The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

Japanese family values and traditions

Japanese Customs / April 30, 2017

Although Japanese family roles have changed considerably in the 20th century, aspects of the traditional ie, or “continuing family, ” still remain. The Japanese have a saying that even if an extended family does not live together, parents and grandparents should live near enough to carry over a bowl of hot soup. In this video series, Harvard University professors Theodore Bestor and Helen Hardacre describe the enduring importance of traditional family values in Japan.

Helen Hardacre :: Most families in Japan today are nuclear families, such as we have here in the United States, and in North American generally. That is to say that a married couple lives together with their children, perhaps with one grandparent. But for the most part, the Japanese family today looks much like the American family.

The appearance of similarity is very strong, but of course, historical differences are also important, based on the traditional Japanese family, the ie, out of which the present forms have developed.

Theodore Bestor :: And so if you look at the contemporary Japanese family and the contemporary American or European nuclear families, you might assume that the societies are the same and that the family plays the same kind of role in both of those societies, but if you look historically at Japanese families, you find that there really is a very different kind of social-cultural dynamic at work.