The Discovery of “Childhood” in Tokugawa Japan
By Ohta Motoko
Wako University: Bulletin of the Faculty of Human Studies, No.4 (2011)
Abstract: In the Tokugawa period, almost all the people could marry and attach importance to their family occupation and lives. Their concern was family’s continuation and guaranty in the future. Under such condition, people came to concentrate on child rearing eagerly and were conscious of the responsibility of education and had a sense of deep unity between parents and children.
People in the early modern age often called their children “treasure (precious)” citing a famous ancient poem, the author calls this kind of rearing “child rearing as KODAKARA (precious child like a treasure) ” tentatively.
The purpose of the child rearing was same regardless of the samurai (warriors), Shonin (merchants) and farmers, that is, family’s continuation. As the society was stable and the succession of family was fixed, sure succession of their profession and property was regarded to fulfill their responsibility for their ancestors as if a baton is handed over from ancestors to the successors. They believed that this succession would guarantee their family lives and happiness as well as their own old age.
What they expected for their successors were different in classes and periods. Parents educated their children earnestly, and their education was indifferent to school education except samurai and some merchants. However, their feelings became the base of modern education in Japan.