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Decline in the structure and role of the Japanese family: From Pre-Meiji to Modern Japan Family is generally considered by many to be the most fundamental unit of society; in all parts of the world, but especially in Japan. In Pre-modern Japan, family is fundamental. The individual doesn’t stand alone and one must know their position and place in society. Anything that one did was not just a personal matter. It not only affected your whole family, but also shamed the village. In Japan, family last name comes first, then given name. This signifies the importance of the Japanese hierarchical family system. The system goes: Nation—State or Province—Village—Family—You. The decline of the Japanese family structure is due to Japan’s own rigid system of family hierarchy and western modernization. There is a long history of religious and cultural beliefs in Pre-modern Japan. Confucian beliefs were introduced during the Nara Period and are based on patriarchy, ancestry, and birthright. In the lives of the farmer class, this meant that upon death the farm land was assigned to the next head of the family, usually the eldest son. This practice affected the moral and social codes of the people. The hierarchy of this family system reflected the rules and belief systems of this society and, males were far more superior to females at this time. Families who didn’t have a male heir adopted the 2nd or 3rd sons of another family to be their head of the home. In the Tale of Genji, family was more symbolic rather than for love. People married for political reasons and found love elsewhere (Foster). There was rarely a “staying faithful” to a wife. As we can see in Tale of Genji, Genji was married and had children, but he also had other women and found pleasure elsewhere. The same theme can be seen in Musui’s Story. Koichi also had a wife
there were more choices of “real love” unions.and children. Soon after. As a result. Many of the social changes and changing of roles in the family that took place at this time affected the impressions and social attitudes of the people. and didn’t really care for his wife or rather she didn’t play a big role in his life besides producing an heir. The introduction of Western ideas to Japan came with the Meiji Restoration and its influence increased progressively throughout the years. but when he learn that she would be attempting suicide due to her “failure as a wife. and educational systems. survival depended upon power. political. In Chushingura. By the 1800s. social changes strain the Tokugawa system. A strong love was not there. you were forbidden to marry with them. Japan had financial problems and there was also the erosion of class distinctions. materialistic views. With an increase in competition and an increase in population. Tokugawa Japan was socially and economically unstable. ran up debt. Western individualistic thought is the complete opposite of the way the . and wanting to sustain wealth. They sent Japanese abroad to learn about other countries military. Such as when Okaru agreed to be sold off to prostitution for the family’s sake but still longed for Kampei and also when Konami was in love with Rikiya. but frequented the pleasure quarters. People were limiting the size of the family. This is a factor of family hierarchy and most likely caused resentment within families. He also admitted an affair to his wife. By the 1700s there was more family planning and the population leveled off.” he gained more compassion for her and saw the error of his ways. Age and social class affected relationships and if the family didn’t find your significant other “fit” for the family. This was due to the economy growing. Japan re-opened the country and took on Western ideas for modernization so that they would not be taken over by western powers. “Family control” characterizes relationships within the family.
generally giving all of the money (his entire paycheck) to the woman of the house.” generally live “lonely and alienated lives. women entered the male work and forced the gender lines to become blurred. His obligation was to bring home the paycheck.Japanese mind works. Rather than give up any possessions. while she gives him an allowance. Their parents . After the removal of the feudal system and economic restoration in Japan. The roles most affected by this development in the Japanese family were the mother and father.” Their husbands are absorbed in their work and rarely attend to the family. The mindset has always been “think before you act” and to think to yourself “what will others think if I do this?” Rarely will one do something different.Women in a typical Japanese “nuclear family. Japan entered a economic decline. many mothers took on part-time jobs and full-time employment outside the home. The Japanese has always shared a sense of national identity and has a “Group” vs. When Japan’s economic bubble popped in the 1980s. Men and women took on different roles. At this point. they conflict with the typical independent nature of Western thought. While a sense of community has always played a part in the understanding of identity of the Japanese people. The responsibility of the male head of the household came to be his economic contribution to his intermediate family. Mothers were responsible for maintaining the family’s finances and there was generally only one bread winner. “Individual” outlook. The educational system also doesn’t promote creativity among students. Given choices. or service. many have elected to abandon the ideas and roles of being a “traditional housewife” for independency. Careers became an option for the women.the father. There is a growing unease over changes in the family structure and the deteriorating social environment.
Due to westernization and modernization. there are still “arranged marriages” to get ahead. . What if people would have been able to marry whoever they wanted? There wouldn’t be so many “broken homes. John 63). and social reform. The downfall of Japan’s cohesive structure family model was due to its hierarchical structure and influences of modernization. a Japanese family always had generations of families living under the same roof. Japanese has always looked to other countries for ideas of culture and language and has never fully evolved on its own. and wanting to be independent from the family. different views of the emperor. the rise and fall of their economy. and social role changes. Most Japanese people value their families. Japan has gone through many important changes throughout history.” Even in modern times. as seen in Genji and Musui’s Story. there are more people living alone.live far away and have few opportunities to have contact with other families living in the housing developments that have replaced a once sociable neighborhood. How should families be tied back together? I think that Japanese needs to define its identity. materialistic views. Other reasons for the weakening of family ties include increase in juvenile crime and divorce. Traditionally. This was also true for Pre-modern era Japan. In most modern Japanese families. the husband and wife do not socialize as a couple. the introduction of a new political system.” (Nathan. but fear that family ties are weakening due to modern social changes.
2000. The Japanese Experience: A Short History of Japan. 11 Feb." Frost 103. Kokichi. Robert. Trans. "Heian Japan and Genji II. Berea College. New York: Columbia University Press. "Heian Japan." Frost 103. Berea College. 9 Apr. Teruko Craig. . Berea College. "Prehistory and Shinto. Berea College. 18 Feb. Berea College. —. Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation’s Quest for Pride and Purpose. Takeda. Berea College. 2008. Foster. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2008. Katsu. W.Sources and Works Cited Beasley. 2008. 2004.G. 2008. "Late Tokugawa. "Political Development in the Meiji. 16 Apr." Frost 103. 1988. "Restoration. 14 Apr." Frost 103. Berkeley University of California Press. —. Tuscon: The University of Arizona Press. —." Frost 103. "Modernization. —. Chushingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers." Frost 103. 2008. Miyoshi Shoraku and Namiki Senryu. —. 1971. Donald Keene. 2008. Trans. Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai. John." Frost 103. Izumo. Nathan. Berea College. 25 Feb. 7 Apr. —. 2008.
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