Family relationships in Japan have seen two phases, dictated by the events of World War II. Before the war a traditional family structure existed that embodied a conservative view, enforced by law but the war brought about a change in the structure of the family and moved towards more western views.
traditional Japanese family was called an “ie” and consisted mostly of
close relatives. The family
structure was a hierarchy that was lead by the most able bodied
male—usually the father or eldest son—who had the final say in all
decisions involving any member of his family.
Occasionally “ie” families were forced to look to their kin or
close members of the family for leadership and for members, thus creating
what is known as a “stem” family.
of the Japanese “Ie” Family:
of the family varied due to births, deaths, and marriages of daughters
into other families
members married outside of the family—generally all of the daughters and
some sons other than the eldest—the “ie” consisted of an elite group
of selected members who were expected to keep the cycle going and the
the father retires as head of his household generally the eldest son
assumes responsibility for the family.
The retirement of the head of the household was a welcomed relief
from the burdens and duties of being in charge.
World War II, the laws of Japan supported the hierarchical structure of
the family with the eldest, able-bodied male as the apex.
rest of the hierarchy was dependent on age and sex, which was a reflection
of ones status in society as well as the family.
head of the family was responsibility for the welfare of the family and
had control over everything that occurred under his roof.
familial relations reflected the collectivist nature of their society.
As members of a family everyone was expected to work towards the
betterment of the family rather than the individual.
changes were brought about with the end of World War II that created a
more liberal, contemporary family structure in Japanese culture.
Japanese Families (post- World War II)
major changes that occurred in Japan after World War II centered on a
greater freedom for women in Japan. Women gained equal rights and were now allowed to obtain an
education and a job or career. The
people of Japan also were granted more individual freedom for choosing the
person they were to marry. Arranged
marriages dwindled and people began to marry for love.
These changes did not bring about a more individualistic society
but rather a more dependent society because of the changing roles of
mother and father. Contemporary
families in Japan are nuclear families with a mother, a father and two
children. The father of the
family generally works long hours in the city and devotes 6 days a week to
his work. The role of the
mother centers on her household and her children.
Roles of the Father in a Contemporary Japanese Family:
father works six days a week, late into the night, often entertaining
those he works with and takes Sundays off to be with his family and enjoy
some down time.
support comes from the father.
of the strenuous hours of work the father puts into work each week, he is
treated as a guest in his own home. His
dinner is always prepared when he arrives, his clothes laid out and
anything else he might need is taken care of by his wife.
he has final say over major purchases and decisions, he rarely exercises
that right. He turns his
salary over to his wife so that she can do the budgeting and allocating
for the family.
Roles of the Mother in a Contemporary Japanese Family:
mother of the family is in charge of her children’s well-being and
is the most informed about what is best for her children and explores all
of their options extensively before deciding things about her children’s
and nurturing of children are valued highly in Japanese society and
considered to be of the utmost importance.
seldom does a mother leave her children with a babysitter or a day care
provider, she devotes her life to them and feels that they will be best
under her care. If a mother
cannot care for her children, their grandmother is the next best option.
mother and her children have a physical and emotional closeness that
provides great comfort and a relaxed disposition in her children.
The structure of the Japanese family has changed tremendously in the last 60 years and has begun to be influenced by western culture. The roles of mother and father are still dictated but it is no longer by law and women have more liberty to make decisions about their own futures.
All of the above information was found in Kodansha Encyclopedia of
All of the above information was found in Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan