichi, Murayama, Hoiku no rekishi (Tokyo: Shoten, Aoki, 1981), 48.

30 See limited data in Sarane Spence Boocock, “Controlled Diversity: An Overview of the Japanese Preschool System.” Journal of Japanese Studies 15, 1 (Winter 1989): 41–65, especially 47–49. There are numerous works discussing institutions for young children in postwar Japan. However, space constraints preclude any further mention of them.

Civil Society, State, and Institutions for Young Children in Modern Japan: The Initial Years

  • Kathleen Uno


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