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Japan - The Society


JAPAN IS KNOWN throughout the world for its economic successes, yet Japanese society remains an enigma to many outside its borders. Those people who stress the nation's uniqueness, including many Japanese, often overlook the common human traits that make crosscultural communication possible and rewarding. Those who stress Japan's convergence with the West miss the deeper differences that have allowed Japan to chart its own path through the unknowns of the postindustrial period.

Geography and climate do not determine social organization or values, but they do set parameters for human action. Leaders of this island nation historically have exerted close political control over their people and have limited foreign influence to degrees not possible elsewhere. Mountainous terrain and wet-rice agriculture fostered--but did not ensure--attitudes of cooperation within the social unit and a sense of separateness from the outside.

Extending nearly 3,800 kilometers from northeast to southwest, Japan has a generally mild, temperate climate with a rich variety of local habitats. This expansiveness resulted in regional variations in culture and economic development historically, but these differences decreased in importance (or were relegated to tourist attractions) in the twentieth century. With 77 percent of the population living in urban areas and a large majority of farm families earning most of their income from nonfarm labor, regional and rural-urban differences in life-style are minimal. The large and stable national population, with low fertility and mortality rates, is aging rapidly.

Japanese society underwent great social changes after 1945. Families became smaller, women increasingly participated in paid labor, and urban life replaced the rural community as the common environment in which children were raised and human interaction took place. The changes brought new problems, such as industrial pollution, the entrance examination "hell," and social anomie. The government responded with new policies, and ordinary citizens utilized traditional customs to give meaning to the present. Japanese cities in the late twentieth century are convenient and safe. Surface prosperity masks an unequal distribution of wealth and discrimination against those perceived to be "different." Films, television, nightlife, and comic books (manga), sometimes garish and violent, offer an escape from the pressures of contemporary life. Categorization of social problems as medical syndromes tends to focus attention on personal-problem solving and away from societal-level causes, such as poverty, gender roles, or the lack of assistance in caring for ill elderly relatives.

The pace and rhythm of life in Japan should seem familiar to Westerners. Yet the Japanese approach them with a worldview eclectically derived from a variety of religious and secular traditions, emphasizing human relations. Many Japanese are willing to delay rewards, to put forth their best efforts for their teams, and to avoid open conflict. The outside world is an arena of intense competition. Family, neighborhood, and workplace represent ever-widening circles of social relations to which individuals adjust and through which they grow as human beings.

Japan, with the world's second largest gross national product (GNP) and seventh largest population, played an increasingly important part in world affairs. As the government embarked on a policy of internationalization, individual Japanese creatively combined elements from their own history with foreign influences and new inventions as they adapted to the postindustrial world.


Japan - Population


With a population estimated at 124.7 million in July 1993, Japan is three times more densely populated than Europe as a whole and twelve times more densely populated than the United States. The population has more than tripled since 1872, when it stood at 34.8 million. Beginning in the 1950s, the birth rate declined, however, and by 1993 the rate of natural increase was 0.32 percent, the lowest in the world outside Europe. Both the density and the age structure of Japan's population are likely to influence the country's future.

Population Density

Japan had an average of 327 persons per square kilometer in 1990, high compared with China (119) or the United States (twentyseven ), but lower than in some other Asian countries, such as the Republic of Korea (South Korea), which had 432 people per square kilometer.

Japan's population density has helped promote extremely high land prices. Between 1955 and 1989, land prices in the six largest cities increased 15,456 percent. Urban land prices generally increased 40 percent from 1980 to 1987; in the six largest cities, the price of land doubled over that period. For many families, this trend put housing in central cities out of reach. The result was lengthy commutes for many workers; daily commutes of up to two hours each way are not uncommon in the Tokyo area. Despite the large amount of forested land in Japan, parks in cities are smaller and scarcer than in major European or United States cities, which average ten times the amount of parkland per inhabitant. However, despite the high cost of urban housing, more people are likely to move back into central city areas, especially as the price of transportation and commuting time increases. National and regional governments devote resources to making regional cities and rural areas more attractive by developing transportation networks, social services, industry, and education institutions in attempts to decentralize settlement and improve the quality of life. Nevertheless, major cities, especially Tokyo, remain attractive to young people seeking education and jobs.

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<>Hisabetsu Buraku

Updated population figures for Japan.


Japan - Age Structure


Like other postindustrial countries, Japan faces the problems associated with an aging population. In 1989, only 11.6 percent of the population was sixty-five years or older, but projections were that 25.6 percent would be in that age category by 2030. That shift will make Japan one of the world's most elderly societies, and the change will have taken place in a shorter span of time than in any other country.

This aging of the population was brought about by a combination of low fertility and high life expectancies. In 1993 the fertility rate was estimated at 10.3 per 1,000 population, and the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime has been fewer than two since the late 1970s (the average number was estimated at 1.5 in 1993). Family planning was nearly universal, with condoms and legal abortions the main forms of birth control. A number of factors contributed to the trend toward small families: late marriage, increased participation of women in the labor force, small living spaces, and the high costs of children's education. Life expectancies at birth, 76.4 years for males and 82.2 years for women in 1993, were the highest in the world. (The expected life span at the end of World War II, for both males and females, was fifty years.) The mortality rate in 1993 was estimated at 7.2 per 1,000 population. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, a pattern common to postindustrial societies.

Public policy, the media, and discussions with private citizens revealed a high level of concern for the implications of one in four persons in Japan being sixty-five or older. By 2025 the dependency ratio (the ratio of people under fifteen years plus those sixty-five and older to those aged fifteen to sixty-five, indicating in a general way the ratio of the dependent population to the working population) was expected to be two dependents for every three workers. The aging of the population was already becoming evident in the aging of the labor force and the shortage of young workers in the late 1980s, with potential impacts on employment practices, wages and benefits, and the roles of women in the labor force. The increasing proportion of elderly people in the population also had a major impact on government spending. As recently as the early 1970s, social expenditures amounted to only about 6 percent of Japan's national income. In 1992 that portion of the national budget was 18 percent, and it was expected that by 2025, 27 percent of national income would be spent on social welfare.

In addition, the median age of the elderly population was rising in the late 1980s. The proportion of people aged seventy-five to eighty-five was expected to increase from 6 percent in 1985 to 15 percent in 2025. Because the incidence of chronic disease increases with age, the healthcare and pension systems, too, are expected to come under severe strain. The government in the mid-1980s began to reevaluate the relative burdens of government and the private sector in health care and pensions, and it established policies to control government costs in these programs. Recognizing the lower probability that an elderly person will be residing with an adult child and the higher probability of any daughter or daughter-in-law's participation in the paid labor force, the government encouraged establishment of nursing homes, day-care facilities for the elderly, and home health programs. Longer life spans are altering relations between spouses and across generations, creating new government responsibilities, and changing virtually all aspects of social life.



Japan - Migration


Between 6 million and 7 million people moved their residences each year during the 1980s. About 50 percent of these moves were within the same prefecture; the others were relocations from one prefecture to another. During Japan's economic development in the twentieth century, and especially during the 1950s and 1960s, migration was characterized by urbanization as people from rural areas in increasing numbers moved to the larger metropolitan areas in search of better jobs and education. Out-migration from rural prefectures continued in the late 1980s, but more slowly than in previous decades.

In the 1980s, government policy provided support for new urban development away from the large cities, particularly Tokyo, and assisted regional cities to attract young people to live and work there. Regional cities offered familiarity to those from nearby areas, lower costs of living, shorter commutes, and, in general, a more relaxed life-style then could be had in larger cities. Young people continued to move to large cities, however, to attend universities and find work, but some returned to regional cities (a pattern known as U-turn) or to their prefecture of origin (a pattern known as J-turn).

Government statistics show that in the 1980s significant numbers of people left the largest cities (Tokyo and Osaka). In 1988 more than 500,000 people left Tokyo, which experienced a net loss through migration of nearly 73,000 for the year. Osaka had a net loss of nearly 36,000 in the same year. However, the prefectures showing the highest net growth are located near the major urban centers, such as Saitama, Chiba, Ibaraki, and Kanazawa around Tokyo, and Hyogo, Nara, and Shiga near Osaka and Kyoto. This pattern suggests a process of suburbanization, people moving away from the cities for affordable housing but still commuting there for work and recreation, rather than a true decentralization.

Japanese economic success has led to an increase in certain types of external migration. In 1990 about 11 million Japanese went abroad. More than 80 percent of these people traveled as tourists, especially visiting other parts of Asia and North America. However, about 663,100 Japanese were living abroad, approximately 75,000 of whom had permanent foreign residency, more than six times the number who had that status in 1975. More than 200,000 Japanese went abroad in 1990 for extended periods of study, research, or business assignments. As the government and private corporations have stressed internationalization, greater numbers of individuals have been directly affected, decreasing Japan's historically claimed insularity. Despite the benefits of experiencing life abroad, individuals who have lived outside of Japan for extended periods often faced problems of discrimination upon their return because others might no longer consider them fully Japanese. By the late 1980s, these problems, particularly the bullying of returnee children in the schools, had become a major public issue both in Japan and in Japanese communities abroad.



Japan - Minorities


Japanese society, with its ideology of homogeneity, has traditionally been intolerant of ethnic and other differences. People identified as different might be considered "polluted"--the category applied historically to the outcasts of Japan, particularly the hisabetsu buraku, "discriminated communities," often called burakumin, a term some find offensive--and thus not suitable as marriage partners or employees. Men or women of mixed ancestry, those with family histories of certain diseases, and atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their descendants, foreigners, and members of minority groups faced discrimination in a variety of forms.



Japan - Foreign Residents


If Japanese society is reluctant to readmit returnees, it is even less willing to accept as full members of society those people who are not ethnic Japanese. In 1991 there were 1.2 million foreign residents in Japan, less than 1 percent of Japan's population (if illegal aliens were counted, the number of foreigners might be several times higher than the quoted figure). Of this number, 693,100 (about 57 percent) were Koreans and 171,100 (some 14 percent) were Chinese. Many of these people were descendants of those brought to Japan during Japan's occupation of Taiwan (1895- 1945) and Korea (1905-45) to work at unskilled jobs, such as coal mining. Because Japanese citizenship was based on the nationality of the parent rather than on the place of birth, subsequent generations were not automatically Japanese and had to be naturalized to claim citizenship, despite being born and educated in Japan and speaking only Japanese, as was the case with most Koreans in Japan. Until the late 1980s, people applying for citizenship were expected to use only the Japanese renderings of their names and, even as citizens, continued to face discrimination in education, employment, and marriage. Thus, few chose naturalization, and they faced legal restrictions as foreigners, as well as extreme social prejudice.

All non-Japanese are required by law to register with the government and carry alien registration cards. From the early 1980s, a civil disobedience movement encouraged refusal of the fingerprinting that accompanied registration every five years. Those people who opposed fingerprinting argued that it was discriminatory because the only Japanese who were fingerprinted were criminals. The courts upheld fingerprinting, but the law was changed so that fingerprinting was done once rather than with each renewal of the registration. Some Koreans, often with the support of either South Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), attempted to educate their children in the Korean language, history, and culture and to instill pride in their Korean heritage. Most Koreans in Japan, however, have never been to the Korean Peninsula and do not speak Korean. Many are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty and discrimination in a society that emphasizes Japan's homogeneity and cultural uniqueness. Other Asians, too, whether students or permanent residents, face prejudice and a strong "we-they" distinction. Europeans and North Americans might be treated with greater hospitality but nonetheless find it difficult to become full members of Japanese society. Public awareness of the place of foreigners (gaijin) in Japanese society was heightened in the late 1980s in debates over the acceptance of Vietnamese and Chinese refugees and the importing of Filipino brides for rural farmers.



Japan - Hisabetsu Buraku


Despite Japan's claim of homogeneity, two Japanese minority groups can be identified. The largest is known as the hisabetsu buraku, "discriminated communities," descendants of premodern outcast hereditary occupational groups, such as butchers, leatherworkers, and certain entertainers. Discrimination against these occupational groups arose historically because of Buddhist prohibitions against killing and Shinto notions of pollution, as well as governmental attempts at social control. During the Tokugawa period, such people were required to live in special buraku and, like the rest of the population, were bound by sumptuary laws based on the inheritance of social class. The Meiji government abolished must derogatory names applied to these discriminated communities in 1871, but the new laws had little effect on the social discrimination faced by the former outcasts and their descendants. The laws, however, did eliminate the economic monopoly they had over certain occupations.

Although members of these discriminated communities are physically indistinguishable from other Japanese, they often live in urban ghettoes or in the traditional special hamlets in rural areas. Some attempt to pass as ordinary Japanese, but the checks on family background that are often part of marriage arrangements and employment applications make this difficult. Estimates of their number range from 2 million to 4 million, or about 2 to 3 percent of the national population.

Ordinary Japanese claimed that membership in these discriminated communities can be surmised from the location of the family home, occupation, dialect, or mannerisms and, despite legal equality, continued to discriminate against people they surmised to be members of this group. Past and current discrimination had resulted in lower educational attainment and socioeconomic status among hisabetsu buraku than among the majority of Japanese. Movements with objectives ranging from "liberation" to encouraging integration have tried over the years to change this situation. As early as 1922, leaders of the hisabetsu buraku organized a movement, the Levelers Association of Japan (Suiheisha), to advance their rights. After World War II, the National Committee for Burakumin Liberation was founded, changing its name to the Burakumin Liberation League in the 1950s. The league, with the support of the socialist and communist parties, pressured the government into making important concessions in the late 1960s and 1970s. One concession was the passing of the Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects, which provided financial aid for the discriminated communities. Another was the closing of nineteenthcentury family registers, kept by the Ministry of Justice for all Japanese, which revealed the outcaste origins of families and individuals. These records could now be consulted only in legal cases, making it more difficult to identify or discriminate against members of the group. Even into the early 1990s, however, discussion of the liberation of these discriminated communities, or even their existence, was taboo in public discussion. In the late 1970s, the Sayama incident, which involved a murder conviction of a member of the discriminated communities based on circumstantial evidence, focused public attention on the problems of the group. In the 1980s, some educators and local governments, particularly in areas with relatively large hisabetsu buraku populations, began special education programs, which they hoped would encourage greater educational and economic success for young members of the group and decrease the discrimination they faced.



Japan - Ainu


The second largest minority group among Japanese citizens is the Ainu, who are thought to be related to the Tungusic, Altaic, and Uralic peoples of Siberia. Historically, the Ainu (Ainu means human in the Ainu language) were an indigenous hunting and gathering population who occupied most of northern Honshu as late as the Nara period (A.D. 710-94). As Japanese settlement expanded, the Ainu were pushed northward, until by the Meiji period they were confined by the government to a small area in Hokkaido, in a manner similar to the placing of native Americans on reservations. Characterized as remnants of a primitive circumpolar culture, the fewer than 20,000 Ainu in 1990 were considered racially distinct and thus not fully Japanese. Disease and a low birth rate had severely diminished their numbers over the past two centuries, and intermarriage had brought about an almost completely mixed population.

Although no longer in daily use, the Ainu language is preserved in epics, songs, and stories transmitted orally over succeeding generations. Distinctive rhythmic music and dances and some Ainu festivals and crafts are preserved, but mainly in order to take advantage of tourism.





Contemporary Japan is a secular society. Creating harmonious relations with others through reciprocity and the fulfillment of social obligations is more significant for most Japanese than an individual's relationship to a transcendent God. Harmony, order, and self-development are three of the most important values that underlie Japanese social interaction. Basic ideas about self and the nature of human society are drawn from several religious and philosophical traditions. Religious practice, too, emphasizes the maintenance of harmonious relations with others (both spiritual beings and other humans) and the fulfillment of social obligations as a member of a family and a community.


Empathy and Human Relations

In Japanese mythology, the gods display human emotions, such as love and anger. In these stories, behavior that results in positive relations with others is rewarded, and empathy, identifying oneself with another, is highly valued. By contrast, those actions that are antisocial, or that harm others, are condemned. Hurtful behavior is punished in the myths by ostracizing the offender.

No society can exist that tolerates significant antisocial behavior in the long term, but Japan is among the societies that most strongly rely on social rather than supernatural sanctions and emphasize the benefits of harmony. Japanese children learn from their earliest days that human fulfillment comes from close association with others. Children learn early to recognize that they are part of an interdependent society, beginning in the family and later extending to larger groups such as neighborhood, school, community, and workplace. Dependence on others is a natural part of the human condition; it is viewed negatively only when the social obligations it creates are too onerous to fulfill.

In interpersonal relationships, most Japanese tend to avoid open competition and confrontation. Working with others requires self-control, but it carries the rewards of pride in contributing to the group, emotional security, and social identity. Wa, the notion of harmony within a group, requires an attitude of cooperation and a recognition of social roles. If each individual in the group understands personal obligations and empathizes with the situations of others, then the group as a whole benefits. Success can come only if all put forth their best individual efforts. Decisions are often made only after consulting with everyone in the group. Consensus does not imply that there has been universal agreement, but this style of consultative decision making involves each member of the group in an information exchange, reinforces feelings of group identity, and makes implementation of the decision smoother. Cooperation within a group also is often focused on competition between that group and a parallel one, whether the issue is one of educational success or market share. Symbols such as uniforms, names, banners, and songs identify the group as distinct from others both to outsiders and to those within the group. Participation in group activities, whether official or unofficial, is a symbolic statement that an individual wishes to be considered part of the group. Thus, after-work bar hopping provides not only instrumental opportunities for the exchange of information and release of social tensions but also opportunities to express nonverbally a desire for continued affiliation.

Working in a group in Japan requires the development of successful channels of communication, which reinforce group interdependence, and the sense of difference from those who are not members of the group. Yet social interaction beyond that which occurs with individuals with whom one lives and works is a necessity in contemporary society. If the exchange is brief and relatively insignificant, such as buying a newspaper, anonymity will be maintained. But if the relationship is expected to continue over a long period, whether in business, marriage, employment, or neighborhood, great care is likely to be invested in establishing and maintaining good relationships. Such relationships are often begun by using the social networks of a relative, friend, or colleague who can provide an introduction to the desired person or serve as nakodo (go-between). The nakodo most often refers to the person (or people) who negotiates marriage arrangements, including checking each family's background, conveying questions and criticisms, and smoothing out difficulties. But this kind of personal mediation is common in many aspects of Japanese life.

Group membership in Japan provides enjoyment and fulfillment, but it also causes tremendous tension. An ideology of group harmony does not ensure harmony in fact. Japan is an extremely competitive society, yet competition within the group must be suppressed. Minor issues are sometimes dealt with by appeals to higher authority, but they may well smolder unresolved for years. Major problems may be denied, especially to outsiders, but may result in factions or in the fissioning of the group. It is often the individual, however, who bears the burden of these interpersonal tensions. This burden is reflected in high rates of alcohol consumption and of minor, sometimes psychosomatic, illnesses. Many Japanese cope with these stresses by retreating into the private self or by enjoying the escapism offered by much of the popular culture.

The Public Sphere: Order and Status

It is difficult to imagine a Japanese vision of the social order without the influence of Confucianism because prior to the advent of Chinese influence in the sixth century, Japan did not have a stratified society. Confucianism emphasizes harmony among heaven, nature, and human society achieved through each person's accepting his or her social role and contributing to the social order by proper behavior. An often quoted phrase from the Confucian essay "Da Xue" (The Great Learning) explains, "Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy."

This view implies that hierarchy is natural. Relative status differences define nearly all social interaction. Age or seniority, gender, educational attainment, and place of employment are common distinctions that guide interaction. Without some knowledge of the other's background, age and gender may be an individual's only guidelines. A Japanese person may prefer not to interact with a stranger, to avoid potential errors in etiquette. The business cards or calling cards so frequently exchanged in Japan are valuable tools of social interaction because they provide enough information about another person to facilitate normal social exchange. Japan scholar Edwin O. Reischauer noted that whereas Americans often act to minimize status differences, Japanese find it awkward, even unbecoming, when a person does not behave in accordance with status expectations.

The Japanese language is one means of expressing status differences, and it contributes to the assumption that hierarchy is natural. Verb endings regularly express relationships of superiority or inferiority. Japanese has a rich vocabulary of honorific and humble terms that indicate a person's status or may be manipulated to express what the speaker desires the relationship to be. Men and women employ somewhat different speech patterns, with women making greater use of polite forms. Certain words are identified with masculine speech and others with feminine. For example, there are a number of ways to say the pronoun "I," depending on the formality of the occasion, the gender of the speaker, and the relative status of the speaker and listener. As is appropriate in a culture that stresses the value of empathy, one person cannot speak without considering the other.

The term hierarchy implies a ranking of roles and a rigid set of rules, and Japan has its share of bureaucracy. But the kind of hierarchical sense that pervades the whole society is of a different sort, which anthropologist Robert J. Smith calls "diffuse order." For example, in premodern times, local leaders were given a great deal of autonomy in exchange for assuming total responsibility for affairs in their localities. In contemporary Japan also, responsibility is collective and authority diffuse. The person seeming to be in charge is, in reality, bound into the web of group interdependence as tightly as those who appear to be his subordinates. Leadership thus calls not for a forceful personality and sharp decision-making skills but for sensitivity to the feelings of others and skills in mediation. Even in the early 1990s, leaders were expected to assume responsibility for a major problem occurring in or because of their groups by resigning their posts, although they may have had no direct involvement in the situation.

Status in Japan is based on specific relationships between individuals, often relationships of social dependency between those of unequal status. Giri (duty), the sense of obligation to those to whom one is indebted, requires deferential behavior and eventually repayment of the favor, which in turn calls forth future favors. Relations of social dependence thus continue indefinitely, with their very inequality binding individuals to each other. Rules of hierarchy are tempered by the relationship itself. This tempering is known as ninjo (human emotion or compassion). The potential conflict between giri and ninjo has been a frequent theme in Japanese drama and literature. Although young Japanese are less likely to phrase a personal dilemma in those terms, claiming that the concept of giri was old-fashioned, many continue to feel stress in doing what they should when it was not what they want. Social order exists in part because all members of the society are linked in relationships of social dependency, each involved in giving and receiving.

The Private Sphere: Goals and Self

Relative status may be seen as the basis of social organization, and affiliation with others may be considered desirable, but these assumptions by no means negate a concept of self. An ideology of harmony with others does not automatically create a congruence of individual with group or institutional goals.

Anthropologist Brian Moeran distinguishes Japanese attitudes toward individuality and individualism. Individuality, or the uniqueness of a person, is not only tolerated but often is admired if the person is seen as sincere, as acting from the heart. A work of art conveys strength as well as beauty from its "individuality." Individualism, however, is viewed negatively, for it is equated with selfishness, the opposite of the empathy that is so highly valued. While many modern Japanese deny the relevance of the concept of seishin (selfless spiritual strength, as in World War II soldiers), selfishness (especially "selfish mothers," because the behavior of mothers is commonly thought to affect the mental and physical health of children) takes the blame for many social problems of modern society. These problems include ones categorized as psychosomatic medical syndromes, such as kitchen syndrome (dadokoro skokogun), in which formerly meticulous housewives suddenly adopt odd behaviors and complain of aches and pains, nonverbally expressing their frustration with or rejection of the "good wifewise mother" role, or school-refusal syndrome (toko kyohi), in which children complain of somatic problems, such as stomachaches, and thus miss school in an attempt to avoid academic or social failure.

Japan, like all other societies, has conflicts between individual and group. What is different from North American society is not that the Japanese have no sense of self but rather that the self is defined through its interaction with others and not merely through the force of individual personality.

According to Reischauer, "The cooperative, relativistic Japanese is not thought of as the bland product of a social conditioning that has worn off all individualistic corners, but rather as the product of firm inner self-control that has made him master of his . . . anti-social instincts . . . . Social conformity . . . is no sign of weakness but rather the proud, tempered product of inner strength." This mastery is achieved by overcoming hardship, through self-discipline, and through personal striving for a perfection that one knows is not possible but remains a worthy goal. In this view, both the self and society can be improved, and in fact are interrelated because the ideal of selfhood, toward which many Japanese strive, is one in which consideration of others is paramount. Whereas Americans attempt to cultivate a self that is unique, most Japanese place greater emphasis on cultivating "a self that can feel human in the company of others," according to David W. Plath. Maturity means both continuing to care about what others are thinking and feeling confident in one's ability to judge and act effectively, acknowledging social norms while remaining true to self.


Japan - Religion and Philosophical Traditions


The values described in the preceding section are derived from a number of religious and philosophical traditions, both indigenous and foreign. Taken together, these traditions may be considered the Japanese worldview, although the personal beliefs of an individual Japanese may incorporate some aspects and disregard others. The Japanese worldview is eclectic, contrasting with a Western view in which religion is exclusive and defines one's identity. Contemporary Japanese society is highly secular. Cause and effect relations are frequently based in scientific models, and illness and death are explained by modern medical theories. Yet the scientific view is but one of the options from which an individual may draw in interpreting life's experiences.

The Japanese worldview is characterized also by a pragmatic approach to problem solving, in which the technique may be less important than the results. Thus a Japanese who is ill may simultaneously or sequentially seek the assistance of a medical doctor, obtain medication from a person trained in the Chinese herbal tradition, and visit a local shrine. Each of these actions is based on a different belief in causation of the illness: the physician may say that the illness is caused by a bacterial infection; the herbalist regards the body as being out of balance; and the basis of the shrine visit is the belief that the mind must be cleansed to heal the body. In the West, these explanations might be viewed as mutually exclusive, but the Japanese patient may hold all of these views simultaneously without a sense of discord. Similarly, a student studying for university entrance examinations knows that without extraordinary hard work, admission is impossible. Yet the student will probably also visit a special shrine to ask for the help of the spiritual world in ensuring success.

The roots of the Japanese worldview can be traced to several traditions. Shinto, the only indigenous religion of Japan, provided the base. Confucianism, from China, provided concepts of hierarchy, loyalty, and the emperor as the son of heaven. Daoism, also from China, helped give order and sanction to the system of government implied in Shinto. Buddhism brought with it not only its contemplative religious aspects but also a developed culture of art and temples, which had a considerable role in public life. Christianity brought an infusion of Western ideas, particularly those involving social justice and reform

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Japan - Shinto


Shinto (Way of the Gods) is the term used to refer to an assortment of beliefs and practices indigenous to Japan that predate the arrival of Buddhism but that have in turn been influenced by it. The Shinto worldview is of a pantheistic universe of kami, spirits or gods with varying degrees of power.

Although each person is expected to continue existence as a kami after death, Shinto is concerned with this world rather than with the afterlife. This world contains defiling substances, and Shinto ritual often involves mental and physical purification of a person who has come into contact with a pollutant, such as death. Water or salt commonly serve as purifying agents. Some kami are guardian deities for villages, and thus they symbolize the unity of the human community as well as mediating in its relationship with the natural and supernatural worlds.

Japanese legends describe the activities and personalities of the kami. The most well-known legends describe the creation of the human world and trace the origins of the Japanese imperial family to the gods. The latter legend formed the basis of the wide acceptance of the concept of the emperor's divine descent in pre-1940s Japan.

In the fifth and sixth centuries, Shinto came under the influence of Chinese Confucianism and Buddhism. From the former, it borrowed the veneration of ancestors, and from the latter it adopted philosophical ideas and religious rites. Because of the popularity of things Chinese and the ethical and philosophical attraction of Buddhism for the court and the imperial family, Shinto became somewhat less influential than Buddhism for more than a millennium. Many people, however, were adherents to both systems of belief. By the seventeenth century, Shinto began to emerge from Buddhism's shadow through the influence of neo-Confucian rationalism.

The emerging nationalism of the late Tokugawa period combined with the political needs of the Meiji Restoration (1868) oligarchs to reform Shinto into a state religion, and it flourished as such until 1945 under government patronage. Japan's defeat in World War II and the emperor's denial of his divinity brought an end to State Shinto. Sometimes considered synonymous with State Shinto before 1945 was Shrine Shinto (Jinja Shinto), but after the war most Shinto traditions were observed in the home rather than in shrines. Most shrines, which had previously benefited from state sponsorship, were organized into the Association of Shinto Shrines after 1946. Sect Shinto (Kyoha Shinto) consists of more than eighty private religious sects, which conduct services in houses of worship or lecture halls rather than in shrines.

In 1991 there were nearly 80,000 Shinto shrines and 93,000 clergy in Japan. After World War II, the requirement of membership in a shrine parish was revoked, but local shrines still serve as focal points for community identity for many Japanese, and occasional informal or ritual visits are common. Nearly 95 million Japanese citizens profess adherence to some form of Shinto. Some of the Sect Shinto groups are considered new religions.


Japan - Buddhism


Buddhism, which originated in India, was introduced into Japan in the sixth century A.D. from Korea and China. Buddhism introduced ideas into Japanese culture that have become inseparable from the Japanese worldview: the concept of rebirth, ideas of karmic causation, and an emphasis on the unity of experience. It gained the patronage of the ruling class, which supported the building of temples and production of Buddhist art. In the early centuries of Buddhism in Japan, scholarly esoteric sects were popular, and the Buddhist influence was limited mainly to the upper class. From the late Heian period (A.D. 794-1185) through the Kamakura period (1185-1333), Pure Land (Jodo) and Nichiren Shoshu sects, which had much wider appeal, spread throughout all classes of society. These sects stressed experience and faith, promising salvation in a future world. Zen Buddhism, which encourages the attainment of enlightenment through meditation and an austere life-style, had wide appeal among the bushi, or samurai--the warrior class--who had come to have great political power. Under the sponsorship of the ruling military class, Zen had a major impact on Japanese aesthetics. In addition, as Japan scholar Robert N. Bellah has argued, Buddhist sects popular among commoners in the Tokugawa period encouraged values such as hard work and delayed rewards, which, like Protestantism in Europe, helped lay the ideological foundation for Japan's industrial success.

Buddhist funerary and ancestral rites are pervasive in Japan. Although regular attendance at Buddhist temples is rare, partly because many Buddhist sects do not observe community worship, there were in 1991 nearly 75,000 temples and 204,000 clergy. Buddhist as well as Shinto priests marry, and often sons inherit the responsibility for their father's parish at his death. The Nichiren school, based on belief in the Lotus Sutra and its doctrine of universal salvation, was the largest sect in Japan in 1991, with 24,450,257 members. Its wide appeal is based on the broad range of religious and social thought and the lay activities it incorporates.


Japan - Confucianism


Although not practiced as a religion, Confucianism from China has deeply influenced Japanese thought. In essence, Confucianism is the practice of proper forms of conduct, especially in social and familial relationships. It is derived from compilations attributed to the fifth-century B.C. Chinese philosopher Kong Fuzi or Kongzi (Confucius; in Japanese, Koshi). Confucian government was to be a moral government, bureaucratic in form and benevolent toward the ruled. Confucianism also provided a hierarchical system, in which each person was to act according to his or her status to create a harmoniously functioning society and ensure loyalty to the state. The teachings of filial piety and humanity continue to form the foundation for much of social life and ideas about family and nation.

Neo-Confucianism, introduced to Japan in the twelfth century, is an interpretation of nature and society based on metaphysical principles and is influenced by Buddhist and Daoist ideas. In Japan, where it is known as Shushigaku (Shushi School, after the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Xi--Shushi in Japanese), it brought the idea that family stability and social responsibility are human obligations. The school used various metaphysical concepts to explain the natural and social order. Shushigaku, in turn, influenced the kokutai (national polity) theory, which emphasized the special national characteristics of Japan.


Japan - Daoism


Daoism (literally, the way) from China has also influenced Japanese thought and has a special affinity for Zen Buddhism. Zen's praise of emptiness, exhortations to act in harmony with nature, and admonitions to avoid discrimination and duality all are parallel in Daoist beliefs. The lunar calendar, the selection of auspicious days for special events, the sitting of buildings, and numerous folk medicine treatments also have origins in Daoism and continue as customs to varying degrees in contemporary Japanese society. Daoism has also influenced native shamanistic traditions and rituals.


Japan - Christianity


Christianity was introduced in the sixteenth century by Portuguese and Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries, but, because it was associated with Western imperialism and considered a threat to Japanese political control, it was banned from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. With the reopening of Japan in the mid-1850s, missionaries again arrived. While fewer than 1 million people (less than 1 percent of the population) consider themselves Christian in the early 1990s, Christianity is respected for its contributions to society, particularly in education and social action. There are more than 7,600 places of Christian worship in Japan. In the late 1980s, about 64 percent of all Christians belonged to Protestant churches, about 32 percent to the Roman Catholic Church, and about 4 percent to other Christian denominations.


Japan - New Religions


A number of religious organizations are generally labeled "new religions" (shinko shukyo), although some date back to the early nineteenth century. The largest are Soka Gakkai (Value Creation Society), Rissho Koseikai (Society for the Establishment of Justice and Community for the Rise [of Buddhism]), and Tenrikyo (Religion of Divine Wisdom), with more than 17 million, 6 million, and about 2.5 million members, respectively, in the late 1980s. Both Soka Gakkai and Rissho Koseikai are offshoots of the Nichiren Shoshu sect of Buddhism. Tenrikyo was once considered an offshoot of Sect Shinto but is now regarded as independent of other divisions of Shinto. Some of the larger of these new religions are active internationally as well as in Japan.

No one category can be used to describe all of the new religions. What distinguishes them from popular or folk religions is their claim to an organizational status equivalent to Shinto or Buddhism. Their teachings are diverse, but most syncretize elements of Buddhist, Shinto, Christian, and other beliefs. Most emphasize the dependence of the living on kami, the Buddha or Buddhist figures, or ancestors. Some, such as Tenrikyo, are monotheistic and stress individual salvation. For example, Rissho Koseikai adherents gather in small groups to discuss religious issues and problems of daily life. Most of the new religions provide special support to their adherents through small group meetings and encourage solving problems through ritual and proper behavior. Many stress harmonious relations with others, hard work, and sincerity as the way to a better life.

Most of the new religions were founded by charismatic lay people, often women, who had experienced transforming spiritual episodes and felt called upon to convey these experiences to others. They stressed lay participation, involving small, local, face-to-face groups as well as national organizations. They encouraged direct contact with the supernatural, and some groups practiced faith healing and mutual support techniques. People who joined these groups often did so in response to personal problems, but many found continuing fulfillment through their emphasis on returning to traditional values.


Japan - Religious Practice


Most Japanese participate in rituals and customs derived from several religious traditions. Life cycle events are often marked by visits to a Shinto shrine. The birth of a new baby is celebrated with a formal shrine visit at the age of about one month, as are the third, fifth, and seventh birthdays and the official beginning of adulthood at age twenty. Wedding ceremonies are often performed by Shinto priests, but Christian weddings are also popular. In the early 1980s, more than 8 percent of weddings were held in a shrine or temple, and nearly 4 percent were held in a church. The most popular place for a wedding ceremony--chosen by 41 percent--was a wedding hall.

Funerals are most often performed by Buddhist priests, and Buddhist rites are also common on death day anniversaries of deceased family members. Some Japanese do not perform ancestral ceremonies at all, and some do so rather mechanically and awkwardly. But there have also been changes in these practices, such as more personal and private ceremonies and women honoring their own as well as their husband's ancestors, that make them more meaningful to contemporary participants.

There are two categories of holidays in Japan: matsuri (festivals), which are largely of Shinto origin and relate to the cultivation of rice and the spiritual well-being of the community, and nencho gyo (annual events), mainly of Chinese or Buddhist origin. The matsuri were supplemented during the Heian period with more festivals added and were organized into a formal calendar. In addition to the complementary nature of the different holidays, there were later accretions during the feudal period. Very few matsuri or nencho gyo are national holidays, but they are included in the national calendar of annual events.

Most holidays are secular in nature, but the two most significant for the majority of Japanese--New Year's Day for Shinto believers and Obon (also call Bon Festival) for Buddhists, which marks the end of the ancestors' annual visit to their earthly home- -involve visits to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. The New Year's holiday (January 1-3) is marked by the practice of numerous customs and the consumption of special foods. These customs include time for getting together with family and friends, for special television programming, and for visiting Shinto shrines to pray for family blessings in the coming year. Dressing in a kimono, hanging out special decorations, eating noodles on New Year's Eve to show continuity into the new year, and playing a poetry card game are among the more "traditional" practices. During Obon season, in midAugust (or mid-July depending on the locale), bon (spirit altars) are set up in front of Buddhist family altars, which, along with ancestral graves, are cleaned in anticipation of the return of the spirits. As with the New Year's holiday, people living away from their family homes return for visits with relatives. Celebrations include folk dancing and prayers at the Buddhist temple as well as family rituals in the home.

Many Japanese also participate, at least as spectators, in one of the many local matsuri celebrated throughout the country. Matsuri may be sponsored by schools, towns, or other groups but are most often associated with Shinto shrines. As religious festivals, these strike a Western observer as quite commercialized and secular, but the many who plan the events, cook special foods, or carry the floats on their shoulders find renewal of self and of community through participation.


Japan - Religion and the State


Article 20 of the 1947 Constitution states, "Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority". Contemporary religious freedom fits well with the tolerant attitude of most Japanese toward other religious beliefs and practices. Separation of religion and the state, however, is a more difficult issue.

Historically, there was no distinction between a scientific and a religious worldview. In early Japanese history, the ruling class was responsible for performing propitiatory rituals, which later came to be identified as Shinto, and for the introduction and support of Buddhism. Later, religious organization was used by regimes for political purposes, as when the Tokugawa government required each family to be registered as a member of a Buddhist temple for purposes of social control. In the late nineteenth century, rightists created State Shinto, requiring that each family belong to a shrine parish and that the concepts of emperor worship and a national Japanese "family" be taught in the schools.

In the 1980s, the meaning of the separation of state and religion again became controversial. The issue came to a head in 1985 when Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro paid an official visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including leaders from the militarist period in the 1930s and 1940s. Supporters of Nakasone's action (mainly on the political right) argued that the visit was to pay homage to patriots; others claimed that the visit was an attempt to revive State Shinto and nationalistic extremism. The visit was protested by China, North Korea, South Korea, and other countries occupied by Japan in the first half of the twentieth century, and domestically by leftists, intellectuals, and the Japanese news media. Similar cases have occurred at local levels, and courts increasingly have been asked to clarify the division between religion and government. Separating religious elements of the Japanese worldview from what is merely "Japanese" is not easy, especially given the ambiguous role of the emperor, whose divinity was denied in 1945 but who continued to perform functions of both state and religion.




From birth, Japanese are recognized as autonomous human beings. However, from the beginning infants are influenced by society's emphasis on social interdependence. In fact, Japanese human development may be seen as a movement toward mastery of an everexpanding circle of social life, beginning with the family, widening to include school and neighborhood as children grow, and incorporating roles as colleague, inferior, and superior. Viewed in this perspective, socialization does not culminate with adolescence, for the individual must learn to be, for example, a section chief, a parent-teacher association member, or a grandparent at various points in life.

Many Westerners ask whether there is a Japanese self that exists apart from identification with a group. The answer lies in the Japanese distinction between uchi (inside) and soto (outside). These terms are relative, and the "we" implied in uchi can refer to the individual, the family, a work group, a company, a neighborhood, or even all of Japan. But it is always defined in opposition to a "they." The context or situation thus calls for some level of definition of self. When an American businessman meets a Japanese counterpart, the Japanese will define himself as a member of a particular company with which the American is doing business. However, if the American makes a cultural mistake, the Japanese is likely to define himself as Japanese as distinguished from a foreigner. The American might go away from his encounter with the belief that the Japanese think of themselves only as members of a group. The same person attending a school event with one of his children might be defined at the level of his family or household. Viewed relaxing at home or playing golf with former classmates, he would perhaps have reached a level of definition more similar to an American concept of self.

From childhood, however, Japanese are taught that this level of self should not be assertive but rather should be considerate of the needs of others; the private emotions, and perhaps the funloving , relaxed side of Japanese individuals are tolerated and even admired as long as these do not interfere with the performance of more public responsibilities. The proper performance of social roles is necessary to the smooth functioning of society. Individuals, aware of private inner selves (and even resistance to the very roles they perform), use a shifting scale of uchi and soto to define themselves in various situations.

<>Popular Culture
<>The Lives of Women
<>The Elderly


Japan - Family


The family is the earliest locus of social life for an individual, and it provides a model of social organization for most later encounters with the wider world. Yet, as uchi, the Japanese family does not have clear boundaries. At times, it may refer to a nuclear family of parents and unmarried children. On other occasions, it refers to a line of descent, and on still others, it refers to the household as a unit of production or consumption.

A great variety of family forms have existed historically in Japan, from the matrilocal customs of the Heian elite, which are described in Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji), to the extreme patrilineality of the samurai class in the feudal period. Numerous family forms, through which ran a common belief in the existence of the family-household beyond the life of its current members, coexisted particularly in the countryside. Among the upper classes and wealthier merchant and artisan urban households of the Tokugawa period, the chonin, providing for household continuity, and if possible enriching the household's estate, represented duty to one's ancestors and appreciation toward one's parents.

With the promulgation of the Domestic Relations and Inheritance Law in 1898, the Japanese government institutionalized more rigid family controls than most people had known in the feudal period. Individuals were registered in an official family registry. In the early twentieth century, each family was required to conform to the ie (household) system, with a multigenerational household under the legal authority of a household head. In establishing the ie system, the government moved the ideology of family in the opposite direction of trends resulting from urbanization and industrialization. The ie system took as its model for the family the Confucian-influenced pattern of the upper classes of the Tokugawa period. Authority and responsibility for all members of the ie lay legally with the household head. Each generation supplied a male and female adult, with a preference for inheritance by the first son and for patrilocal marriage. When possible, daughters were expected to marry out, and younger sons were expected to establish their own households. Women could not legally own or control property or select spouses. The ie system thus artificially restricted the development of individualism, individual rights, women's rights, and the nuclearization of the family. It formalized patriarchy and emphasized lineal and instrumental, rather than conjugal and emotional ties, within the family.

After World War II, the Allied occupation forces established a new family ideology based on equal rights for women, equal inheritance by all children, and free choice of spouse and career. From the late 1960s, most marriages in Japan have been based on the mutual attraction of the couple and not the arrangement by the parents. Moreover, arranged marriages might begin with an introduction by a relative or family friend, but actual negotiations do not begin until all parties, including the bride and groom, are satisfied with the relationship.

Under the ie system, only a minority of households included three generations at a time because nonsuccessor sons (those who were not heirs) often set up their own household. From 1970 to 1983, the proportion of three-generation households fell from 19 percent to 15 percent of all households, while twogeneration households consisting of a couple and their unmarried children increased only slightly, from 41 percent to 42 percent of all households. The greatest change has been the increase in couple-only households and in elderly single-person households.

Public opinion surveys in the late 1980s seemed to confirm the statistical movement away from the three-generation ie family model. Half of the respondents did not think that the first son had a special role to play in the family, and nearly two-thirds rejected the need for adoption of a son in order to continue the family. Other changes, such as an increase in filial violence and school refusal, suggest a breakdown of strong family authority.

Official statistics, however, indicate that Japanese concepts of family continued to diverge from those in the United States in the 1980s. The divorce rate, although increasing slowly, remained at 1.3 per 1,000 marriages in 1987, low by international standards. Strong gender roles remained the cornerstone of family responsibilities. Most survey respondents said that family life should emphasize parent-child ties over husband-wife relations. Nearly 80 percent of respondents in a 1986 government survey believed that the ancestral home and family grave should be carefully kept and handed on to one's children. More than 60 percent thought it best for elderly parents to live with one of their children. This sense of family as a unit that continues through time is stronger among people who have a livelihood to pass down, such as farmers, merchants, owners of small companies, and physicians, than among urban salary and wage earners. Anthropologist Jane M. Bachnik noted the continued emphasis on continuity in the rural families she studied. Uchi (here, the contemporary family) were considered the living members of an ie, which had no formal existence. Yet, in each generation, there occurred a sorting of members into permanent and temporary members, defining different levels of uchi.

Various family life-styles exist side by side in contemporary Japan. In many urban salaryman families, the husband may commute to work and return late, having little time with his children except for Sundays, a favorite day for family outings. The wife might be a "professional housewife," with nearly total responsibility for raising children, ensuring their careers and marriages, running the household, and managing the family budget. She also has primary responsibility for maintaining social relations with the wider circles of relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances and for managing the family's reputation. Her social life remains separate from that of her husband. It is increasingly likely that in addition to these family responsibilities, she may also have a part-time job or participate in adult education or other community activities. The closest emotional ties within such families are between the mother and children.

In other families, particularly among the self-employed, husband and wife work side by side in a family business. Although gender-based roles are clear cut, they might not be as rigidly distinct as in a household where work and family are more separated. In such families, fathers are more involved in their children's development because they have more opportunity for interacting with them.

As women worked outside of the home with increasing frequency beginning in the 1970s, there was pressure on their husbands to take on more responsibility for housework and child care. Farm families, who depend on nonfarm employment for most of their income, are also developing patterns of interaction different from those of previous generations.


Japan - Neighborhood


Beyond the family, the next group to which children are introduced is the neighborhood. Although the loose, informal groups of children who wandered through villages of the past have no counterpart in contemporary heavily trafficked city streets, neighborhood playgrounds and the grounds of local shrines and temples are sites where young children, accompanied by mothers, begin to learn to get along with others.

Among neighbors, there is great concern for face. In old urban neighborhoods or rural villages, families may have been neighbors for generations and thus expect relationships of assistance and cooperation to continue into the future. In newer company housing, neighbors represent both competition and stress at the workplace, which cannot be expressed. Extra care is taken to maintain proper relations while maximizing family privacy. Participation in neighborhood activities is not mandatory, but nonparticipants might lose face. If a family plans to stay in an area, people feel strong pressures to participate in public projects such as neighborhood cleanups or seasonal festivals. Concern for the family's reputation is real because background checks for marriage and employment might include asking neighbors their opinions about a family. More positively, neighbors become uchi for certain purposes, such as local merchants providing personal services, physicians responding to calls for minor ailments and emergency treatment, and neighbors taking care of children while their mother goes out.

People who work in the neighborhood where they live often have a different attitude from those who spend most of their waking hours at distant workplaces, creating differences in character between the central city and the suburbs. Central city areas, dominated by the old middle class of artisans, merchants, and small business owners, generally have more active neighborhood associations and other local groups, such as merchant associations and shrine associations. The neighborhood association's activities include public sanitation and health, volunteer firefighting, disaster preparedness, crime prevention, information exchange, and recreational activities, particularly for children and the elderly. In new urban or suburban developments, local governments might take a more active role in performing these functions. In neighborhoods with mixtures of new and old middle-class residents, it is people with the time and interest, most likely those with businesses in the area, who are active in neighborhood affairs. The activities of women and children, however, might cut across such class distinctions. The emphasis on good relations with neighbors helps counteract the potential depersonalization of urban living. Working together on community projects, exchanging information, and cooperating in community rituals, such as festivals, helps maintain a sense of community.

The consequences of economic growth are examined more closely by consumers, who by 1980s began to demand higher-quality social services, more libraries and cultural centers, greater access to sports facilities, and more parkland. Attention is increasingly focused on the adverse effects of urban life on families: modern children are seen as more demanding and less disciplined than their forebears, who had experienced war and poverty.

Despite these problems, urban life is much safer and more convenient than in many other countries. In contrast to most industrialized nations, urban crime rates are declining. The streets of Tokyo are safe even at night, and a public campaign is more likely to urge residents to lock their doors than to suggest they install deadbolts. Public transportation is congested but convenient, clean, punctual, and relatively inexpensive. Complaints are heard, however, that railroad station parking lots are too small to accommodate all commuter bicycles. In urban areas, houses are close together; but at the same time, shops are close by, and housewives can easily purchase fresh vegetables and fish daily. Urban life is made more attractive for many by a wide variety of cultural and sports activities, including the symphony orchestra, theater, sumo, professional baseball, museums, and art galleries.


Japan - Workplace


Entry into the labor force widens the circle of social relationships. For many adults, these contacts are important sources of friendships and resources. For men especially, the workplace is the focus of their social world. Many both in and outside of Japan share an image of the Japanese workplace that is based on a lifetime-employment model used by large companies. These employment practices came about as the result of labor shortages in the 1920s, when companies competed to recruit and retain the best workers by offering better benefits and job security. By the 1960s, employment at a large prestigious company had become the goal of children of the new middle class, the pursuit of which required mobilization of family resources and great individual perseverance in order to achieve success in the fiercely competitive education system.

Lifetime employment refers not to a worker's lifetime but to the time from school graduation until mandatory retirement, at age sixty for most men. Workers are recruited directly out of school, and large investments are made in training. Employees are expected to work hard and demonstrate loyalty to the firm, in exchange for some degree of job security and benefits, such as housing subsidies, good insurance, the use of recreational facilities, and bonuses and pensions. Wages begin low, but seniority is rewarded, with promotions based on a combination of seniority and ability. Leadership is not based on assertiveness or quick decision making but on the ability to create consensus, taking into account the needs of subordinates. Surveys indicate continued preference for bosses who are demanding but show concern for workers' private lives over less-demanding bosses interested only in performance on the job. This system rewards behavior demonstrating identification with the team effort, indicated by singing the company song, not taking all of one's vacation days, and sharing credit for accomplishments with the work group. Pride in one's work is expressed through competition with other parallel sections in the company and between one's company and other companies in similar lines of business. Thus, individuals are motivated to maintain wa (harmony) and participate in group activities, not only on the job but also in after-hours socializing. The image of group loyalty, however, may be more a matter of ideology than practice, especially for people who do not make it to the top.

Every worker does not, however, enjoy the benefits of such employment practices and work environments. Although 64 percent of households in 1985 depended on wages or salaries for most of their income, most of these workers were employed by small and mediumsized firms that could not afford the benefits or achieve the successes of the large companies, despite the best intentions of owners. Even in the large corporations, distinctions between permanent and temporary employees made many workers, often women, ineligible for benefits and promotions. These workers were also the first to be laid off in difficult business conditions. Japan scholar Dorinne K. Kondo compares the status of permanent and temporary workers with Bachnik's distinctions between permanent and temporary members of an ie, creating degrees of inside and outside within a firm. Traditions of entrepreneurship and of inheritance of the means of livelihood continued among merchants, artisans, farmers, and fishermen, still nearly 20 percent of the work force in 1985. These workers gave up security for autonomy and, when economically necessary, supplemented household income with wage employment. Traditionally, such businesses use unpaid family labor, but wives or even husbands are likely to go off to work in factories or offices and leave spouses or retired parents to work the farm or mind the shop. On the one hand, policies of decentralization provide factory jobs locally for families that farm part time; on the other hand, unemployment created by deindustrialization affects rural as well as urban workers. Whereas unemployment is low in Japan compared with other industrialized nations (less than 3 percent through the late 1980s), an estimated 400,000 day laborers share none of the security or affluence enjoyed by those employees with lifetime-employment benefits.

Although Japanese workers are known worldwide for their hard work and dedication to their firms, more than 50 percent of respondents of a 1988 government survey said that they would rather have more free time than increased income. The proportion preferring free time to increased income was greater among professionals, supervisors, and white-collar workers. There was also evidence of increased interfirm mobility among some types of workers in the late 1980s, as a result of a labor shortage and changing attitudes toward work among young people.


Japan - Popular Culture


Japanese popular culture not only reflects the attitudes and concerns of the present, but it provides a link to the past. Popular films, television programs, comics, and music all developed from older artistic and literary traditions, and many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms. Contemporary forms of popular culture, like the traditional forms, provide not only entertainment but also an escape for the contemporary Japanese from the problems of an industrial world. When asked how they spent their leisure time, 80 percent of a sample of men and women surveyed by the government in 1986 saiid they averaged about two and one-half hours per weekday watching television, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers or magazines. Some 16 percent spent an average of two and one-quarter hours a day engaged in hobbies or amusements. Others spent leisure time participating in sports, socializing, and personal study. Teenagers and retired people reported more time spent on all of these activities than did other groups.

In the late 1980s, the family was the focus of leisure activities, such as excursions to parks or shopping districts. Although Japan is often thought of as a hard-working society with little time for pleasure, the Japanese seek entertainment wherever they can. It is common to see Japanese commuters riding the train to work, enjoying their favorite comic book or listening through earphones to the latest in popular music on cassette players.

Japan has about 100 million television sets in use, and television is the main source of home entertainment and information for most of the population. The Japanese has a wide variety of programs to choose from, including the various dramas (police, crime, home, and samurai), cartoons, news, and game, quiz, and sports shows provide by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK) general station, the NHK educational station, and numerous commercial and independent stations. The violence of the samurai and police dramas and the scatological humor of the cartoons draws criticism from mothers and commentators. Characters in dramas and cartoons often reflect racial and gender stereotypes. Women news anchors are not given equal exposure in news broadcasts, and few women are portrayed on television in high career positions.

Individuals also choose from a variety of types of popular entertainment. There is a large selection of musical tapes, films, television programs, and the products of a huge comic book industry, among other forms of entertainment, from which to choose.


Japan - The Lives of Women


Gender has been an important principle of stratification throughout Japanese history, but the cultural elaboration of gender differences has varied over time and among different social classes. In the twelfth century, for example, women could inherit property in their own names and manage it by themselves. Later, under feudal governments, the status of women declined. Peasant women continued to have de facto freedom of movement and decisionmaking power, but upper-class women's lives were subject to the patrilineal and patriarchal ideology supported by the government as part of its efforts at social control. With early industrialization, young women participated in factory work under exploitive and unhealthy working conditions without gaining personal autonomy. In the Meiji period, industrialization and urbanization lessened the authority of fathers and husbands, but at the same time the Meiji Civil Code denied women legal rights and subjugated them to the will of household heads. Peasant women were less affected by the institutionalization of this trend, but it gradually spread even to remote areas. In the 1930s and 1940s, the government encouraged the formation of women's associations, applauded high fertility, and regarded motherhood as a patriotic duty to the Japanese Empire.

After World War II, the legal position of women was redefined by the occupation authorities, who included an equal rights clause in the 1947 Constitution and the revised Civil Code of 1948. Individual rights were given precedence over obligation to family. Women as well as men were guaranteed the right to choose spouses and occupations, to inherit and own property in their own names, to initiate divorce, and to retain custody of their children. Women were given the right to vote in 1946. Other postwar reforms opened education institutions to women and required that women receive equal pay for equal work. In 1986 the Equal Employment Opportunity Law took effect. Legally, few barriers to women's equal participation in the life of society remain.

Gender inequality, however, continues in family life, the workplace, and popular values. The notion expressed in the proverbial phrase "good wife, wise mother," continues to influence beliefs about gender roles. Most women may not be able to realize that ideal, but many believe that it is in their own, their children's, and society's best interests that they stay home to devote themselves to their children, at least while the children were young. Many women find satisfaction in family life and in the accomplishments of their children, gaining a sense of fulfillment from doing good jobs as household managers and mothers. In most households, women are responsible for their family budgets and make independent decisions about the education, careers, and life-styles of their families. Women also take the social blame for problems of family members.

Women's educational opportunities have increased in the twentieth century. Among new workers in 1989, 37 percent of women had received education beyond upper-secondary school, compared with 43 percent of men, but most women had received their postsecondary education in junior colleges and technical schools rather than in universities and graduate schools.

In 1990 approximately 50 percent of all women over fifteen years of age participated in the paid labor force. At that time, two major changes in the female work force were under way. The first was a move away from household-based employment. Peasant women and those from merchant and artisan families had always worked. With self-employment becoming less common, though, the more usual pattern was separation of home and workplace, creating new problems of child care, care of the elderly, and housekeeping responsibilities. The second major change was the increased participation of married women in the labor force. In the 1950s, most women employees were young and single; 62 percent of the female labor force in 1960 had never been married. In 1987 about 66 percent of the female labor force was married, and only 23 percent was made up women who had never married. Some women continued working after marriage, most often in professional and government jobs, but their numbers were small. Others started their own businesses or took over family businesses. More commonly, women left paid labor after marriage, then returned after their youngest children were in school. These middle-age recruits generally took low-paying, part-time service or factory jobs. They continued to have nearly total responsibility for home and children and often justified their employment as an extension of their responsibilities for the care of their families. Despite legal support for equality and some improvement in their status, married women understood that their husbands' jobs demanded long hours and extreme commitment. Because women earned an average of only 60 percent as much as men, most did not find it advantageous to take full-time, responsible jobs after marriage, if doing so left no one to manage the household and care for children.

Yet women's status in the labor force was changing in the late 1980s, most likely as a result of changes brought about by the aging of the population. Longer life expectancies, smaller families and bunched births, and lowered expectations of being cared for in old age by their children have all led women to participate more fully in the labor force. At the same time, service job opportunities in the postindustrial economy expanded, and there were fewer new male graduates to fill them.

Some of the same demographic factors--low birth rates and high life expectancies--also change workplace demands on husbands. For example, men recognize their need for a different kind of relationship with their wives in anticipation of long postretirement periods.


Japan - The Elderly


Another key principle in the stratification of Japanese society is age. "Acting one's age" may be more important in Japan than in some other societies, resulting in relatively narrow age-ranges for such life cycle-events as university education, first job, or marriage. This pattern fits with the value placed on playing social roles appropriately.

Old age ideally represents a time of relaxation of social obligations, assisting with the family farm or business without carrying the main responsibility, socializing, and receiving respectful care from family and esteem from the community. In the late 1980s, high (although declining) rates of suicide among older people and the continued existence of temples where one could pray for quick death indicated that this ideal was not always fulfilled. Japan has a national holiday called Respect for the Aged Day, but for most people it is merely another day for picnics or an occasion when the commuter trains run on holiday schedules. True respect for the elderly may be questioned when buses and trains carry signs above specially reserved seats to remind people to give up their seats for elderly riders. Although the elderly might not have been accorded generalized respect based on age, many older Japanese continued to live full lives that included gainful employment and close relationships with adult children.

Although the standard retirement age in Japan throughout most of the postwar period was fifty-five, people aged sixty-five and over in Japan were more likely to work than in any other developed country in the 1980s. In 1987 about 36 percent of men and 15 percent of women in this age-group were in the labor force. With better pension benefits and decreased opportunities for agricultural or other self-employed work, however, labor force participation by the elderly has been decreasing since 1960. In 1986 about 90 percent of Japanese surveyed said that they wished to continue working after age sixty-five. They indicated both financial and health reasons for this choice. Other factors, such as a strong work ethic and the centering of men's social ties around the workplace, may also be relevant. Employment was not always available, however, and men and women who worked after retirement usually took substantial cuts in salary and prestige. Between 1981 and 1986, the proportion of people sixty and over who reported that a public pension was their major source of income increased from 35 percent to 53 percent, while those relying most on earnings for income fell from 31 to 25 percent and those relying on children decreased from 16 to 9 percent.

In the 1980s, there was a major trend toward the elderly maintaining separate households rather than co-residing with the families of adult children. The proportion living with children decreased from 77 percent in 1970 to 65 percent in 1985, although this rate was still much higher than in other industrialized countries. The number of elderly living in Japan's retirement or nursing homes also increased from around 75,000 in 1970 to more than 216,000 in 1987; still, this group was a small portion of the total elderly population. People living alone or only with spouses constituted 32 percent of the sixty-five-and-over group. Less than half of those responding to a government survey believed that it was the duty of the eldest son to care for parents, but 63 percent replied that it was natural for children to take care of their elderly parents. The motive of co-residence seems to have changed, from being the expected arrangement of an agricultural society to being an option for coping with circumstances such as illness or widowhood in a postindustrial society.

Concern for the health of the aged receives a great deal of attention, and nearly free medical care for people over seventy years of age is a national policy. Responsibility for the care of the aged, bedridden, or senile, however, still devolves mainly on family members, usually daughters-in-law.




While most postwar Japanese relied on personal savings and the support of family, both the government and private companies have long provided assistance for the ill or otherwise disabled and for the old. Beginning in the 1920s, the government enacted a series of welfare programs, based mainly on European models, to provide medical care and financial support. Government expenditures for all forms of social welfare increased from 6 percent of national income in the early 1970s to 18 percent in 1989. The mixtures of public and private funding have created complex pension and insurance systems.

Health Care

A person who becomes ill in Japan has a number of options. One may visit a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine, or send a family member in his or her place. There are numerous folk remedies, including hot springs baths and chemical and herbal over-the- counter medications. A person may seek the assistance of traditional healers, such as herbalists, masseurs, and acupuncturists. However, Western biomedicine dominated Japanese medical care in the postwar period.

Public health services, including free screening examinations for particular diseases, prenatal care, and infectious disease control, are provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal medical insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government committee. People without insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Since 1973, all elderly persons have been covered by government-sponsored insurance. Patients are free to select physicians or facilities of their choice.

In the early 1990s, there were more than 1,000 mental hospitals, 8,700 general hospitals, and 1,000 comprehensive hospitals with a total capacity of 1.5 million beds. Hospitals provided both out-patient and in-patient care. In addition, 79,000 clinics offered primarily out-patient services, and there were 48,000 dental clinics. Most physicians and hospitals sold medicine directly to patients, but there were 36,000 pharmacies where patients could purchase synthetic or herbal medication.

National health expenditures rose from about ¥1 trillion in 1965 to nearly ¥20 trillion in 1989, or from slightly more than 5 percent to more than 6 percent of Japan's national income. In addition to cost-control problems, the system was troubled with excessive paperwork, long waits to see physicians, assembly-line care for out-patients (because few facilities made appointments), overmedication, and abuse of the system because of low out-of-pocket costs to patients. Another problem is an uneven distribution of health personnel, with cities favored over rural areas.

In the late 1980s, government and professional circles were considering changing the system so that primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of care would be clearly distinguished within each geographical region. Further, facilities would be designated by level of care and referrals would be required to obtain more complex care. Policy makers and administrators also recognized the need to unify the various insurance systems and to control costs.

In the early 1990s, there were nearly 191,400 physicians, 66,800 dentists, and 333,000 nurses, plus more than 200,000 people licensed to practiced massage, acupuncture, moxibustion, and other East Asian therapeutic methods. Since around 1900, Chinese-style herbalists have been required to be licensed medical doctors. Training was professionalized and, except for East Asian healers, was based on a biomedical model of disease. However, the practice of biomedicine was influenced as well by Japanese social organization and cultural expectations concerning education, the organization of the workplace, and social relations of status and dependency, decision-making styles, and ideas about the human body, causes of illness, gender, individualism, and privacy. Anthropologist Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney notes that "daily hygienic behavior and its underlying concepts, which are perceived and expressed in terms of biomedical germ theory, in fact are directly tied to the basic Japanese symbolic structure."

Although the number of cases remained small by international standards, public health officials were concerned in the late 1980s about the worldwide epidemic of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The first confirmed case of AIDS in Japan was reported in 1985. By 1991 there were 553 reported cases, and by April 1992 the number had risen to 2,077. While frightened by the deadliness of the disease yet sympathetic to the plight of hemophiliac AIDS patients, most Japanese are unconcerned with contracting AIDS themselves. Various levels of government responded to the introduction of AIDS into the heterosexual population by establishing government committees, mandating AIDS education, and advising testing for the general public without targeting special groups. A fund, underwritten by pharmaceutical companies that distributed imported blood products, was established in 1988 to provide financial compensation for AIDS patients.

Social Welfare

The futures of Japan's health and welfare systems are being shaped by the rapid aging of the population. Medical insurance, health care for the elderly, and public health expenses constituted about 60 percent of social welfare and social security costs in 1975, while government pensions accounted for 20 percent. By the early 1980s, pensions accounted for nearly 50 percent of social welfare and social security expenditures because people were living longer after retirement. A fourfold increase in workers' individual contributions was projected by the twenty-first century.

A major revision in the public pension system in 1986 unified several former plans into the single Employee Pension Insurance Plan. In addition to merging the former plans, the 1986 reform attempted to reduce benefits to hold down increases in worker contribution rates. It also established the right of women who did not work outside the home to pension benefits of their own, not only as a dependent of a worker. Everyone aged between twenty and sixty was a compulsory member of this Employee Pension Insurance Plan.

Despite complaints that these pensions amounted to little more than "spending money," an increasing number of people planning for their retirement counted on them as an important source of income. Benefits increased so that the basic monthly pension was about US$420 in 1987, with future payments adjusted to the consumer price index. Forty percent of elderly households in 1985 depended on various types of annuities and pensions as their only sources of income.

Some people are also eligible for corporate retirement allowances. About 90 percent of firms with thirty or more employees gave retirement allowances in the late 1980s, frequently as lump sum payments but increasingly in the form of annuities.

Japan also has public assistance programs benefiting about 1 percent of the population. About 33 percent of recipients are elderly people, 45 percent were households with sick or disabled members, and 14 percent are fatherless families, and 8 percent are in other categories.

Japanese often claim to outsiders that their society is homogeneous. By world standards, the Japanese enjoy a high standard of living, and nearly 90 percent of the population consider themselves part of the middle class. Most people express satisfaction with their lives and take great pride in being Japanese and in their country's status as an economic power on a par with the United States and Western Europe. In folk crafts and in right-wing politics, in the new religions and in international management, the Japanese have turned to their past to interpret the present. In doing so, however, they may be reconstructing history as a common set of beliefs and practices that make the country look more homogeneous than it really is.

In a society that values outward conformity, individuals may appear to take a back seat to the needs of the group. Yet it is individuals who create for themselves a variety of life-styles. They are constrained in their choices by age, gender, life experiences, and other factors, but they draw from a rich cultural repertoire of past and present through which the wider social world of families, neighborhoods, and institutions gives meaning to their lives. As Japan set out to internationalize itself in the 1990s, the identification of inherent Japanese qualities took on new significance, and the ideology of homogeneity sometimes masked individual decisions and life-styles of postindustrial Japan.


Japan - Education and the Arts


JAPANESE CULTURAL VALUES are deeply imbedded in the country's richly varied, ancient past. Rooted in the native religion of Shinto (Way of the Gods), these values are also heavily indebted to the continental influences of Buddhism and Confucianism. In Shinto, gods permeate the universe and are perceived as embodied in specific places, such as sacred Mount Fuji and the Nachi Falls, or as tutelary spirits of rocks and trees. Therefore, a reverence for nature and admiration for particular scenic places are pervasive in Japanese art, echoed in literary descriptions and expressed in architectural concepts that remove walls to allow the outside in and in avant-garde smoke sculptures, which recreate mists. Shinto concepts of ritual cleanliness, purification, and renewal have played a role in preserving the forms of ancient shrines like that at Ise and have nurtured handicrafts. They also have shaped some funereal practices, for example, the clay sculptures or haniwa in the Kofun period (ca. A.D. 250-CA. 600), which provided the first real likeness of the ancient Japanese.

Buddhist thought was fundamental to the formulation of most of Japan's arts, blending and absorbing elements from the protohistoric Shinto. Basic to Buddhist thought is the comprehension of the universe as in constant flux, which results in emphasis on the idea that all living things perish or are transformed in the chain of existence. From this view comes a feeling for "the poignancy of things" (mono no aware), a frequent element in literature beginning in the Heian period (A.D. 794-1185). Cherry blossoms are appreciated for their short-lived beauty, which symbolizes the samurai ideal of a brilliant life with a sudden, dramatic end. Zen Buddhism affirms the values of rustic simplicity and finding pleasure in the ordinary or minimal; it stresses austerity, simplicity, and brevity in all things and a life of solitude and contemplation, ideas that, together with Zen teaching devices, found expression in the tea ceremony, short poems, spontaneous ink paintings, and meditation gardens.

Chinese artistic forms and philosophical concepts have been variously integrated and modified over the centuries by the Japanese. Confucianism glorifies the cultivation of wisdom: the scholarly life is its ideal, as are the virtues of ethical behavior, sincerity, and a desire for social harmony. All these elements were embodied in the gentleman-scholar and his successors, the teacher-scholar and the artist-writer, whose proficiency in language and use of the brush made literature and calligraphy the most admired art forms.

Japanese children are taught a reverence for learning and are trained in the traditional arts both within the school system and outside. Instruction in music, calligraphy, flower arrangement, and the tea ritual may begin at home, but soon the child studies with a skilled practitioner. Only the martial arts, such as judo or Japanese fencing (kendo), are generally limited to men. Men often practice the other arts as well. Such early introduction to, and widespread participation in, different expressions of Japanese heritage lead to support for traditional cultural values and the appreciation throughout society of artistic qualities.





Many of the historical and cultural characteristics that shape Japanese arts shape its education as well. Japanese tradition stresses respect for society and the established order and prizes group goals above individual interests. Sschooling also emphasize diligence, self-criticism, and well-organized study habits. More generally, the belief is ingrained that hard work and perseverance will yield success in life. Much of official school life is devoted directly or indirectly to teaching correct attitudes and moral values and to developing character, with the aim of creating a citizenry that is both literate and attuned to the basic values of culture and society.

At the same time, the academic achievement of Japanese students is extremely high by international standards. Japanese children consistently rank at or near the top in successive international tests of mathematics. The system is characterized by high enrollment and retention rates throughout. An entrance examination system, particularly important at the college level, exerts strong influences throughout the entire system. The structure does not consist exclusively of government-sponsored, formal official education institutions. Private education also forms an important part of the educational landscape, and the role of schools outside the official school system can not be ignored.

A majority of children begin their education by attending preschool, although it is not part of the official system. The official structure provides compulsory free schooling and a sound and balanced education to virtually all children from grade one through grade nine. Upper-secondary school, from grades ten through twelve, although also not compulsory, attracts about 94 percent of those who complet lower-secondary school. About one-third of all Japanese upper-secondary school graduates advance to postsecondary education--to full four-year universities, two-year junior colleges, or to other institutions.

Japan is a highly education-minded society. Education is esteemed, and educational achievement is often the prerequisite for success in work and in society at large.

Historical Background

Japan has had relations with other cultures since the dawn of its history. Foreign civilizations have often provided new ideas for the development of Japan's own culture. Chinese teachings and ideas, for example, flowed into Japan from the sixth to the ninth century. Along with the introduction of Buddhism came the Chinese system of writing and its literary tradition, and Confucianism.

By the ninth century, Kyoto, the imperial capital, had five institutions of higher learning, and during the remainder of the Heian period, other schools were established by the nobility and the imperial court. During the medieval period (1185-1600), Zen Buddhist monasteries were especially important centers of learning, and the Ashikaga School (Ashikaga Gakko) flourished in the fifteenth century as a center of higher learning.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Japan experienced intense contact with the major European powers. Jesuit missionaries, who accompanied Portuguese traders, proselytized Christianity and opened a number of religious schools. Japanese students thus began to study Latin and Western music, as well as their own language.

By 1603 Japan had been reunified by the Tokugawa regime (1600- 1867), and by 1640 foreigners had been ordered out of Japan, Christianity banned, and virtually all foreign contact prohibited. The nation then entered a period of isolation and relative domestic tranquillity, which was to last 200 years. When the Tokugawa period began, few common people in Japan could read or write. By the period's end, learning had become widespread. Tokugawa education left a valuable legacy: an increasingly literate populace, a meritocratic ideology, and an emphasis on discipline and competent performance. Under subsequent Meiji leadership, this foundation would facilitate Japan's rapid transition from feudal country to modern nation.

During the Tokugawa period, the role of many of the bushi, or samurai, changed from warrior to administrator, and as a consequence, their formal education and their literacy increased proportionally. Samurai curricula stressed morality and included both military and literary studies. Confucian classics were memorized, and reading and recitating them were common methods of study. Arithmetic and calligraphy were also studied. Most samurai attended schools sponsored by their han (domains), and by the time of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, more than 200 of the 276 han had established schools. Some samurai and even commoners also attended private academies, which often specialized in particular Japanese subjects or in Western medicine, modern military science, gunnery, or Rangaku (Dutch studies), as European studies were called.

Education of commoners was generally practically oriented, providing basic training in reading, writing, and arithmetic, emphasizing calligraphy and use of the abacus. Much of this education was conducted in so-called temple schools (terakoya), derived from earlier Buddhist schools. These schools were no longer religious institutions, nor were they, by 1867, predominantly located in temples. By the end of the Tokugawa period, there may have been more than 14,000 such schools. Teaching techniques included reading from various textbooks, memorizing, and repeatedly copying Chinese characters and Japanese script.

After 1868 new leadership set Japan on a rapid course of modernization. Realizing from the outset that education was fundamental to nation building and modernization, the Meiji leaders established a public education system to help Japan catch up with the West. Missions were sent abroad to study the education systems of leading Western countries. These missions and other observers returned with the ideas of decentralization, local school boards, and teacher autonomy. Such ideas and ambitious initial plans, however, proved very difficult to carry out. After some trial and error, a new national education system emerged. As an indication of its success, elementary school enrollments climbed from about 40 or 50 percent of the school-age population in the 1870s to more than 90 percent by 1900.

By the 1890s, after earlier intensive preoccupation with Western, particularly United States, educational ideas, a much more conservative and traditional orientation evolved: the education system became more reflective of Japanese values. Confucian precepts were stressed, especially those concerning the hierarchical nature of human relations, service to the new state, the pursuit of learning, and morality. These ideals, embodied in the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, along with highly centralized government control over education, largely guided Japanese education until the end of World War II.

In the early twentieth century, education at the primary level was egalitarian and virtually universal, but at higher levels it was multitracked, highly selective, and elitist. College education was largely limited to the few national universities, where German influences were strong. Three of the imperial universities admitted women, and there were a number of women's colleges, some quite prestigious, but women had relatively few opportunities to enter higher education. During this period, a number of universities were founded by Christian missionaries, who also took an active role in expanding educational opportunities for women, particularly at the secondary level.

After 1919 several of the private universities received official status and were granted government recognition for programs they had conducted, in many cases, since the 1880s. In the 1920s, the tradition of liberal education briefly reappeared, particularly at the kindergarten level, where the Montessori method attracted a following. In the 1930s, education was subject to strong military and nationalistic influences.

By 1945 the Japanese education system had been devastated, and with the defeat came the discredit of much prewar thought. A new wave of foreign ideas was introduced during the postwar period of military occupation .

Occupation policy makers and the United States Education Mission, set up in 1946, made a number of changes aimed at democratizing Japanese education: instituting the six-three-three grade structure (six years of elementary school, three of lower- secondary school, and three of upper-secondary school) and extending compulsory schooling to nine years. They replaced the prewar system of higher-secondary schools with comprehensive upper- secondary schools (high schools). Curricula and textbooks were revised, the nationalistic morals course was abolished and replaced with social studies, locally elected school boards were introduced, and teachers unions established.

With the abolition of the elitist higher education system and an increase in the number of higher education institutions, the opportunities for higher learning grew. Expansion was accomplished initially by granting university or junior college status to a number of technical institutes, normal schools, and advanced secondary schools.

After the restoration of full national sovereignty in 1952, Japan immediately began to modify some of the changes in education, to reflect Japanese ideas about education and educational administration. The postwar Ministry of Education regained a great deal of power. School boards were appointed, instead of elected. A course in moral education was reinstituted in modified form, despite substantial initial concern that it would lead to a renewal of heightened nationalism.

By the 1960s, postwar recovery and accelerating economic growth brought new demands to expand higher education. But as the expectations grew that the quality of higher education would improve, the costs of higher education also increased. In general, the 1960s was a time of great turbulence in higher education. Late in the decade especially, universities in Japan were rocked by violent student riots that disrupted many campuses. Campus unrest was the confluence of a number of factors, including the anti- Vietnam War movement in Japan, ideological differences between various Japanese student groups, disputes over campus issues, such as discipline; student strikes, and even general dissatisfaction with the university system itself.

The government responded with the University Control Law in 1969 and, in the early 1970s, with further education reforms. New laws governed the founding of new universities and teachers' compensation, and public school curricula were revised. Private education institutions began to receive public aid, and a nationwide standardized university entrance examination was added for the national universities. Also during this period, strong disagreement developed between the government and teachers groups.

Despite the numerous educational changes that have occurred in Japan since 1868, and especially since 1945, the education system still reflects long-standing cultural and philosophical ideas: that learning and education are esteemed and to be pursued seriously, and that moral and character development are integral to education. The meritocratic legacy of the Meiji period has endured, as has the centralized education structure. Interest remains in adapting foreign ideas and methods to Japanese traditions and in improving the system generally.

Education Reform

In spite of the admirable success of the education system since World War II, problems remained through the 1980s. Some of these difficulties as perceived by domestic and foreign observers included rigidity, excessive uniformity, lack of choices, undesirable influences of the university examinations, and overriding emphasis on formal educational credentials. There was also a belief that education was responsible for some social problems and for the general academic, behavioral, and adjustment problems of some students. There was great concern too that Japanese education be responsive to the new requirements caused by international challenges of the changing world in the twenty-first century.

Flexibility, creativity, internationalization (kokusaika), individuality, and diversity thus became the watchwords of Japan's momentous education reform movement of the 1980s, although they echoed themes heard earlier, particularly in the 1970s. The proposals and potential changes of the 1980s were so significant that some compared them to the educational changes that occurred when Japan opened to the West in the nineteenth century and to those of the occupation.

Concerns of the new reform movement were captured in a series of reports issued between 1985 and 1987 by the National Council on Educational Reform. The final report outlined basic emphases in response to the internationalization of education, new information technologies, and the media and emphases on individuality, lifelong learning, and adjustment to social change. To explore these new directions, the council suggested that eight specific subjects be considered: designing education for the twenty-first century; organizing a system of lifelong learning and reducing the emphasis on the educational background of individuals; improving and diversifying higher education; enriching and diversifying elementary and secondary education; improving the quality of teachers; adapting to internationalization; adapting to the information age; and conducting a review of the administration and finance of education. These subjects reflected both educational and social aspects of the reform, in keeping with the Japanese view about the relationship of education to society. Even as debate over reform took place, the government quickly moved to begin implementing changes in most of these eight areas.

Contemporary Setting

The late twentieth-century Japanese education system has a strong legal foundation. Three documents in particular, the Fundamental Law of Education, the School Education Law, and the new Constitution, all adopted in 1947, provide this legal basis. The system is highly centralized, although three levels of government administration--national, prefectural, and municipal--have various responsibilities for providing, financing, and supervising educational services for the nation's more than 62,000 schools and more than 25 million students in 1991. At the top of the system stands the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture (hereafter, the Ministry of Education, or Monbusho ), which has significant responsibility for funding, curricula, textbooks, and national education standards.

More general responsibilities of the Ministry of Education are the promotion and dissemination of education, scientific knowledge, academic research, culture, and sports. The ministry is supported by advisory bodies and standing councils, such as the Central Council on Education, and by ad hoc councils, such as the National Council on Educational Reform.

The ministry's authority and responsibilities are not limited to public institutions. Most of its regulations, particularly concerning compulsory education, also apply to private institutions. The ministry has power to approve the founding of universities and supervises the national universities. In addition, it provides financial assistance and guidance to lower levels of government on educational matters and is empowered to mandate changes in local policies.

The ministry drafts its annual budget and education-related legislation and submits them to the National Diet. Monbusho administers the disbursement of funds and cooperated with other agencies concerned with education and its finance. In 1990 a main ministry activity was implementing reforms based on the reports and recommendations of the National Council on Educational Reform, whose final report was submitted to the prime minister in 1987.

Each of the forty-seven prefectures has a five-member board of education appointed by the governor with the consent of the prefectural assembly. The prefectural boards administer and operate public schools under their supervision, including most of the public upper-secondary schools, special schools for the handicapped, and some other public institutions in the prefecture. Prefectural boards are the teacher- licensing bodies; with the advice of municipal governments, they appoint teachers to public elementary and lower-secondary schools; they also license preschools and other schools in their municipalities and promote social education.

Municipal-level governments operate the public elementary and lower-secondary schools in their jurisdictions. Supervision is conducted by the local board of education, usually a five-member organization appointed by the mayor with the consent of the local assembly. The board also makes recommendations to the prefectures about the appointment or dismissal of teachers and adopts textbooks from the list certified by the Ministry of Education. Mayors also are charged with some responsibilities for municipal universities and budget coordination.

All three levels of government--national, prefectural, and municipal--provid financial support for education. The national government is the largest source of direct funding, through the budget of the Ministry of Education, and is a significant source of indirect funding of local education through a tax rebate to local government, in a tax allocation grant. The national government bears from one-third to one-half of the cost of education in the form of teachers' salaries, school construction, the school lunch program, and vocational education and equipment.

The ministry's budget between fiscal year (FY) 1980 and FY 1988 increased a total of about 7 percent. But as a percentage of the total national budget (before the deduction of mandated expenses and debt service), the ministry's share actually declined steadily during the 1980s, from about 10 percent in 1980 to about 7.7 percent in 1989. A slight increase was seen in the early 1990s. For example, the FY 1992 budget provided ¥5.319 trillion, or 7.9 percent of the national budget.

Teaching remains an honored profession, and teachers have high social status, stemming from the Japanese cultural legacy and public recognition of their important social responsibilities. Society expects teachers to embody the ideals they are to instill, particularly because teaching duties extend to the moral instruction and character development of children. Formal classroom moral education, informal instruction, and even academic classes are all viewed as legitimate venues for this kind of teaching. Teachers' responsibilities to their schools and students frequently extend beyond the classroom, off school grounds and after school hours.

Teachers are well paid, and periodic improvements also are made in teachers' salaries and compensation. Starting salaries compare favorably with those of other white-collar professionals and in some cases are higher. In addition to their salaries, teachers are eligible for many types of special allowances and a bonus (paid in three installments), which amount to about five months' salary. Teachers also receive the standard health and retirement benefits available to most salaried workers.

Whether for economic reward, social status, or the desire to teach, the number of people wishing to enter teaching exceeds the number of new openings by as many as five or six applicants to every one position. Prefectural boards and other public bodies are able to select the best qualified from a large pool of applicants.

By the late 1980s, the great majority of new teachers were entering the profession with a bachelor's degree, although about 25 percent of the total teaching force at the elementary school level did not have a bachelor's degree. The program for prospective teachers at the undergraduate level included study in education as well as concentration in academic areas. Most new teachers majored in a subject other than education, and graduates of colleges of education were still in the minority. After graduation, a teacher had to pass a prefectural-level examination to be licensed by a prefectural board of education.

Changes also occurred during the 1980s in in-service training and supervision of new teachers. In-service training, particularly that conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, had been questioned for many years. After considerable debate, and some opposition from the Japan Teachers Union (Nihon Kyoshokuin Kumiai-- Nikkyoso), a new system of teacher training was introduced in 1989. The new system established a one-year training program, required new teachers to work under the direction of a master teacher, and increased the required number of both in-school and out-of-school training days and the length of time new teachers were under probationary status.

The Japan Teachers Union, established in 1947, was the largest teachers union in the late 1980s. The union functioned as a national federation of prefectural teachers unions, although each of these unions had considerable autonomy and its own strengths and political orientation. Historically, there had been considerable antagonism between the union and the Ministry of Education, owing to a variety of factors. Some were political, because the stance of the union had been strongly leftist and it often opposed the more conservative Liberal Democratic Party. Another factor was the trade union perspective that the teachers union had on the profession of teaching. Additional differences on education issues concerned training requirements for new teachers, decentralization in education, school autonomy, curricula, textbook censorship, and, in the late 1980s, the reform movement.

The union tended to support the Japan Socialist Party, while a minority faction supported the Japan Communist Party. In the late 1980s, internal disagreements in the Japan Teachers Union on political orientation and on the union's relationships to other national labor organizations finally caused a rupture. The union thus became less effective than in previous years at a time when the national government and the ministry were moving ahead on reform issues. The union had opposed many reforms proposed or instituted by the ministry, but it failed to forestall changes in certification and teacher training, two issues on which it was often at odds with the government. The new union leadership that emerged after several years of internal discord seemed to take a more conciliatory approach to the ministry and reform issues, but the union's future directions were not clear.

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Japan - Primary and Secondary Education


Education is compulsory and free for all schoolchildren from the first through the ninth grades. The school year begins on April 1 and ends on March 31 of the following year. Schools use a trimester system demarcated by vacation breaks. Japanese children attend school five full weekdays and one-half day on Saturdays. The school year has a legal minimum of 210 days, but most local school boards add about thirty more days for school festivals, athletic meets, and ceremonies with nonacademic educational objectives, especially those encouraging cooperation and school spirit. With allowance made for the time devoted to such activities and the half-day of school on Saturday, the number of days devoted to instruction is about 195 per year.

The Japanese hold several important beliefs about education, especially compulsory schooling: that all children have the ability to learn the material; that effort, perseverance, and selfdiscipline , not academic ability, determine academic success; and that these study and behavioral habits can be taught. Thus, students in elementary and lower-secondary schools are not grouped or taught on the basis of their ability, nor is instruction geared to individual differences.

The nationally designed curricula exposes students to balanced, basic education, and compulsory schooling is known for its equal educational treatment of students and for its relatively equal distribution of financial resources among schools. However, the demands made by the uniform curricula and approach extracts a price in lack of flexibility, including expected conformity of behavior. Little effort is made to address children with special needs and interests. Much of the reform proposed in the late 1980s, particularly that part emphasizing greater flexibility, creativity, and opportunities for greater individual expression, was aimed at changing these approaches.

Textbooks are free to students at compulsory school levels. New texts are selected by school boards or principals once every three years from the Ministry of Education's list of approved textbooks or from a small list of texts that the ministry itself publishes. The ministry bears the cost of distributing these books, in both public and private schools. Textbooks are small, paperbound volumes that can easily be carried by the students and that became their property.

Almost all schools have a system of access to health professionals. Educational and athletic facilities are good; almost all elementary schools had an outdoor playground, roughly 90 percent have a gymnasium, and 75 percent have an outdoor swimming pool.

Preschool and Day Care

Early childhood education begins at home, and there are numerous books and television shows aimed at helping mothers of preschool children to educate their children and to "parent" more effectively. Much of the home training is devoted to teaching manners, proper social behavior, and structured play, although verbal and number skills are also popular themes. Parents are strongly committed to early education and frequently enroll their children in preschools.

Preschool education provides the transition from home to formal school for most children. Children's lives at home are characterized by indulgence, and the largely nonacademic preschool experience helps children make the adjustment to the group-oriented life of school and, in turn, to life in society itself.

Preschools (yochien), predominantly staffed by young female junior college graduates, are supervised by the Ministry of Education, but are not part of the official education system. The 58 percent of preschools that are private accounted for 77 percent of all children enrolled. In addition to preschools, a well-developed system of government-supervised day-care centers (hoikuen), supervised by the Ministry of Labor, is an important provider of preschool education. Together, these two kinds of institutions enroll well over 90 percent of all preschoolage children prior to their entrance into the formal system at first grade. The Ministry of Education's 1990 Course of Study for Preschools, which applies to both kinds of institutions, covers such areas as human relationships, environment, words (language), and expression.

Elementary School

More than 99 percent of elementary school-age children are enrolled in school. All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life.

Virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools; less than 1 percent of the schools are private. Private schools tended to be costly, although the rate of cost increases in tuition for these schools had slowed in the 1980s. Some private elementary schools are prestigious, and they serve as a first step to higher-level private schools with which they are affiliated, and thence to a university. Competition to enter some of these "ladder schools" is quite intense.

Although public elementary education is free, some school expenses are borne by parents, for example, school lunches and supplies. For many families, there are also nonschool educational expenses, for extra books, or private lessons, or juku. Such expenses rose throughout the 1980s, reaching an average of ¥184,000 (US$1,314) in FY 1987 for each child. Costs for private elementary schools are substantially higher.

Elementary school classes are large, about thirty-one students per class on average, but higher numbers are permitted. Students are usually organized into small work groups, which have both academic and disciplinary functions. Discipline also is maintained, and a sense of responsibility encouraged, by the use of student monitors and by having the students assume responsibility for the physical appearance of their classroom and school.

The ministry's Course of Study for Elementary Schools is composed of a wide variety of subjects, both academic and nonacademic, including moral education and "special activities." "Special activities" refer to scheduled weekly time given over to class affairs and to preparing for the school activities and ceremonies that are used to emphasize character development and the importance of group effort and cooperation. The standard academic curriculum include Japanese language, social studies, arithmetic, and science. Nonacademic subjects taught include art and handicrafts, music, homemaking, physical education, and moral education. Japanese language is the most emphasized subject. The complexity of the written language and the diversity of its spoken forms in educated speech require this early attention.

A new course of study was established in 1989, partly as a result of the education reform movement of the 1980s and partly because of ongoing curriculum review. Important changes scheduled were an increased number of hours devoted to Japanese language, the replacement of the social sciences course with a daily life course- -instruction for children on proper interaction with the society and environment around them--and an increased emphasis on moral education. While evidence is still inconclusive, it appears that at least some children are having difficulties with the Japanese language. New emphasis also was to be given in the curriculum to the national flag and the national anthem. The ministry suggested that the flag be flown and the national anthem sung at important school ceremonies. Because neither the flag nor the anthem had been legally designated as national symbols, and because of the nationalistic wartime associations the two had in the minds of some citizens, this suggestion was greeted with some opposition. The revised history curriculum emphasized cultural legacies and events and the biographies of key figures. The ministry provided a proposed list of biographies, and there was some criticism surrounding particular suggestions.

Elementary teachers are generally responsible for all subjects, and classes remain in one room for most activities. Teachers are well prepared. Most teachers, about 60 percent of the total, are women; but most principals and head teachers in elementary schools are men.

Teachers have ample teaching materials and audiovisual equipment. There is an excellent system of educational television and radio, and almost all elementary schools use programs prepared by the School Education Division of Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK). In addition to broadcast media, schools increasingly are equipped with computers. Although only 6.5 percent of public elementary schools had personal computers in 1986, by 1989 the number had passed 20 percent. The ministry is greatly concerned with this issue and planned much greater use of such equipment.

Virtually all elementary schoolchildren receive a full lunch at school. Although heavily subsidized by the government, both directly and indirectly, the program is not altogether free. Full meals usually consist of bread (or increasingly, of rice), a main dish, and milk. Although the program grew out of concern in the immediate postwar period for adequate nutrition, the school lunch is also important as a teaching device. Because there are relatively few cafeterias in elementary schools, meals are taken in the classroom with the teacher, providing another informal opportunity for teaching nutrition and health and good eating habits and social behavior. Frequently, students also are responsible for serving the lunch and cleaning up.

Japanese elementary schooling is acknowledged both in Japan and abroad to be excellent, but not without some problems, notably increasing absenteeism and a declining but troublesome number of cases of bullying. In addition, special provision for the many young children returning to Japan from long absences overseas is an issue of major interest. The government also is concerned with the education of Japanese children residing abroad, and it sends teachers overseas to teach in Japanese schools.

Elementary school education is seen in Japan as fundamental in shaping a positive attitude toward lifelong education. Regardless of academic achievement, almost all children in elementary school are advanced to lower-secondary schools, the second of the two compulsory levels of education.

Lower-Secondary School

Lower-secondary school covers grades seven, eight, and nine-- children between the ages of roughly twelve and fifteen--with increased focus on academic studies. Although it is still possible to leave the formal education system after completing lowersecondary school and find employment, fewer than 4 percent did so by the late 1980s.

Like elementary schools, most lower-secondary schools in the 1980s were public, but 5 percent were private. Private schools were costly, averaging ¥558,592 (US$3,989) per student in 1988, about four times more than the ¥130,828 (US$934) that the ministry estimated as the cost for students enrolled in public lowersecondary schools.

The teaching force in lower-secondary schools is two-thirds male. Schools are headed by principals, 99 percent of whom were men in 1988. Teachers often majored in the subjects they taught, and more than 80 percent graduated from a four-year college. Classes are large, with thirty-eight students per class on average, and each class is assigned a homeroom teacher who doubles as counselor. Unlike elementary students, lower-secondary school students have different teachers for different subjects. The teacher, however, rather than the students, moves to a new room for each fifty-minute period.

Instruction in lower-secondary schools tends to rely on the lecture method. Teachers also use other media, such as television and radio, and there is some laboratory work. By 1989 about 45 percent of all public lower-secondary schools had computers, including schools that used them only for administrative purposes. Classroom organization is still based on small work groups, although no longer for reasons of discipline. By lower-secondary school, students are expected to have mastered daily routines and acceptable behavior.

All course contents are specified in the Course of Study for Lower-Secondary Schools. Some subjects, such as Japanese language and mathematics, are coordinated with the elementary curriculum. Others, such as foreign-language study, usually English, begin at this level. The curriculum covers Japanese language, social studies, mathematics, science, music, fine arts, health, and physical education. All students also are exposed to either industrial arts or homemaking. Moral education and special activities continue to receive attention.

Students also attend mandatory club meetings during school hours, and many also participate in after-school clubs. Most lowersecondary students say they liked school, although it is the chance to meet their friends daily--not the lessons--that is particularly attractive to them.

The ministry recognizes a need to improve the teaching of all foreign languages, especially English. To improve instruction in spoken English, the government invites many young native speakers of English to Japan to serve as assistants to school boards and prefectures under its Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. By 1988 participants numbered over 1,000.

As part of the movement to develop an integrated curriculum and the education reform movement of the late 1980s, the entire Course of Study for Lower-Secondary Schools was revised in 1989 and took effect in the 1992-93 school year. A main aim of the reform is to equip students with the basic knowledge needed for citizenship. In some measure, this means increased emphasis on Japanese history and culture, as well as understanding Japan as a nation and its relationships with other nations of the world. The course of study also increased elective hours, recommending that electives be chosen in light of individual student differences and with an eye toward diversification.

Two problems of great concern to educators and citizens began to appear at the lower-secondary level in the 1980s: bullying, which seemed rampant in the mid-1980s but had abated somewhat by the end of the decade, and the school-refusal syndrome (toko kyohi--manifested by a student's excessive absenteeism), which was on the rise. Experts disagreed over the specific causes of these phenomena, but there is general agreement that the system offers little individualized or specialized assistance, thus contributing to disaffection among those who can not conform to its demands or who are otherwise experiencing difficulties. Another problem concerns Japanese children returning from abroad. These students, particularly if they have been overseas for extended periods, often need help not only in reading and writing but also in adjusting to rigid classroom demands. Even making the adjustment does not guarantee acceptance: besides having acquired a foreign language, many of these students have also acquired foreign customs of speech, dress, and behavior that mark them as different.

Special Education

Japanese special education at the compulsory level is highly organized in the late 1980s, even though it had been nationally mandated and implemented only in 1979. There is still controversy over whether children with special needs can or should be "mainstreamed." In a society that stresses the group, many parents desire to have their children attend regular schools. Mainstreaming in Japan, however, does not necessarily mean attending regular classes; it often means attending a regular school that has special classes for handicapped students. There are also special public schools for the handicapped, which have departments equivalent to the various levels of elementary and secondary schools, including kindergarten and upper-secondary departments in some cases. There are few private institutions for special education. Some students attend regular classes and also special classes for training for their particular needs. Some teachers are also dispatched to children who can not attend schools.

Upper-Secondary School

Even though upper-secondary school is not compulsory in Japan, 94 percent of all lower-secondary school graduates entered uppersecondary schools in 1989. Private upper-secondary schools account for about 24 percent of all upper-secondary schools, and neither public nor private schools are free. The Ministry of Education estimated that annual family expenses for the education of a child in a public upper-secondary school were about ¥300,000 (US$2,142) in both 1986 and 1987 and that private upper-secondary schools were about twice as expensive.

All upper-secondary schools, public and private, are informally ranked, based on their success in placing graduates in freshman classes of the most prestigious universities. In the 1980s, private upper-secondary schools occupied the highest levels of this hierarchy, and there was substantial pressure to do well in the examinations that determined the upper-secondary school a child entered. Admission also depends on the scholastic record and performance evaluation from lower-secondary school, but the examination results largely determine school entrance. Students are closely counseled in lower-secondary school, so that they will be relatively assured of a place in the schools to which they apply.

The most common type of upper-secondary schools has a fulltime , general program that offered academic courses for students preparing for higher education and also technical and vocational courses for students expecting to find employment after graduation. More than 70 percent of upper-secondary school students were enrolled in the general academic program in the late 1980s. A small number of schools offer part-time or evening courses or correspondence education.

The first-year programs for students in both academic and commercial courses are similar. They include basic academic courses, such as Japanese language, English, mathematics, and science. In upper-secondary school, differences in ability are first publicly acknowledged, and course content and course selection are far more individualized in the second year. However, there is a core of academic material throughout all programs.

Vocational-technical programs includes several hundred specialized courses, such as information processing, navigation, fish farming, business English, and ceramics. Business and industrial courses are the most popular, accounting for 72 percent of all students in full-time vocational programs in 1989.

The upper-secondary curriculum also underwent thorough revision; in 1989 a new Course of Study for Upper-Secondary Schools was announced that was to be phased in beginning with the tenth grade in 1994, followed by the eleventh grade in 1995 and the twelfth grade in 1996. Among noteworthy changes is the requirement that both male and female students take a course in home economics. The government is concerned with instilling in all students an awareness of the importance of family life, the various roles and responsibilities of family members, the concept of cooperation within the family, and the role of the family in society. The family continues to be an extremely important part of the social infrastructure, and the ministry clearly is interested in maintaining family stability within a changing society. Another change of note was the division of the old social studies course into history, geography, and civics courses.

Most upper-secondary teachers are university graduates. Uppersecondary schools are organized into departments, and teachers specialize in their major fields although they teach a variety of courses within their disciplines. Although women compose about 20 percent of the teaching force, only 2.5 percent of principals are women.

Teaching depends largely on the lecture system, with the main goal of covering the very demanding curriculum in the time allotted. Approach and subject coverage tends to be uniform, at least in the public schools. As in lower-secondary school, the teachers, not the students, move from room to room after each fifty-minute class period.

Upper-secondary students are subject to a great deal of supervision by school authorities and school rules even outside of school. Students' behavior and some activities are regulated by school codes that are known and obeyed by most children. School regulations often set curfews and govern dress codes, hairstyles, student employment, and even leisure activities. The school frequently is responsible for student discipline when a student ran afoul of the regulations or, occasionally, of the law.

Delinquency generally, and school violence in particular, are troubling to Japanese authorities. Violations by upper-secondary school students include smoking and some substance abuse (predominantly of amphetamines). Use of drugs, although not a serious problem by international standards, is of concern to the police and civil authorities. Bullying and the drop-out rate are also subjects of attention. Upper-secondary students drop out at a rate of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent per year. The graduation rates for upper-secondary schools stood at 87.5 percent in 1987.

Discrimination in education is prohibited, but the hisabetsu buraku discriminated communities, a group of people racially and culturally Japanese who have been discriminated against historically, are still disadvantaged in education to some degree. Their relatively poor educational attainment through the upper-secondary level in the 1960s was said to have been largely corrected by the 1980s, but reliable evidence is lacking.

There are some private schools for the children of the foreign community in Japan, and there are some Korean schools for children of Japan's Korean minority population, many of whom are secondgeneration or third-generation residents in Japan. Graduates of Korean schools face some discrimination, particularly in entering higher education. Observers estimated that 75 percent of Korean children were attending Japanese schools in the early 1980s.

Training of handicapped students, particularly at the uppersecondary level, emphasizes vocational education to enable students to be as independent as possible within society. Vocational training varies considerably depending on the student's handicap, but the options are limited for some. It is clear that the government is aware of the necessity of broadening the range of possibilities for these students. Advancement to higher education is also a goal of the government, and it struggles to have institutions of higher learning accept more handicapped students.

Upper-secondary school students returning to Japan after living overseas present another problem. The ministry was trying to get upper-secondary schools to accept these students more readily and in the late 1980s had decided to allow credit for one uppersecondary school year spent abroad.

Upper-secondary school graduates choosing to enter the labor force are supported by a very effective system of job placement, which, combined with favorable economic conditions, keeps the unemployment rate among new graduates quite low. For those students going on to college, the final phases of school life becomes increasingly dedicated to preparing for examinations, particularly in some of the elite private schools. About 31 percent of upper-secondary graduates advance to some form of higher education directly after graduation.

After-school clubs provide an important upper-secondary school activity. Sports, recreational reading, and watching television are popular daily leisure activities, but schoolwork and other studies remain the focus of the daily lives of most children. The college entrance examinations greatly influence school life and study habits, not only for college-bound students but also indirectly for all; the prospect of the examinations often imparts a seriousness to the tone of school life at the upper-secondary level.

After-School Education

Much debated, and often criticized in the late twentieth century, juku are special private schools that offer highly organized lessons conducted after regular school hours and on the weekends. Although best known and most widely publicized for their role as "cram schools," where children (sent by concerned parents) can study to improve scores on upper-secondary school entrance examinations, academic juku actually perform several educational functions. They provide supplementary education that many children need just to keep up with the regular school curriculum, remedial education for the increasing numbers of children who fall behind in their work, and preparation for students striving to improve test scores and preparing for the all-important upper-secondary and university entrance examinations. In many ways, juku compensate for the formal education system's inability or unwillingness to address particular individual problems. Half of all compulsory school-age children attend academic juku, which offers instruction in mathematics, Japanese language, science, English, and social studies. Many other children, particularly younger children, attend nonacademic juku for piano lessons, art instruction, swimming, and abacus lessons. To some observers, juku represent an attempt by parents to exercise a meaningful measure of choice in Japanese education, particularly for children attending public schools. Some juku offer subject matter not available in the public school curricula, while others emphasize a special philosophical or ethical approach.

Juku also play a social role, and children in Japan say they liked going to juku because they are able to make new friends; many children ask to be sent because their friends attend. Some children seem to like juku because of the closer personal contact they have with their teachers.

Juku attendance rose from the 1970s through the mid1980s ; participation rates increases at every grade level throughout the compulsory education years. This phenomenon is a source of great concern to the ministry, which issued directives to the regular schools that it hoped would reduce the need for afterschool lessons, but these directives have had little practical effect. Some juku even have branches in the United States and other countries to help children living abroad catch up with students in Japan.

Because of the commercial nature of most juku, some critics argue that they have profit rather than education at heart. Not all students can afford to attend juku. Therefore juku introduce some inequality into what had been a relatively egalitarian approach to education, at least in public schools through ninth grade. Yet, while some juku are expensive, the majority are affordable for most families; juku can not price themselves beyond the reach of their potential clientele. If rising enrollments in juku are any indication, costs are not yet a limiting factor for most parents, and juku clearly are given some priority in family budgeting.

If a student does not attend juku, it dies not mean that he or she is necessarily at a disadvantage in school. Other avenues of assistance are available. For example, self-help literature and supplemental texts and study guides, some produced by publishing houses associated with juku, are widely available commercially. Most of these items are moderately priced. A correspondence course of the Upper-Secondary School of the Air is broadcast almost daily on the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nippon Hoso Kyokai--NHK) educational radio and television channels. These programs are free, and costs for accompanying textbooks are nominal. In addition, about 1 percent of elementary school students and 7.3 percent of lower-secondary school students take extra lessons at home with tutors.


Japan - Higher Education


College Entrance

College entrance is based largely on the scores that students achieved in entrance examinations. Private institutions accounted for nearly 80 percent of all university enrollments in 1991, but with a few exceptions, the public national universities are the most highly regarded. This distinction had its origins in historical factors--the long years of dominance of the select imperial universities, such as Tokyo and Kyoto universities, which trained Japan's leaders before the war--and also in differences in quality, particularly in facilities and faculty ratios. In addition, certain prestigious employers, notably the government and select large corporations, continue to restrict their hiring of new employees to graduates of the most esteemed universities. There is a close link between university background and employment opportunity. Because Japanese society places such store in academic credentials, the competition to enter the prestigious universities is keen. In addition, the eighteen-year-old population is still growing, increasing the number of applicants.

Students applying to national universities take two entrance examinations, first a nationally administered uniform achievement test and then an examination administered by the university that the student hope to enter. Applicants to private universities need to take only the university's examination. Some national schools have so many applicants that they use the first test, the Joint First Stage Achievement Test, as a screening device for qualification to their own admissions test.

Such intense competition means that many students can not compete successfully for admission to the college of their choice. An unsuccessful student can either accept an admission elsewhere, forego a college education, or wait until the following spring to take the national examinations again. A large number of students choose the last option. These students, called ronin, spend an entire year, and sometimes longer, studying for another attempt at the entrance examinations.

Yobiko are private schools that, like many juku, help students prepare for entrance examinations. While yobiko have many programs for upper-secondary school students, they are best known for their specially designed full-time, year-long classes for ronin. The number of applicants to four-year universities totaled almost 560,000 in 1988. Ronin accounted for about 40 percent of new entrants to four-year colleges in 1988. Most ronin were men, but about 14 percent were women. The ronin experience is so common in Japan that the Japanese education structure is often said to have an extra ronin year built into it.

Yobiko sponsor a variety of programs, both full-time and part-time, and employ an extremely sophisticated battery of tests, student counseling sessions, and examination analysis to supplement their classroom instruction. The cost of yobiko education is high, comparable to first-year university expenses, and some specialized courses at yobiko are even more expensive. Some yobiko publish modified commercial versions of the proprietary texts they use in their classrooms through publishing affiliates or by other means, and these are popular among the general population preparing for college entrance exams. Yobiko also administer practice examinations throughout the year, which they open to all students for a fee.

In the late 1980s, the examination and entrance process were the subjects of renewed debate. In 1987 the schedule of the Joint First Stage Achievement Test was changed, and the content of the examination itself was revised for 1990. The schedule changes for the first time provided some flexibility for students wishing to apply to more than one national university. The new Joint First Stage Achievement Test was prepared and administered by the National Center for University Entrance Examination and was designed to accomplish better assessment of academic achievement.

The Ministry of Education hoped many private schools would adopt or adapt the new national test to their own admissions requirements and thereby reduce or eliminate the university tests. But, by the time the new test was administered in 1990, few schools had displayed any inclination to do so. The ministry urged universities to increase the number of students admitted through alternate selection methods, including admission of students returning to Japan from long overseas stays, admission by recommendation, and admission of students who had graduated from upper-secondary schools more than a few years before. Although a number of schools had programs in place or reserved spaces for returning students, only 5 percent of university students were admitted under these alternate arrangements in the late 1980s.

Other college entrance issues include proper guidance for college placement at the upper-secondary level and better dissemination of information about university programs. The ministry provides information through the National Center for University Entrance Examination's on-line information access system and encourages universities, faculties, and departments to prepare brochures and video presentations about their programs.


In 1991 more than 2.1 million students were enrolled in Japan's 507 universities. At the top of the higher education structure, these institutions provide four-year training leading to a bachelor's degree, and some offer six-year programs leading to a professional degree. There are two types of public four-year colleges: the ninety-six national universities (including the University of the Air) and the thirty-nine local public universities, founded by prefectures and municipalities. The 372 remaining four-year colleges in 1991 were private.

The overwhelming majority of college students attend full-time day programs. In 1990 the most popular courses, enrolling almost 40 percent of all undergraduate students, were in the social sciences, including business, law, and accounting. Other popular subjects were engineering (19 percent), the humanities (15 percent), and education (7 percent).

The average costs (tuition, fees, and living expenses) for a year of higher education in 1986 were ¥1.4 million (US$10,000), of which parents paid a little less than 80 percent, or about 20 percent of the average family's income in 1986. To help defray expenses, students frequently work part-time or borrow money through the government-supported Japan Scholarship Association. Assistance also is offered by local governments, nonprofit corporations, and other institutions.

In 1991 women accounted for about 27 percent of all university undergraduates, and their numbers were slowly increasing. Women's choices of majors and programs of study still tend to follow traditional patterns, with more than two-thirds of all women enroll in education, social sciences, or humanities courses. Only 15 percent studied scientific and technical subjects, and women represented less than 3 percent of students in engineering, the most popular subject for men in 1991.

Junior Colleges

Junior colleges--mainly private institutions--are a legacy of the occupation period; many had been prewar institutions upgraded to college status at that time. More than 90 percent of the students in junior colleges are women, and higher education for women is still largely perceived as preparation for marriage or for a short-term career before marriage. Junior colleges provide many women with social credentials as well as education and some career opportunities. These colleges frequently emphasize home economics, nursing, teaching, the humanities, and social sciences in their curricula.

Special Training Schools

Advanced courses in special training schools require uppersecondary -school completion. These schools offer training in specific skills, such as computer science and vocational training, and they enroll a large number of men. Some students attend these schools in addition to attending a university; others gp to qualify for technical licenses or certification. The prestige of special training schools is lower than that of universities, but graduates, particularly in technical areas, are readily absorbed by the job market.

Miscellaneous Schools

In 1991 there were about 3,400 predominantly private "miscellaneous schools," whose attendance did not require uppersecondary school graduation. Miscellaneous schools offer a variety of courses in such programs as medical treatment, education, social welfare, and hygiene, diversifying practical postsecondary training and responding to social and economic demands for certain skills.

Technical Colleges

Most technical colleges are national institutions established to train highly skilled technicians in five-year programs in a number of fields, including the merchant marine. Sixty-two technical colleges have been operating since the early 1960s. About 10 percent of technical college graduates transfer to universities as third-year students, and some universities, notably the University of Tokyo and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, earmarked entrance places for these transfer students in the 1980s.

Graduate Education and Research

Graduate schools became a part of the formal higher education system only after World War II and are still not stressed in the 1990s. Even though 60 percent of all universities have graduate schools, only 7 percent of university graduates advance to master's programs, and total graduate school enrollment is about 4 percent of the entire university student population.

The pattern of graduate enrollment is almost the opposite of that of undergraduates: the majority (63 percent) of all graduate students are enrolled in the national universities, and it appears that the disparity between public and private graduate enrollments is widening. Graduate education is largely a male preserve, and women, particularly at the master's level, are most heavily represented in the humanities, social sciences, and education. Men are frequently found in engineering programs where, at the master's level, women comprise only 2 percent of the students. At the doctoral level, the two highest levels of female enrollment are found in medical programs and the humanities, where in both fields 30 percent of doctoral students are women. Women account for about 13 percent of all doctoral enrollments.

The generally small numbers of graduate students and the graduate enrollment profile results from a number of factors, especially the traditional employment pattern of industry. The private sector frequently prefer to hire and train new university graduates, allowing them to develop their research skills within the corporate structure. Thus, the demand for students with advanced degrees is low.

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture (often shortened to Ministry of Education or Monbusho ) is the primary authority over higher education. It approves the establishment of all new institutions, both public and private, and directly controls the budgets of all national institutions and their affiliated research institutes. In addition, the ministry regulates many aspects of the university environment, including standards for academics and physical plants and facilities. The ministry also provides subsidies to private higher education institutions for both operation and equipment and made long-term loans for physical plant improvement.

Government appropriations are the largest source of funds for national universities (more than 75 percent), and tuition and fees provides most revenues for private schools (about 66 percent), with subsidies accounting for another 10 to 15 percent for the private schools. The 1975 Private School Promotion Law allowed the government to subsidize private education and increased the ministry's authority over private schools, but the ministry's own budgetary limits and general fiscal restraint have tended to limit such subsidies, which remained relatively low. In FY 1988, for example, only ¥244 billion of the total ministry budget of ¥4.6 trillion went for this purpose.

The Ministry of Education has two major areas of responsibility related to graduate education and research. In addition to being generally responsible for the national universities and establishing their research institutes, the ministry also promotes the research conducted at universities and funded both institutions and individuals. About a half-dozen research institutes, such as the National Institute for Educational Research and the National Institute for Special Education, are also under direct ministry supervision. Several types of research organizations are affiliated with universities: the national research institutes attached to national universities, independent research facilities affiliated with national universities but open to researchers from universities throughout Japan, other research centers, and other facilities at national, local, public, and private universities.

The ministry is not the exclusive agent for funding and promoting research, but it accounted for about half of the entire government budget for research throughout most of the 1980s. In addition to providing funds for research institutes and national universities, the ministry gives smaller amounts for scientific grants and programs in other public and private institutions.

The ministry can devote funds to particular areas of research that it considered important. In FY 1988, the ministry emphasized the following programs in its budget: space science, particularly scientific satellites, rockets, and astronomy; high-energy physics and accelerator experiments; and construction of a national research and development information network.


The quality of undergraduate and graduate education was the subject of widespread criticism in the 1980s, and its improvement was one of the focal points of university reform. One complaint was that students, once admitted, had little incentive to study because graduation was virtually automatic. Attendance requirements were minimal, and, except for examinations, students were free to come and go as they pleased. Some of the teaching was poor, and the students often did little studying. Students and the system were accused of squandering the four years.

In response to the call for university reform in the reports of the National Council on Educational Reform, the ministry founded the University Council in 1987. High on the council's agenda were the diversification and reform of graduate education, improvement in the management and organization of universities, and the development of a policy for lifelong education and diversification in educational activities. The recommendations that had emerged by 1989 include improvements in the provision of private financial support to universities and modified personnel practices for college instructors in the national schools. There are calls for improved education in the fields of information science and automation and the establishment or reorganization of departments and research faculties in those fields. Finally, in the area of lifelong education, changes under discussion are the provision of more public lectures, expansion of university entrance opportunities for the general adult population, improvements in the University of the Air, and better links between the school and the community.

The University of the Air, which has no entrance requirements, was originally designed to give all Japanese access to higher education through radio and television broadcasts. Although it is hampered by limited broadcast radius and frequencies, it has a potentially leading role in promoting lifelong learning.

Internationalization is an issue at every education level, but particularly for higher education. The number of students studying in Japan from foreign countries, especially Asian countries, is increasing, and the higher education structure is not particularly well equipped to deal with them. In 1988 approximately 25,000 foreign students from more than 100 countries were studying in Japanese universities and colleges, and the ministry expected the figure to be 100,000 by the beginning of the twenty-first century. The ministry is also working to regulate and improve the standards for teaching Japanese to foreign students and trying to improve their financial and living arrangements. Beginning in the 1980s, Japanese universities established branches in the United States, and many schools in the United States also set up Japanese branches. At least one Japanese women's university began to require its undergraduates to spend a semester on the campus of an affiliated school in the United States.

As in virtually every other area of education, debate over reform of graduate education and research was widespread at the end of the 1980s. The University Council established a subcommittee on graduate schools consisting of academics, researchers, and corporate executives. The subcommittee identified a number of critical issues: establishing graduate schools that were independent of traditional university structures, founding new and specialized graduate schools, reconsidering entrance and graduation criteria, increasing the international student population and internationalizing graduate education, addressing the qualifications of graduate school faculties, modifying the mission of doctoral courses, arranging for flexibility in admissions to graduate school, standardizing the length of graduate programs and reconciling the variations between degrees awarded by different schools and in different disciplines, establishing an accreditation and evaluation system, and reviewing the financial situation of graduate students. These recommendations were acknowledged in the ministry's FY 1988 budget, which included funds for expanding student aid programs, reforming graduate programs, and establishing a new Graduate School for Advanced Studies. Proposed reform of the research system concentrated on improving cooperation between universities and the private sector, and between universities and other institutions.

Finally, the subcommittee recommended greater Japanese participation and cooperation in international projects and greater efforts to make Japanese scientific and technical literature available in English. Although there were more programs for international scholarly exchange and more foreign researchers and foreign graduate students in Japan than in the past, Japanese society and education institutions were still having some difficulties in accommodating them smoothly.

Some of the urgency behind considering reforms in graduate education and research comes from the recognition that Japan is increasingly involved in advanced research and is no longer assured of having foreign models to study. To remain competitive and to guarantee its future, Japan needs to make serious changes in its education and research structures. Its institutions needs to be more flexible and diverse and needs to encourage the creativity in education that would foster new technology. This change is seen to require a national effort, one not limited to the graduate sector.


Japan - Social Education


Modern Japan is unquestionably a society that values education highly. Nowhere is this better reflected than in "social education," as the Japanese call nondegree-oriented education. Diverse institutions, such as the miscellaneous schools, provide these services. Large newspaper companies sponsor cultural centers that offer ongoing programs of informal education, and department stores organize curricula covering everything from cooking classes to music, English conversation, and Japanese poetry.

"Lifelong learning," another term for social education, was also a key phrase in the education reforms of the late 1980s. The responsibility for social education is shared by all levels of government, but especially by local government. Local governments also are largely responsible for such public facilities as libraries and museums--basic resources in social education. The ministry is interested in increasing the use of public school facilities for lifelong learning activities, increasing the number of social education facilities, training staff, and disseminating information about lifelong learning opportunities.

The Japanese are voracious readers. Popular bookstores are full from the moment they open their doors each day with readers seeking books from a staggering range of foreign as well as Japanese titles. The top four national newspapers alone have a combined daily circulation (with two editions each day) of more than 35 million, and there are four daily English-language papers as well.

Although education in Japan is in transition in many regards, it still retains its postwar organizational structure. Even with growing pressure for reforms and for more emphasis on individuality and internationalization in education, it is clear that educational changes would be a unique amalgam of traditional values and modern innovations.


Japan - THE ARTS


The introduction of Western cultural values, which had flooded Japan by the late nineteenth century, led to a dichotomy between traditional values and attempts to duplicate and assimilate a variety of clashing new ideas. This split remained evident in the late twentieth century, although much synthesis had occurred, which had created an international cultural atmosphere and stimulated contemporary Japanese arts toward ever more innovative forms.

Japan's aesthetic conceptions, deriving from diverse cultural traditions, have been formative in the production of unique art forms. Over the centuries, a wide range of artistic motifs developed and were refined, becoming imbued with symbolic significance. Like a pearl, they acquired many layers of meaning and a high luster. Japanese aesthetics provide a key to understanding artistic works perceivably different from those coming from Western traditions.

Within the East Asian artistic tradition, China has been the acknowledged teacher and Japan the devoted student. Nevertheless, Japanese arts developed their own style, which can be clearly differentiated from the Chinese. The monumental, symmetrically balanced, rational approach of Chinese art forms became miniaturized, irregular, and subtly suggestive in Japanese hands. Miniature rock gardens, diminutive plants (bonsai), and flower arrangements, in which the selected few represented a garden, were the favorite pursuits of refined aristocrats for a millennium, and they have remained a part of contemporary cultural life.

The diagonal, reflecting a natural flow, rather than the fixed triangle became the favored structural device, whether in painting, architectural or garden design, dance steps, or musical notations. Odd numbers replace even numbers in the regularity of a Chinese master pattern, and a pull to one side allows a motif to turn the corner of a three-dimensional object, thus giving continuity and motion that is lacking in a static frontal design. Japanese painters used the devices of the cutoff, close-up, and fade-out by the twelfth century in yamato-e, or Japanese-style, scroll painting, perhaps one reason why modern filmmaking has been such a natural and successful art form in Japan. Suggestion is used rather than direct statement; oblique poetic hints and allusive and inconclusive melodies and thoughts- -all have proved frustrating to the Westerner trying to penetrate the meanings of literature, music, painting, and even everyday language.

The Japanese began defining such aesthetic ideas in a number of evocative phrases by at least the tenth or eleventh century. The courtly refinements of the aristocratic Heian period evolved into the elegant simplicity seen as the essence of good taste in the understated art that is called shibui. Two terms originating from Zen Buddhist meditative practices describe degrees of tranquillity: one, the repose found in humble melancholy (wabi), the other, the serenity accompanying the enjoyment of subdued beauty (sabi). Zen thought also contributed a penchant for combining the unexpected or startling, used to jolt one's consciousness toward the goal of enlightenment. In art, this approach was expressed in combinations of such unlikely materials as lead inlaid in lacquer and in clashing poetic imagery. Unexpectedly humorous and sometimes grotesque images and motifs also stem from the Zen koan (conundrum). Although the arts have been mainly secular since the Tokugawa period, traditional aesthetics and training methods, stemming generally from religious sources, continue to underlie artistic productions.

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Western art forms came into Japan and were studied with intense interest by Japanese artists, who quickly imitated a variety of European models. By the early twentieth century, a period of assimilation began as techniques were mastered and the new forms of literature and the visual and performing arts were adapted. Artists divided into two main camps, those continuing in traditional Japanese style and those who wholeheartedly studied the new Western culture. By the late 1920s, a generation of Japanese artists had synthesized Western and Japanese artistic conceptions. Oil painters used the calligraphic, black lines of traditional Japanese brushwork, and musicians used the Asian tonal system and instruments to create Western-style music, while new theaters dealt with social themes in the allusive traditional literary style. Artists employing Western forms were accused of imitating rather than innovating. Yet, the age-old Asian cultural tradition has always entailed copying a master's style until it has been perfected, which explains why so much so-called "imitative art" was produced. As a result, Japan has produced much vibrant and unique new art through such exchanges.

After World War II, many artists began working in art forms derivied from the international scene, moving away from local artistic developments into the mainstream of world art. But traditional Japanese conceptions endured, particularly in the use of modular space in architecture, certain spacing intervals in music and dance, a propensity for certain color combinations and characteristic literary forms. The wide variety of art forms available to the Japanese reflect the vigorous state of the arts, widely supported by the Japanese people and promoted by the government.

Traditionally, the artist was a vehicle for expression and was personally reticent, in keeping with the role of an artisan or entertainer of low social status. The calligrapher--a member of the Confucian literati class, or samurai--had a higher status, while artists of great genius were often recognized in the medieval period by receiving a name from a feudal lord and thus rising socially. The performing arts, however, were generally held in less esteem, and the purported immorality of actresses of the early Kabuki theater caused the Tokugawa government to bar women from the stage; female roles in Kabuki and No thereafter were played by men.

There are a number of specialized universities for the arts, led by the national universities. The most important is the Tokyo Arts University, one of the most difficult of all national universities to enter. Another seminal center is Tama Arts University in Tokyo, which produced many of Japan's late twentieth- century innovative young artists. Traditional training in the arts remains: experts teach from their homes or head schools working within a master-pupil relationship. A pupil does not experiment with a personal style until achieving the highest level of training, or graduating from an arts school, or becoming head of a school. Many young artists have criticized this system as stifling creativity and individuality. A new generation of the avant-garde has broken with this tradition, often receiving its training in the West. In the traditional arts, however, the master-pupil system preserves the secrets and skills of the past. Some master-pupil lineages can be traced to the medieval period, from which they continue to use a great master's style or theme. Japanese artists consider technical virtuosity as the sine qua non of their professions, a fact recognized by the rest of the world as one of the hallmarks of Japanese art.

The national government has actively supported the arts through the Agency for Cultural Affairs, set up in 1968 as a special body of the Ministry of Education. The agency's budget for FY 1989 rose to ¥37.8 billion after five years of budget cuts, but still represented much less than 1 percent of the general budget. The agency's Cultural Affairs Division disseminated information about the arts within Japan and internationally, and the Cultural Properties Protection Division protected the nation's cultural heritage. The Cultural Affairs Division is concerned with such areas as art and culture promotion, arts copyrights, and improvements in the national language. It also supports both national and local arts and cultural festivals, and it funds traveling cultural events in music, theater, dance, art exhibitions, and filmmaking. Special prizes are offered to encourage young artists and established practitioners, and some grants are given each year to enable them to train abroad. The agency funds national museums of modern art in Kyoto and Tokyo and the Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, which exhibit both Japanese and international shows. The agency also supports the Japan Academy of Arts, which honors eminent persons of arts and letters, appointing them to membership and offering ¥3.5 million in prize money. Awards are made in the presence of the emperor, who personally bestows the highest accolade, the Cultural Medal. In 1989 the fifth woman ever to be so distinguished was cited for Japanese-style painting, while for the first time two women--a writer and a costume designer--were nominated for the Order of Cultural Merit, another official honor carrying the same stipend.

The Cultural Properties Protection Division originally was established to oversee restorations after World War II. In 1989 it was responsible for more than 2,500 historic sites--including the ancient capitals of Asuka, Heijokyo, and Fujiwara, more than 275 scenic places, and nearly 1,000 national monuments--and for such indigenous fauna as ibis and storks. As of 1989, some 1,000 buildings, paintings, sculptures, and other art forms had been designated national treasures. In addition, about 11,500 items had the lesser designation of Important Cultural Properties, with buildings accounting for the largest share, closely followed by sculpture and craft objects.

The government also protects buried properties, of which some 300,000 had been identified. During the 1980s, many important prehistoric and historic sites were investigated by the archaeological institutes that the agency funded, resulting in about 2,000 excavations in 1989. The wealth of material unearthed shed new light on the controversial period of the formation of the Japanese state.

A 1975 amendment to the Cultural Properties Protection Act of 1897 enabled the Agency for Cultural Affairs to designate traditional areas and buildings in urban centers for preservation. From time to time, various endangered traditional artistic skills are added to the agency's preservation roster, such as the 1989 inclusion of a kind of ancient doll making.

One of the most important roles of the Cultural Properties Protection Division is to preserve the traditional arts and crafts and performing arts through their living exemplars. Individual artists and groups, such as a dance troupe or a pottery village, are designated as mukei bunkazai (intangible cultural assets) in recognition of their skill. Major exponents of the traditional arts have been designated as ningen kokuho (living national treasures). About seventy persons are so honored at any one time; in 1989 the six newly designated masters were a kyogen (comic) performer, a chanter of bunraku (puppet) theater, a performer of the nagauta samisen (a special kind of stringed instrument), the head potter making Nabeshima decorated porcelain ware, the top pictorial lacquer-ware artist, and a metal-work expert. Each was provided a lifetime annual pension of ¥2 million and financial aid for training disciples.

A number of institutions come under the aegis of the Cultural Properties Protection Division: the national museums of Japanese and Asian art in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka; the cultural properties research institutes at Tokyo and Nara; the national theaters; the Ethnological Museum; the National Museum of History and Folk Culture; and the National Storehouse for Fine Arts. During the 1980s, the National No Theater and the National Bunraku Theater were constructed by the government.

Arts patronage and promotion by the government are broadened to include a new cooperative effort with corporate Japan to provide funding beyond the tight budget of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Many other public and private institutions participat, especially in the burgeoning field of awarding arts prizes. A growing number of large corporations join major newspapers in sponsoring exhibitions and performances and in giving yearly prizes. The most important of the many literary awards given are the venerable Naoki Prize and the Akutagawa Prize, the latter being the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in the United States.

In 1989 an effort to promote cross-cultural exchange led to the establishment of a Japanese "Nobel Prize" for the arts--the Premium Imperiale--by the Japan Art Association. This prize of US$100,000 was funded largely by the mass media conglomerate Fuji-Sankei and was awarded on a worldwide selection basis.

A number of foundations promoting the arts arose in the 1980s, including the Cultural Properties Foundation set up to preserve historic sites overseas, especially along the Silk Route in Inner Asia and at Dunhuang in China. Another international arrangement was made in 1988 with the United States Smithsonian Institution for cooperative exchange of high-technology studies of Asian artifacts. The government plays a major role by funding the Japan Foundation, which provides both institutional and individual grants, effects scholarly exchanges, awards annual prizes, supported publications and exhibitions, and sends traditional Japanese arts groups to perform abroad. The Arts Festival held for two months each fall for all the performing arts is sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Major cities also provides substantial support for the arts; a growing number of cities in the 1980s had built large centers for the performing arts and, stimulated by government funding, were offering prizes such as the Lafcadio Hearn Prize initiated by the city of Matsue. A number of new municipal museums were also providing about one-third more facilities in the 1980s than were previously available. In the late 1980s, Tokyo added more than twenty new cultural halls, notably, the large Cultural Village built by Tokyo Corporation and the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theater. All these efforts reflect a rising popular enthusiasm for the arts. Japanese art buyers swept the Western art markets in the late 1980s, paying record highs for impressionist paintings and US$51.7 million alone for one blue period Picasso.

After World War II, artists typically gathered in arts associations, some of which were long-established professional societies while others reflected the latest arts movement. The Japan Artists League, for example, was responsible for the largest number of major exhibitions, including the prestigious annual Nitten (Japan Art Exhibition). The P.E.N. Club of Japan (P.E.N. stands for prose, essay, and narrative)--a branch of an international writers' organization--was the largest of some thirty major authors' associations. Actors, dancers, musicians, and other performing artists boasted their own societies, including the Kabuki Society, organized in 1987 to maintain this art's traditional high standards, which were thought to be endangered by modern innovation. By the 1980s, however, avant-garde painters and sculptors had eschewed all groups and were "unattached" artists.

<>Performing Arts
<>Kabuki and Bunraku
<>Modern Theater
<>Films and Television


Japan - Architecture


With the introduction of Western building techniques, materials, and styles into Meiji Japan, new steel and concrete structures were built in strong contrast to traditional styles. Japan played some role in modern skyscraper design because of its long familiarity with the cantilever principle to support the weight of heavy tiled temple roofs. Frank Lloyd Wright was strongly influenced by Japanese spatial arrangements and the concept of interpenetrating exterior and interior space, long achieved in Japan by opening up walls made of sliding doors. In the late twentieth century, however, only in domestic and religious architecture was Japanese style commonly employed. Cities bristled with modern skyscrapers, epitomized by Tokyo's crowded skyline, reflecting a total assimilation and transformation of modern Western forms.

The widespread urban planning and reconstruction necessitated by the devastation of World War II produced such major architects as Maekawa Kunio and Tange Kenzo. Maekawa, a student of worldfamous architect Charles LeCorbusier, produced thoroughly international , functional modern works. Tange, who worked at first for Maekawa, supported this concept. Both were notable for infusing Japanese aesthetic ideas into starkly contemporary buildings, returning to the spatial concepts and modular proportions of tatami (sleeping mats), using textures to enliven the ubiquitous ferroconcrete and steel, and integrating gardens and sculpture into their designs. Tange used the cantilever principle in a pillar and beam system reminiscent of ancient imperial palaces; the pillar--a hallmark of Japanese traditional monumental timber construction-- became fundamental to his designs. Maki Fumihiko advanced new city planning ideas based on the principle of layering or cocooning around an inner space (oku), a Japanese spatial concept that was adapted to urban needs. He also advocated the use of empty or open spaces (ma), a Japanese aesthetic principle reflecting Buddhist spatial ideas. Another quintessentially Japanese aesthetic concept was a basis for Maki designs, which focused on openings onto intimate garden views at ground level while cutting off somtimes-ugly skylines. A dominant 1970s architectural concept, the "metabolism" of convertibility, provided for changing the functions of parts of buildings according to use, and remains influential.

A major architect of the 1970s and 1980s was Isozaki Arata, originally a student and associate of Tange's, who also based his style on the LeCorbusier tradition and then turned his attention toward the further exploration of geometric shapes and cubic silhouettes. He synthesized Western high-technology building concepts with peculiarly Japanese spatial, functional, and decorative ideas to create a modern Japanese style. Isozaki's predilection for the cubic grid and trabeated pergola in largescale architecture, for the semicircular vault in domestic-scale buildings, and for extended barrel vaulting in low, elongated buildings led to a number of striking variations. New Wave architects of the 1980s were influenced by his designs, either pushing to extend his balanced style, often into mannerism, or reacting against them.

A number of avant-garde experimental groups were encompassed in the New Wave of the late 1970s and the 1980s. They reexamined and modified the formal geometric structural ideas of modernism by introducing metaphysical concepts, producing some startling fantasy effects in architectural design. In contrast to these innovators, the experimental poetic minimalism of Ando Tadao embodied the postmodernist concerns for a more balanced, humanistic approach than that of structural modernism's rigid formulations. And 's buildings provided a variety of light sources, including extensive use of glass bricks and opening up spaces to the outside air. He adapted the inner courtyards of traditional Osaka houses to new urban architecture, using open stairways and bridges to lessen the sealed atmosphere of the standard city dwelling. His ideas became ubiquitous in the 1980s, when buildings were commonly planned around open courtyards or plazas, often with stepped and terraced spaces, pedestrian walkways, or bridges connecting building complexes . In 1989 And became the third Japanese to receive France's Prix de l'Académie d'Architecture, an indication of the international strength of the major Japanese architects, all of whom produced important structures abroad during the 1980s. Japanese architects were not only skilled practitioners in the modern idiom but also enriched postmodern designs worldwide with innovative spatial perceptions, subtle surface texturing, unusual use of industrial materials, and a developed awareness of ecological and topographical problems.


Japan - Sculpture


Japanese sculpture derived from Shinto funerary and Buddhist religious arts. Portrait sculpture was developed only as a memorial to a shrine patron or temple founder. Materials traditionally used were metal--especially bronze--and, more commonly, wood, often lacquered, gilded, or brightly painted. By the end of the Tokugawa period, such traditional sculpture--except for miniaturized works-- had largely disappeared because of the loss of patronage by Buddhist temples and the nobility.

The stimulus of Western art forms returned sculpture to the Japanese art scene and introduced the plaster cast, outdoor heroic sculpture, and the school of Paris concept of sculpture as an "art form." Such ideas adapted in Japan during the late nineteenth century, together with the return of state patronage, rejuvenated sculpture. After World War II, sculptors turned away from the figurative French school of Rodin and Maillol toward aggressive modern and avant-garde forms and materials, sometimes on an enormous scale. A profusion of materials and techniques characterized these new experimental sculptures, which also absorbed the ideas of international "op" (optical illusion) and "pop" (popular motif) art. A number of innovative artists were both sculptors and painters or printmakers, their new theories cutting across material boundaries.

In the 1970s, the ideas of contextual placement of natural objects of stone, wood, bamboo, and paper into relationships with people and their environment were embodied in the mono-ha school. The mono-ha rtists emphasized materiality as the most important aspect of art and brought to an end the antiformalism that had dominated the avant-garde in the preceding two decades. This focus on the relationships between objects and people was ubiquitous throughout the arts world and led to a rising appreciation of "Japanese" qualities in the environment and a return to native artistic principles and forms. Among these precepts were a reverence for nature and various Buddhist concepts, which were brought into play by architects to treat time and space problems. Western ideology was carefully reexamined, and much was rejected as artists turned to their own environment--both inward and outward--for sustenance and inspiration. From the late 1970s through the late 1980s, artists began to create a vital new art, which was both contemporary and Asian in sources and expression but still very much a part of the international scene. These artists focused on projecting their own individualism and national styles rather than on adapting or synthesizing Western ideas exclusively.

Outdoor sculpture, which came to the fore with the advent of the Hakone Open-Air Museum in 1969, was widely used in the 1980s. Cities supported enormous outdoor sculptures for parks and plazas, and major architects planned for sculpture in their buildings and urban layouts. Outdoor museums and exhibitions burgeoned, stressing the natural placement of sculpture in the environment. Because hard sculpture stone is not native to Japan, most outdoor pieces were created from stainless steel, plastic, or aluminum for "tension and compression" machine constructions of mirror-surfaced steel or for elegant, polished-aluminum, ultramodern shapes. The strong influence of modern high technology on the artists resulted in experimentation with kinetic, tensile forms, such as flexible arcs and "info-environmental" sculptures using lights. Video components and video art developed rapidly from the late 1970s throughout the 1980s. The new Japanese experimental sculptors could be understood as working with Buddhist ideas of permeability and regeneration in structuring their forms, in contrast to the general Western conception of sculpture as something with finite and permanent contours.

In the 1980s, wood and natural materials were used prominently by many sculptors, who now began to place their works in inner courtyards and enclosed spaces. Also, a Japanese feeling for rhythmic motion, captured in recurring forms as a "systematic gestural motion," was used by both long-established artists like Kiyomizu Kyubei and Nagasawa Hidetoshi and the younger generation led by Toya Shigeo. The 1970s search for a national identity led to a renewed understanding of Japanese forms, spatial perceptions, rhythms, and philosophical conceptions, which reinvigorated Japanese sculpture in the 1980s.


Japan - Painting


Painting is one of the oldest and most highly refined of the Japanese arts, stemming from classic continental traditions of the early historical period (sixth-seventh centuries A.D.). Native Japanese traditions reached their apex in the Heian period (A.D 794-1185), producing many artistic devices still in use. During periods of strong Chinese influence, new art forms were adapted, such as Buddhist works in Nara, ink painting in the Muromachi period, and landscape painting by literati in the Tokugawa era. When Western painting theories were introduced in the Meiji period, Japan already had a long history of adaptation of imported ideas and had established a copying process ranging from emulation to synthesis. But it was not until well into the twentieth century that the Japanese were able to assimilate the new medium of oil paints with new ideas of three-dimensional projections on flat surfaces.

Most contemporary Japanese artists could be divided into those who worked in a broadly international style and those who maintained Japanese artistic traditions, though usually within a modern idiom. After World War II, painters, calligraphers, and printmakers flourished in the big cities, particularly Tokyo, and became preoccupied with the mechanisms of urban life, reflected in the flickering lights, neon colors, and frenetic pace of their abstractions. All the "isms" of the New York-Paris art world were fervently embraced. After the abstractions of the 1960s, the 1970s saw a return to realism strongly flavored by the "op" and "pop" art movements, embodied in the 1980s in the explosive works of Shinohara Ushio. Many such outstanding avant-garde artists worked both in Japan and abroad, winning international prizes. These artists felt that there was "nothing Japanese" about their works, and indeed they belonged to the international school. By the late 1970s, the search for Japanese qualities and a national style caused many artists to reevaluate their artistic ideology and turn away from what some felt were the empty formulas of the West. Contemporary paintings within the modern idiom began to make conscious use of traditional Japanese art forms, devices, and ideologies. A number of mono-ha artists turned to painting to recapture traditional nuances in spatial arrangements, color harmonies, and lyricism.

Japanese-style painting (nihonga) had continued in a modern fashion, updating traditional expressions while retaining their intrinsic character. Some artists within this style still painted on silk or paper with traditional colors and ink, while others used new materials, such as acrylics. Many of the older schools of art, most notably those of the Tokugawa period, were still practiced. For example, the decorative naturalism of the rimpa school, characterized by brilliant, pure colors and bleeding washes, was reflected in the work of many postwar artists and in the 1980s art of Hikosaka Naoyoshi. The realism of the Maruyama-Okyo school and the calligraphic and spontaneous Japanese style of the gentlemen-scholars were both widely practiced in the 1980s. Sometimes all of these schools, as well as older ones, such as the Kano ink traditions, were drawn on by contemporary artists in the Japanese style and in the modern idiom. Many Japanese-style painters were honored with awards and prizes as a result of renewed popular demand for Japanese-style art beginning in the 1970s. More and more, the international modern painters also drew on the Japanese schools as they turned away from Western styles in the 1980s. The tendency had been to synthesize East and West. But new artistic approaches were less in favor of a conscious blending than of recapturing the Japanese spirit within a modern idiom. Thus, the 100-year split between Japanese-style and Western-style art began to heal. Some artists had already leapt the gap between the two, as did the outstanding painter Shinoda Toko. Her bold sumi ink abstractions were inspired by traditional calligraphy but realized as lyrical expressions of modern abstraction.


Japan - Calligraphy


Calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing, had long been highly esteemed, intensively studied, and avidly collected. The writing of Chinese ideograms (kanji) in a wide variety of styles was inherited from the Chinese scholarly tradition, which at one extreme became the nearly indecipherable grass-style writing and at the other geometric abstractions. There are famous exponents of all these styles in contemporary Japan who have spent a lifetime perfecting their skills. The most widely used mode is called kana, referring to the Japanese syllabary, which provides an opportunity to depict both ideograms and Japanese phonetic sounds in set phrases. This kind of writing may be done in many ways: with fine, delicate strokes or bold, splashy ones, carefully controlled or in uninhibited freedom, and on a scale ranging from large to minuscule. Traditional Japanese poetry is usually classified in the kana group, while modern poetry is placed in a group by itself. Zen Buddhism promoted a spontaneous style of writing in its koan, which includes some pictorial additions.

Because calligraphy lends itself so well to modern abstract painting, some artists have used it in this form; the Bokusho abstract school has developed some outstanding masters. Calligraphers are greatly revered not only for their skill and scholarship but also for their attainment of a high spiritual level, which produces the meditative calm considered necessary for truly creative brushwork. Calligraphy is widely collected at enormous prices, and writing by well-known persons in various fields, such as politics or the military, is also treasured even by those who cannot read the script, which is not uncommon because some is nearly abstract.


Japan - Prints


Outstanding among the contemporary arts for vitality and originality are the works of the creative printmakers, which have brought worldwide recognition. The twentieth-century Japanese print evolved from the Western idea of a single artist's conceiving, executing, and producing one individual work. In contrast, the classic ukiyo-e (floating world art) print approach was of a team production by an artist designer, craftsman carver, colorist, printer, and publisher, who promoted sales of multiple copies. The modern print movement so stressed the creative process that even in the 1980s, editions of prints were seldom very large and were apt to differ in color or even design elements from one printing to the next.

In the late twentieth century, a broad spectrum of artistic styles from traditional to experimental was practiced in a multiplicity of media and techniques. Munakata Shiko, a major force in gaining recognition for creative printmaking, drew deeply on Japanese artistic sources, from folk art to Zen poetry-paintings, combining kanji with free-floating Chagall-like figures. He influenced many other celebrated print artists who drew on folk art and used natural earth and mineral colors to depict traditional village scenes and lively local festivals. Artists such as Sekino Jun'ichiro and Saito Kiyoshi were inspired to update famous views, as of the Tokaido, while others played with traditional themes derived from sumo, the theater, or geisha. At the opposite pole are the works of the abstractionists, the exponents of all the "isms" of the day, and the experimental essays of some consummate designers. Most avant-garde artists worked in mixed media, often using engraving techniques with silk-screened colors or monochromatic metal prints with soldered wires. They experimented freely with photomontage, photo-prints made with an electric scanner, and lithographs. Photography as an art form came into its own in the 1980s, and major international exhibitions displayed the stunning products of artist photographers such as Namikawa Banri, Kurigama Kazumi, and Hashi. In the 1980s, a trend among many young printmakers was toward the use of black and white for somber, often superrealistic, themes, captured with exquisite technical and artistic precision.


Japan - Ceramics


One of Japan's oldest art forms, ceramics, reaches back to the Neolithic period (ca. 10,000 B.C.), when the earliest soft earthenware was coil-made, decorated by hand-impressed rope patterns (Jomon ware), and baked in the open. Continental emigrants of the third century B.C. introduced the use of the wheel along with the metal age (Yayoi), and eventually (in the third to fourth centuries A.D.), a tunnel kiln in which stoneware fired at high temperatures embellished with natural ash glaze was produced. Medieval kilns enabled more refined production of stoneware, which was still produced in the late twentieth century at a few famous sites, especially in central Honshu around the city of Seto, the wares of which were so widely used that Seto-mono became the generic term for ceramics in Japan. The overlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Korean campaigns of the late sixteenth century were dubbed the "ceramic wars," since the importation of Korean potters appeared to be the Koreans' major contribution. These potters introduced a variety of new techniques and styles in their artifacts that were greatly admired for the tea ceremony. They also discovered in northern Kyushu the proper ingredients needed to produce porcelain and were soon dazzling the guests at daimyo banquets with the first Japanese-made porcelain.

The modern masters of these famous traditional kilns still bring the ancient formulas in pottery and porcelain to new heights of achievement at Shiga, Ige, Karatsu, Hagi, and Bizen. Yamamoto Masao of Bizen and Miwa Kyusetsu of Hagi were designated as mukei bunkazai. Only a half-dozen potters were so honored by 1989 either as representatives of famous kiln wares or as creators of superlative techniques in glazing or decoration; two groups were designated for preserving the wares of distinguished ancient kilns.

In the old capital of Kyoto, the Raku family continued to produce the famous rough tea bowls that had so delighted Hideyoshi. At Mino, continued to be made to reconstruct the classic formulas of Momoyama-era Seto-type tea wares at Mino, such as the famous Oribe copper-green glaze and Shino ware's prized milky glaze. Artist potters experimented endlessly at the Kyoto and Tokyo arts universities to recreate traditional porcelain and its decorations under such outstanding ceramic teachers as Fujimoto Yoshimichi, a mukei bunkazai. Ancient porcelain kilns around Arita in Kyushu were still maintained by the lineage of the famous Sakaida Kakiemon XIV and Imaizume Imaiemon XIII, hereditary porcelain makers to the Nabeshima clan; both were heads of groups designated mukei bunkazai.

By the end of the 1980s, many master potters no longer worked at major or ancient kilns, but were making classic wares in various parts of Japan or in Tokyo, a notable example being Tsuji Seimei, who brought his clay from Shiga but potted in the Tokyo area. A number of artists were engaged in reconstructing famous Chinese styles of decoration or glazes, especially the blue-green celadon and the watery-green qingbai. One of the most beloved Chinese glazes in Japan is the chocolate-brown tenmoku glaze that covered the peasant tea bowls brought back from Southern Song China (in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries) by Zen monks. For their Japanese users, these chocolate-brown wares embodied the Zen aesthetic of wabi (rustic simplicity).

Interest in the humble art of the village potter was revived in a folk movement of the 1920s by such master potters as Hamada Shoji and Kawai Kanjiro. These artists studied traditional glazing techniques to preserve native wares in danger of disappearing. The kilns at Tamba, overlooking Kobe. A number of institutions came under the aegis of the Cultural Properties Protection Division.be, continued to produce the daily wares used in the Tokugawa period, while adding modern shapes. Most of the village wares were made anonymously by local potters for utilitarian purposes. Local styles, whether native or imported, tended to be continued without alteration into the present. In Kyushu, kilns set up by Korean potters in the sixteenth century, such as at Koishibara and its offshoot at Onta, perpetuated sixteenth-century Korean peasant wares. In Okinawa, the production of village ware continued under several leading masters, with Kaneshiro Jiro honored as a mukei bunkazai.


Japan - Handicrafts


The many and varied traditional handicrafts of Japan enjoyed official recognition and protection and, owing to the folk art movement, were much in demand. Each craft demanded a set of specialized skills. Textile crafts, for example, included silk, hemp, and cotton, woven (after spinning and dyeing) in forms from timeless folk designs to complex court patterns. Village crafts evolving from ancient folk traditions also continued in weaving and indigo dyeing in Hokkaido by the Ainu peoples, whose distinctive designs had prehistoric prototypes, and by other remote farming families in northern Japan. Silk-weaving families can be traced to the fifteenth century in the famous Nishijin weaving center of Kyoto, where elegant fabrics worn by the emperor and the aristocracy were produced. In the seventeenth century, designs on textiles were applied using stencils and rice paste, in the yuzen or paste-resist method of dyeing. The yuzen method provided an imitation of aristocratic brocades, which were forbidden to commoners by sumptuary laws. Moriguchi Kako of Kyoto has continued to create works of art in his yuzen-dyed kimonos, which were so sought after that the contemporary fashion industry designed an industrial method to copy them for use on Western-style clothing. Famous designers, such as Hanae Mori, borrowed extensively from kimono patterns for their couturier collections. By the late 1980s, an elegant, handwoven, dyed kimono had become extremely costly, running to US$25,000 for a formal garment. In Okinawa the famous yuzen-dyeing method was especially effective where it was produced in the bingata stencil-dyeing techniques, which produced exquisitely colored, striking designs as artistic national treasures.

Lacquer, the first plastic, was invented in Asia, and its use in Japan can be traced to prehistoric finds. Lacquer ware is most often made from wooden objects, which receive multiple layers of refined lac juices, each of which must dry before the next is applied. These layers make a tough skin impervious to water damage and to resist breakage, providing lightweight, easy-to-clean utensils of every sort. The decoration on such lacquers, whether carved through different colored layers or in surface designs, applied with gold or inlaid with precious substances, has been a prized art form since the Nara period (A.D. 710-94).

Papermaking is another contribution of Asian civilization; the Japanese art of making paper from the mulberry plant is thought to have begun in the sixth century A.D. Dyeing paper with a wide variety of hues and decorating it with designs became a major preoccupation of the Heian court, and the enjoyment of beautiful paper and its use has continued thereafter, with some modern adaptations. The traditionally made paper called Izumo (after the shrine area where it is made) was especially desired for fusuma (sliding panels) decoration, artists' papers, and elegant letter paper. Some printmakers have their own logo made into their papers, and since the Meiji period, another special application has been Western marbleized end papers (made by the Atelier Miura in Tokyo).

Metalwork is epitomized in the production of the Japanese sword, of extremely high quality. These swords originated before the first century B.C. and reached their height of popularity as the chief possession of warlords and samurai. The production of a sword has retained something of the religious quality it once had in embodying the soul of the samurai and the martial spirit of Japan. For many Japanese, the sword, one of the "three jewels" of the nation, remained a potent symbol; possessors would treasure a sword and it would be maintained within the family, its loss signifying their ruin.


Japan - Performing Arts


A remarkable number of the traditional forms of music, dance, and theater have survived in the contemporary world, enjoying some popularity through reidentification with Japanese cultural values. Traditional music and dance, which trace their origins to ancient religious use--Buddhist, Shinto, and folk--have been preserved in the dramatic performances of No, Kabuki, and bunraku theater. Ancient court music and dance forms deriving from continental sources were preserved through imperial household musicians and temple and shrine troupes. Some of the oldest musical instruments in the world have been in continuous use in Japan from the Jomon period, as shown by finds of stone and clay flutes and zithers having between two and four strings, to which Yayoi-period metal bells and gongs were added to create early musical ensembles. By the early historical period (sixth to seventh centuries A.D.), there were a variety of large and small drums, gongs, chimes, flutes, and stringed instruments, such as the imported mandolin-like biwa and the flat six-stringed zither, which evolved into the thirteen-stringed koto. These instruments formed the orchestras for the seventh-century continentally derived ceremonial court music, which, together with the accompanying bugaku (a type of court dance), are the most ancient of such forms still performed at the imperial court, ancient temples, and shrines. Buddhism introduced the rhythmic chants, still used, that were joined with native ideas and underlay the development of vocal music, such as in No.


Japan - No


The oldest dramatic form preserved in Japan is No theater, which attained its contemporary form at the fourteenth-century Ashikaga court. In the 1980s, there were five major No groups and a few notable regional troupes performing several hundred plays from a medieval repertoire for a popular audience, not just for an elite. A No play unfolds around the recitation and dancing of a principal and secondary figure, while a seated chorus chants a story, accentuated by solemn drum and flute music. The dramatic action is mimed in highly stylized gestures symbolizing intense emotions, which are also evoked by terse lyrical prose and dance. Standardized masks and brilliant costumes stand out starkly against the austere, empty stage with its symbolic pine tree backdrop.

No stories depict legendary or historical events of a tragic cast, infused with Buddhist ideas. The foreboding atmosphere is relieved by comic interludes (kyogen) played during the intermission. A few experimental plays have been developed by authors such as Mishima Yukio (1925-70), and in the 1980s a Christian No play was written by a Sophia University philosophy professor and daringly performed at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. The National No Theater has revived popular interest in this ancient art form by supporting experimental No plays in the late 1980s.


Japan - Kabuki and Bunraku


Kabuki and bunraku theater developed as popular forms of entertainment in the seventeenth century. Kabuki combined contemporary music, acrobatics, and mimicry like that of No, and it was originally performed by troupes that included actresses. Women were soon barred from appearing, so the often large casts consisted entirely of male performers. Classical Kabuki somewhat resembles Western drama, except that dialogue was supplemented by chanting and accompanied by music provided by the samisen, a threestringed lute perfected during the seventeenth century. The plot was often clarified by the use of a storyteller who recounted the major action, as was also customary in No.

Kabuki conventions include the use of artificially high-pitched voices, exaggerated gestures and miming, and flamboyant costumes and makeup, but no masks. Elaborate stage devices--trapdoors, revolving stages, and runways through the theater--heighten the excitement. Historical and legendary themes were extended to include events from the urban life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as a townsman's dislike for the samurai. A common theme in the late-seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century works of Chikamatsu Monzaemon, "the Shakespeare of Japan," is the conflict between personal desires and the Confucian sense of loyalty and duty. By the early 1990s, there were two national Kabuki theaters in Tokyo featuring a growing repertoire of lesser known as well as classic work. Among contemporary masters working to "update" Kabuki and attract modern audiences were Ichikawa Ennosuke III, whose deft acting, clever acrobatics, and swift costume changes evoked nearly magical illusions, and Tamasaburo Bando, the top player of a wide range of feminine roles. These and other superb Kabuki actors brought record audiences to performances in the late 1980s.

Bunraku, puppet theater native to Osaka, was regarded as a serious dramatic medium for adults (unlike puppetry in many Western countries), and it flourished along with Kabuki begining with the Tokugawa period. Chikamatsu turned to writing for the bunraku when he became dissatisfied with the liberties some Kabuki actors took with his plays. A narrator, who sings all the parts, and a samisen-playing chorus are the main elements of bunraku. The narrator-singer conveys the emotional content of the play and generates the illusion of life in the large puppets, who move realistically in complex roles, manipulated by a master and black-hooded, robed assistants. These narrator-singers derive from the ancient tradition of storytellers, whose exponents continue to flourish in modern forms, now including women and such uproarish comics as Katsura Shijaku.


Japan - Music


Traditional music, song, and dance have been performed by women, notably the geisha of Tokyo and Kyoto. Theatrical performances by Kyoto geisha can be seen in the spring and autumn Miyako Odori dance performances. A nagauta (lyric music) singing group has a full orchestral ensemble, consisting of drums, flutes, samisen, and koto. The traditional musical notation is based on a five-tone scale, with semitones often ending on a rising note. Famous performers may play the samisen or koto only, or they may play together with a singer or dancer. The dances come from No, Kabuki, and folk sources, featuring large ensemble dances as highlights of these brilliant spectacles.

Folk music and dance deriving from regional festivals and ceremonies began to become well-known in Japan through radio, television, and recordings. Folk festivals, concerts, contests, and taverns specializing in folk singing contributed to the rising popularity of these ancient forms, revitalized by the growing desire of the young in the 1980s to learn traditional agrarian songs and dances, while the Japan Folkloric Dance Ensemble performed them internationally. Some thirty outstanding performers from all the traditional performing arts were designated as mukei bunkazai at the end of the 1980s.

Classical Western music has become a fundamental part of Japanese musical education since its introduction in the nineteenth century. The Toho School of Music in Tokyo has produced many outstanding international performers on the piano and stringed instruments. Children commonly studied piano or violin, and the famous Suzuki violin method of training children from the age of two had produced a generation of virtuosos; some, such as Midori, enjoyed an international reputation.

Symphony orchestras played in Tokyo and most major cities, also making international tours. Japanese musicians and conductors gained international recognition, some performing regularly with top foreign orchestras overseas and on tour in Japan. Contemporary Japanese composers have experimented widely with instruments: using Japanese and Western instruments together, using only Asian instruments, and capturing traditional sounds with electronic synthesizers and Western instruments. The Ensemble Nipponica, Music Today, and Sound Space Ark were among the major groups promoting modern Japanese music.

Classical Western opera enjoyed a boom, with many foreign companies performing, and even local companies rose to new heights with the development of leading operatic singers. Further evidence of interest in Japanese themes was shown by a major competition to write a new opera about Chikamatsu, with music composed by Hara Kazuko, a Doshisha University professor.

Popular music was enjoyed in many forms. Musical comedies and revues were standard urban entertainment. Broadway and London hits were quickly adapted by Tokyo theater troupes, often using foreign directors for notable productions and sometimes featuring Western actors who spoke their lines in Japanese. Japanese youth everywhere enjoyed popular music: highly international jazz, rock, heavy metal, folk, new music, pop, synthesized music, instrumental music, and Japanese folk songs. Springing from popular music were the works of experimental composers like Hosono Haruomi and Sakamoto Ryuichi, who blended Middle Eastern or Chinese sounds for the huge recording industry and film sound tracks. In 1988 Sakamoto was Japan's first Oscar-winning musician for his score for The Last Emperor.

Live jazz in concert halls, open air, and hundreds of disco coffee shops and pianobars was enthusiastically embraced. While American jazz greats were acclaimed, veteran Japanese instrumentalists Watanabe Sadao and Hino Teramasu also commanded major audiences at jazz festivals. Kitaro was the leading composer in synthesized sounds, providing sometimes exotic, but generally soothing, music dear to the frazzled urbanite. While percussionist Tsuchitori Toshi recreated the Mahabharata and other ethnic works, an indigenous kind of jazz poured from the Sado Island Kodo drummers, whose prodigious athletic performances mesmerized all and made their home a new music festival center. Singing and dancing at amateur open nights (karaoke) at a growing number of pubs was an activity in which everyone could shine by singing along with prerecorded tapes. In the late 1980s, the kawaiko-chan, the new girl singers, also were popular. Records, tapes, and compact discs made every type of music available nationwide and provided common experience for music appreciation.


Japan - Dance


Twentieth-century Japanese dance draws on various traditional styles and Western classical and avant-garde forms, all interpretated with the high standards of Japanese schools. Many famous dance studios grew from training centers for Kabuki actor-dancers or derived from famous Kabuki families. Women dancers drawing their art from butoh (classical Japanese dance) were trained by the Hanayagi school, whose top dancers performed internationally. Ichinohe Sachiko choreographed and performed traditional dances in Heian court costumes, characterized by the slow, formal, and elegant motions of this classical age of Japanese culture.

Western schools covered classical ballet, jazz-dance, and modern dance and influenced the butoh avant-garde dance movement. Ballet was said to have replaced traditional Japanese arts, such as flower arranging and the tea ceremony, in the hearts of young girls. Prima ballerina Morishita Yoko sat on the jury for the Prix de Lausanne Ballet Competition in 1989, held for the first time in Tokyo, marking the arrival of Japanese classical ballet in the international community. Horiuchi Gen, a 1980 Prix de Lausanne winner, became a major soloist with the New York City Ballet, and Japanese performers noted for their superb technique were members of many major international companies. Modern dance was performed early after World War II and was later taught by such famous dancers as Eguchi Takaya. The Tokyo Modern Dance School and the Ozawa Hisako Modern Dance Company also promoted avant-garde modern dance. A wide experimental range within modern dance occurred from which choreographer Teshigawara Saburo skillfully drew to create multifaceted works for his KARAS Company.

The vital avant-garde butoh dance was a major development after the war: at least five major schools performed in the 1985 Butoh Festival, and there were numerous creative offshoots. Hijikata Tatsumi was a charismatic dancer who experimented with different kinds of creative dance to capture expressive motions he considered expressly suited to the Japanese physiognomy and psyche. He combined eroticism, social criticism, and avant-garde theater ideas, and he considered the body to be a repository for "stored memories," which could be metamorphosed into dance forms. His theories and choreography were carried on by a number of famous dancers, who eventually formed their own major companies, which were strong in the 1980s and toured abroad.


Japan - Modern Theater


Modern drama in the late twentieth century consisted of shingeki (experimental Western-style theater), which employed naturalistic acting and contemporary themes in contrast to the stylized conventions of Kabuki and No. In the postwar period, there was a phenomenal growth in creative new dramatic works, which introduced fresh aesthetic concepts that revolutionized the orthodox modern theater. Challenging the realistic, psychological drama focused on "tragic historical progress" of the Westernderived shingeki, young playwrights broke with such accepted tenets as conventional stage space, placing their action in tents, streets, and open areas and, at the extreme, in scenes played out all over Tokyo. Plots became increasingly complex, with play-within-a-play sequences, moving rapidly back and forth in time, and intermingling reality with fantasy. Dramatic structure was fragmented, with the focus on the performer, who often used a variety of masks to reflect different personae. Playwrights returned to common stage devices perfected in No and Kabuki to project their ideas, such as employing a narrator, who could also use English for international audiences. Major playwrights in the 1980s were Kara Joro , Shimizu Kunio, and Betsuyaku Minoru, all closely connected to specific companies. In the 1980s, stagecraft was refined into a more sophisticated, complex format than in the earlier postwar experiments but lacked their bold critical spirit.

Many Western plays, from those of the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare and from those of Fyodor Dostoevsky to Samuel Beckett, were performed in Tokyo. An incredible number of performances, perhaps as many as 3,000, were given each year, making Tokyo one of the world's leading theatrical centers. The opening of the replica of the Globe Theater was celebrated by importing an entire British company to perform all of Shakespeare's historical plays, while other Tokyo theaters produced other Shakespearean plays including various new interpretations of Hamlet and King Lear.

Suzuki Tadashi's Togo troupe developed a unique kind of "method acting," integrating avant-garde concepts with classical No and Kabuki devices, an approach that became a major creative force in Japanese and international theater in the 1980s. Another highly original East-West fusion occurred in the inspired production Nastasya, taken from Dostoevsky's The Idiot, in which Bando Tamasaburo, a famed Kabuki onnagata (female impersonator), played the roles of both the prince and his fianceé.


Japan - Literature


Japanese literature dates from about the fifth century A.D., when the Chinese writing system began to be used by scribes at the Yamato court. As soon as the Japanese courtiers learned to read, they began to write, compiling between the sixth century and the eighth century both a state history of epic proportions, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and one of the world's oldest poetry anthologies, the Man'yoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), both of which contain many older works. They also composed Chinese-style poetry, which they found suitable for more difficult, lengthy, and profound thoughts. By the eighth century, the elite had already come to grips with the problem of assimilating difficult foreign ideas in a complex new language. The dichotomy between native expression and the use of prestigious imported forms became a pattern of Japanese artistic life. Buddhist commentary appeared after several centuries of copying, translation, and study. In the ninth century it found a strong voice and skilled brush in the monk Kukai, through whose inspiration religious themes became a part of the literary fabric.

Prose works had reached a high level by the tenth century, when the literary diary made its appearance. In the eleventh century the world's first novel, Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji), was composed by a court lady, Murasaki Shikibu. Her acute psychological observations molded by a subtle feminine sensibility wove a deft picture of the hothouse Heian court society. It remains a matchless source for all subsequent writers and an important part of the classical education of every Japanese. In the medieval period, women's vernacular writing dominated prose in the form of diaries of court ladies, supplemented by recollections of courtiers, the wry comments and musings of monks, and a wide variety of tales and legends, both secular and profane. Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike) captured the samurai spirit of the Kamakura warriors' age, while the melancholy thirty-one syllable waka poems (in a five-seven-five-seven-seven syllables-per-line arrangement) of the twelfth-century monk Saigyo reflected the mood of a militant era. Writing of the Muromachi period was characteristically the work of exiles from the capital and monastic authors who contemplated the fleeting vanities of this world, and the theme of death and the spirit world, setting the tone for the No plays of Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443). Comic relief was provided by kyogen, using the vernacular to reveal something of the life of the commoner.

The peace and prosperity of the Tokugawa age produced a new mercantile class--the chonin--whose antics were humorously described in the vigorous seventeenth-century novels of Ihara Saikaku, dispelling the lingering melancholy of the late feudal period. A major poet of this age, Matsuo Basho, lifted his voice to extol the qualities of loneliness, of getting away from the new crowded towns by taking the "narrow road to the deep north," a celebrated journey whose three-hundredth anniversary was widely commemorated in the late 1980s. Basho's matchless renku (linked poems) of thirty-six verses and his lighthearted seventeen- syllable haiku (five-seven-five) set a norm for modern emulators. A third literary genius of this period was the great dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon, whose historical and domestic plays formed the soul of the Kabuki theater. In the eighteenth century, Chinese novels were translated into Japanese, the poet Yosa Buson infused a new romantic spirit into haiku poems, and Kobayashi Issa made interesting subjects out of the "ordinariness" of the common folk and the ugly, starveling sparrow.

Japanese literature clearly draws on a tradition rich in poetic and prose forms. The writing of poetry in both the classic thirty-one syllable waka and the seventeen-syllable haiku remained a national pastime and a skill expected of the educated, among whom competitions were frequently held. Japanese renga parties, at which poets and the intelligentsia composed poetry in groups, continued as a major literary pursuit. Haiku poets were among the most honored of all creative artists, and a haiku museum was established in 1976 as a public center for the study of poetry. The ancient waka in modern usage is called a tanka, or short song (also with a five-seven-five-seven-seven syllabic formula). Many writers continued to use this form for less profound thoughts. Even more striking were the modern permutations of older literary forms: such experiments as two syllable haiku, tanka in romaji (romanized form of kana), and Zen ideas expressed in Western-style free verse, or iambic pentameter.

The introduction of European literature in the late nineteenth century brought free verse into the poetic repertoire; it became widely used for longer works embodying new intellectual themes. Young Japanese prose writers and dramatists have struggled with a whole galaxy of new ideas and artistic schools, but novelists were the first to successfully assimilate some of these concepts. A new colloquial literature developed centering on the "I novel," with some unusual protagonists as in Natsume Soseki's Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat). Two modern literary giants whose works were deeply rooted in Japanese sensibilities were Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, who captured the East-West value struggle in Japanese life prior to World War II and Kawabata Yasunari, a master of psychological fiction during the mid-twentieth century and a Nobel Prize winner. Capturing the immediate postwar atmosphere were Dazai Osamu and Mishima Yukio, both of whom committed suicide. Dazai's writing reflected the quiet desperation of living with personal defeat, while Mishima provided a glowing vision of traditional morality, gradually overcome by new Western values.

Prominent writers of the 1970s and 1980s, such as e Kensabuo, were identified with intellectual and moral issues in their attempts to raise social and political consciousness. Inoue Mitsuaki had long been concerned with the atomic bomb and continued in the 1980s to write on problems of the nuclear age, while Endo Shusaku depicted the religious dilemma of Roman Catholics in feudal Japan, as a springboard to address spiritual problems. Inoue Yasushi also turned to the past in masterful historical novels of Inner Asia and ancient Japan, in order to portray present human fate.

Avant-garde writers, such as Abe Kobo, who wanted to express the Japanese experience in modern terms without using either international styles or traditional conventions, developed new inner visions. Furui Yoshikichi tellingly related the lives of alienated urban dwellers coping with the minutiae of daily life, while the psychodramas within such daily life crises have been explored by a rising number of important women novelists. The 1988 Naoki Prize went to Todo Shizuko for Ripening Summer, a story capturing the complex psychology of modern women. Other award-winning stories at the end of the decade dealt with current issues of the elderly in hospitals, the recent past (Pure- Hearted Shopping District in Koenji, Tokyo), and the life of a Meiji ukiyo-e artist. In international literature, Ishiguro Kazuo, a native of Japan, had taken up residence in Britain and won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize.

Although modern Japanese writers covered a wide variety of subjects, one particularly Japanese approach stressed their subjects' inner lives, widening the earlier novel's preoccupation with the narrator's consciousness. In Japanese fiction, plot development and action have often been of secondary interest to emotional issues. In keeping with the general trend toward reaffirming national characteristics, many old themes reemerged, and some authors turned consciously to the past. Strikingly, Buddhist attitudes about the importance of knowing oneself and the poignant impermanence of things formed an undercurrent to sharp social criticism of this material age. There was a growing emphasis on women's roles, the Japanese persona in the modern world, and the malaise of common people lost in the complexities of urban culture.

Popular fiction, nonfiction, and children's literature all flourished in urban Japan in the 1980s. Many popular works fell between "pure literature" and pulp novels, including all sorts of historical serials, information-packed docudramas, science fiction, mysteries, business stories, war journals, and animal stories. Best-sellers in the late 1980s were several books by a young woman, "Banana" Yoshimoto, and Murakami Haruki's spectacularly successful Norwegian Wood and A Wild Sheep Chase. Nonfiction covered everything from crime to politics. Although factual journalism predominated, many of these works were interpretive, reflecting a high degree of individualism. Children's works reemerged in the 1950s, and the newer entrants into this field, many of them younger women, brought new vitality to it in the 1980s.

Manga (comic books) have penetrated almost every sector of the popular market. Widely used for soft pornography, they also have included a multivolume high-school history of Japan and, for the adult market, a manga introduction to economics, which was also available in English. Manga represented between 20 and 30 percent of annual publications at the end of the 1980s, in sales of some ¥400 billion per year.


Japan - Films and Television


Reeling from television's overwhelming success, the cinema industry retreated in the 1980s to the tried-and-true formulas--the comedies, romances, detective stories, and youth films that always had sure audiences. Production at the four major film companies decreased to some 200 films a year, of which only a handful were quality productions. Pornographic films grew to constitute about half of the films made. The animated format used for children's films did show promising originality, but truly creative productions could be found only among independent film directors. A burgeoning number of art films, both domestic and imported, found homes in intimate art theaters in the cities. Foreign films were often the major draws in urban areas, which had record runs for European and North American hits. Some top directors produced major films with foreign funding or in foreign locations. In a return to Japanese production at the end of the 1980s, Akira Kurosawa, the acknowledged old master of cinematic art, summarized his remembrance of things past in Dreams. A nostalgic look at past views of family life was seen in Ichikawa Kon's remake of Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's The Makioka Sisters, a visually beautiful color film portraying the nearly vanished world of earlytwentieth -century upper-class women. A major historical offering was Teshigawara Hiroshi's Rikyu (1989), which marked the return of this major director after a seventeen-year absence from films, in a pictorially magnificent presentation of the life of the famous Momoyama tea master and his moral conflict with the political overlord Hideyoshi.

Although there was virtually no market in Japan for documentaries, a major docudrama, Tokyo saiban (Tokyo Judgment), directed by Kobayashi Masaki and taken directly from footage of tribunal proceedings against alleged Japanese war criminals, had a rapt audience. Outstanding among the newer independent directors were Itami Juzo and Morita Yoshimitsu, whose The Family Game set a new pattern for satirical comedies on urban dilemmas. By the mid-1980s, Itami's savage new satires showed unprecedented originality. Although these films addressed the anomalies and excesses of Japanese life, their subjects were mirrored around the world, and they had a strong international following.

Popular comedy was led by the beloved Tora-san series about the travel adventures of an avuncular, bumbling everyman, played by the ever-popular Atsumi Kiyoshi, whose forty-first feature film in 1989 took the hero to Vienna in a telling display of internationalization. Another hoary favorite was the monster series starring Godzilla. The most sophisticated youth movie of the 1980s may have been Yamakawa Naoto's The New Morning of Billy the Kid, a fantasy set in a Tokyo theme-bar, which was embraced by the young worldwide. A much-loved children's classic Kaze no matasaburo (Children of the Wind), written by Miyazawa Kenji, was filmed by award-winning director Ito Shunya as a skillful fantasy. Animated full-length features ranged from a gorgeously interpreted selection from Tale of Genji to Otomoto Katsushiro's Akira, a violent, provocative futuristic fantasy. Such animated features had their origins in the wildly popular manga action cartoons. Television also produced a substantial number of cartoons, including the ever popular "Sazae-san," which had the highest rating in the late 1980s.

Television had attained virtually 100 percent penetration by 1990, and only 1 percent of households were without a color television set, making Japan a major information society. Programming consisted of about 50 percent pure entertainment and nearly 25 percent cultural shows, the remainder being news reports and educational programs. There were two main broadcasting systems: the public NHK and five private networks. The major system, NHK, was publicly subsidized by mandatory subscription fees. Leading newspapers were among the financial supporters of the most important private channels. International programs were transmitted by satellite for instant replay after the government, in 1979, set up the Communications and Broadcasting Satellite Organization. Japan's first operational broadcast satellite was launched in 1984. Commercial television stations had become a major vehicle for advertising in place of newspapers and received huge revenues, far surpassing those of NHK.

Samurai and yakuza (Japanese underworld) themes in the 1980s were almost solely the providence of television, as were those of family life, ubiquitous in daytime soap operas. The biggest hit of the 1980s overall was the television drama "Oshin," a tale of a mother's struggles and suffering. The longest-running series since 1981 was "From the North Country," in which a divorced father and his two children survive in the backwoods of Hokkaido.

Criticism continued concerning the vulgarity of some commercial programs, but these programs still appeared in the early 1990s. Major problems perceived were the high level of violence and the lack of moral values in children's shows. All television and radio stations, however, were required to devote a certain proportion of broadcast time to educational programs to retain their licenses, and these programs grew steadily in response to popular demand. All networks have to comply with the Broadcasting Law of 1950, while several councils oversee general programming, although compliance with their recommendations is voluntary.

Japan's traditional arts and their modern counterparts found wide expression at home and internationally in the 1980s, reflecting the strong continuing creativity of its artists, performers, and writers. Major trends were seen in the search for characteristic cultural values and modes of expression, on the one hand, and the growing awareness of internationalism, on the other hand, affirming Japan's strong economic position in the world.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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