A. Post World War II changes in traditional structureThe family is the most important element in Japanese society. Traditionally Japan had large, extended families, with three or four generations living together. Today, although grandparents sometimes live with the family, most people live in small nuclear homes consisting of the parents and one or two children. This change has occurred slowly since the end of World War II. Before the war, Japan was an agricultural society, with most people lived in farming communities where rice was the major crop.
Rice growing requires many people working together to plan, harvest and irrigate; therefore, in order to survive, families had to live near each other and work together. A small family could not support itself if it lived and farmed alone. Much emphasis was put on children for labor.
Since the modernization of Japan, the economic system has changed, a single person can now support a small family by working in a factory or office.
Also, mechanization of farms and the glamour and opportunities of city life have encouraged many young people to move to the cities.
In the past thirty years, Western especially American lifestyles and values have strongly influenced Japanese society, particularly its youth. Many aspects of Japanese life, including the family structure have become very Americanized. B. Responsibilities and Consequences of changeThe change to a highly technological and indstry economy along with the change from extended families has caused several emerging problems, one being juvenile delinquency. Japanese fathers work long hours and are rarely at home. Children are under sever pressure to succeed at school and are confused by increased material wealth and great changes in Japanese values. To vent their frustrations at these social and educational systems, young people are more often turning to delinquency, a situation which rarely, if even, existed prior to After World War II, so called new sects arose in response to modern problems created by urbanization and industrialization. These groups generally call themselves either Shinto or Buddhist, depending on the holidays they favor most; however, Japan has become surprisingly secular over the past 30 years. The Japanese people, especially the younger generation, with so much freedom, combined with modern problems, no longer have the will to truly devote themselves to a religion. Materialism creates a conflict with traditional values; the youth of Japan find it increasingly difficult to believe in religions that no longer fit modern lifestyles. Some of these are Shintoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism.
(The Editors of Time-Life Books 23-25; Bumiller 67)Shinto means The Way of the Gods and revolves around the worship of nature. Shintoists have a high respect for nature and a belief that gods dwell in all natural objects (trees, waterfalls, rocks, ect.) There is an emphasis on co-existence with ones natural surroundings, cleanliness, simplicity, and purity. Until World War II, Shinto was the state religion of Japan, and the emperor was considered to be a god. Needless to say, this belief was dramatically changed after the atomic bombings in Japan.If the emperor was such a powerful god he would (Geography Department of Lerner Publications Company 48 and 49; Bumiller 60)Buddhism teaches that suffering on this earth is unavoidable. To be happy, people must accept suffering, rid themselves of all selfish thoughts (such as materialism) and lead good and kind lives. Only when a human being in able to live a truly good and holy life, he or she will be able to enter heaven, or nirvana after death. Until then, their spirits will be re-born again and again – perhaps in the body of an animal. It is hard to keep such beliefs alive in a society that puts so much emphasis on material wealth and a high standard of living.
(Heinrichs 94; Geography Department Lerner Publications 45)In order to compensate for lack of devotion the Japanese people have found that Buddhism and Shinto being complimentary can still be incorporated into their lives, such as birth weddings and funerals. Most of Japanese people consider themselves to be both Buddhist and Shinto. Shinto ceremonies usually revolve around birth, weddings, and joyous occasions. Since Buddhism is connected with the afterlife, Buddhist ceremonies are usually held at funerals.
(Geography Department Lerner Publications 45)Although Christianity was very popular at first, the government violently suppressed Christian worship as it was thought to be a threat to traditional Japanese values and lifestyles. Since World War II, the Japanese constitution has guaranteed freedom of religion. But despite many missionaries, Christianity has not become very popular. This is because older Japanese people are unwilling to give up old beliefs, and the newer generations rarely see a need to believe in a religion at all. Statistics disagree on how much of the Japanese population has become Christian since World War II, but it is said to be somewhere between 1 to 3 percent or 1.5 million people.
Although not really a religion, Confucianism used to play a strong role in determining the character and values of the Japanese people. Confucius, a Chinese scholar, believed that all people have very strict duties and responsibilities to their family, their community, and their country. According to Confucian thought, people must learn to accept their place in society, and not try to change the age-old roles. People are taught to respect their elders, men must support and rule their families, women must obey men and take care of the household, and everybody should lead modest lives, with compassion for others. (Geography Department of Lerner Publications Company) The Japanese school year begins in April, and there are three terms during the year. There is a 40 day summer vacation in July and August, a 2 week winter vacation and 2 weeks off at the year in March. Homework is always assigned duringBeginning at age six, all children must attend six years of elementary school. Elementary generally starts at 8 AM and concludes at 3 PM. After school, children spend time with their friends, playing sports, computer games, riding their bikes, and so on. Some children, even young ones, go to juku (cram schools), or take private lessons to brush up on their school studies and prepare for high school entrance exams. They may also take private lessons in things that interest them such as traditional Japanese sports, soroban (abacus), or music. Junior high lasts for three years (7th, 8th, and 9th grades) followed by three years of high school (10th, 11th, and 12th grades). Although attending high school is not required, over 94% of children do attend. (Geography Department of Lerner Publications 46 and 47)Compared to the relative freedom of their younger years, junior and senior high school is where the hard work starts. In most secondary schools there are 5 1/2 days of classes each week. Recently however the Japanese government has recommended that schools give their students Saturday off. Some schools now try that system, but many students dont know what to do with so much free time.
Most junior and senior high school students have to wear uniforms to school, and many boys have to shave off their hair! There are very strict rules about everything from hairstyles, length of dresses, the color of socks, and even what kind of briefcases students may use. Girls are not allowed to perm their hair, or to wear any make-up or jewelry. After school, students often have school club activities until dinner time. Dinner is usually early so that afterwards students can go to juku (cram school) for 3 to 4 hours. They then return home for a late night snack and many hours of Because of the school demands on their time, most Japanese students do not have jobs and they are not expected to do any chores around the home. Their main priority is STUDY, STUDY, and STUDY! Mothers wait on their children hand and foot, to encourage them to do well in their studies.
(Heinrichs 98; Toyosato Junior High School)The entrance exam system is perhaps the most emphasized aspect of the Japanese educational system. Admission to high schools and universities (even some junior high schools, elementary schools, and even some kindergartens!) is by exam. School grades, creativity, or extra-curricular activities are not important. What is important is doing well on the entrance exams. It is tremendously competitive to get into a top rate school, and students study long hours to memorize facts which might be asked on the exams. This process is called Juken Jigoku or examination hell. There is a saying that if a high school student sleeps for more then 4 hours per night, she or he will not have studied enough to pass the entrance exams!Failing an exam is considered a matter of personal shame and a disgrace to the family. Japan has a high suicide rate among those who fail or fear failing an exam. Some children refuse to go to school because of pressure from other Despite the rigorous entrance exams, about 35% of the students go on to college. This percentage is rising rapidly. There is generally little time for Japanese children to have fun, but when time is available there are many things a child can do to amuse Judo, kendo, karate, and aikido have been practiced for centuries, but traditionally Japanese girls were not allowed to engage in such activities. Today, however, more and more girls, since the late 1970s, now compete in the same traditional Japanese sports as boys. There has been a change for males as well; things that used to be considered feminine such as gymnastics are now taken up by young Japanese boys. Recently American sports such as baseball, skiing, and even golf have become very popular. Baseball is easily the most played sport in Japan, it seems as if everyone is on a team. Golf is the most expensive sportbecause it requires a sizable amount of land and is not usually played by children. It is, however, played by Japanese college students, as they believe it will help them once they become business men or women.(Jacobsen & Preben 19; Bumiller 189) Other than sports, Japanese children play video games, listen to music, watch TV, and do varius other activities. (Jacobsen & Preben 19; Bumiller 189) Bibliography:Work CitedBumiller, Elisabeth. The Secrets of Mariko, A Year in the Life of Japanese Woman and Her Family. New York: Times Books. 1995Geography Department. Japan in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company. 1989Greenberg, Susan H. Found in America News Week (April 3rd 2000) 3pp. Online. America On Line. 30th March 2000Available. http://www. newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/int/socu/a17880-2000mar27.htmGreenfeld, Karl Taro. Speed Tribes, Days and Nights with Japans Next Generation New York: HarperPerennial. 1994Heinirichs, Ann. Japan, Enchantment of the World. New York; London; Hong Kong; Sydney; Danbury, Connecticut: Childrens Press. 1998Jacobsen, Peter Otto. and Preben Seijer Kristensen. A Family in Japan. New York: The Bookwright Press. 1985Kawamata, Kazuhide. We live in Japan. New York: The Bookwright Press. 1984Shelly, Rex. Cultures of the World, Japan. New York: Marshall Cavendish. 1990The Editors of Time-Life Books. Library of Nations, Japan. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books. 1985—— Toyosato Junior High School (30th March 2000) 4pp Online. Internet. America On Line. (3rd April 2000) Available. http://www.k111.k12.il.us./King/Japan12.htm
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