Author (Your Name)

Kate Swenson, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. East Asian Studies Dept.


Rob Lafleur

Second Advisor

Ken Ganza

Third Advisor

Mark Tappan


A popular Western perception of Japan is that it is an eminently homogeneous and conformist society. However, both conformity and homogeneity, recognized even by the Japanese themselves, coexist with the concept of individuality, which is valued in a manner unique to its culture. In order to come to a deeper understanding of that dynamic, it is important to comprehend the specifics of child rearing and education within Japanese society. Based in part on the author's observational fieldwork conducted while in Japan in 1994, the thesis explicates the manner in which various core relationships exhibit the socialization of an individual that occurs within the home during a child's first few years. Furthermore, the text incorporates research in both primary and secondary historical materials. The author displays the manner in which educational issues such as the development of the Japanese education system and the dynamics of the elementary years serve to demonstrate the importance of functioning within a group. This is further clarified through an examination of elementary school texts, which also reveal underlying moral messages of profound importance in Japanese society. The seemingly contradictory issues of becoming an individual yet performing as a member of a group are pulled together by the idea that culture provides the guidance by which an individual becomes an active member of society. In Japan, individuality and group conformity are not mutually exclusive. Within the context of Japanese society, individuality is inextricably linked to group orientation.


child development, education, Japan, culture