Japanese Values


        There are some values in Japanese society that play a large role in how children are raised. One such prominent value is that of group life. Japanese society is very group-oriented, and it is important to be able to interact as part of a group and to get along with others. This value is very apparent in child rearing in Japan. The whole purpose of the preschool experience, for example, is essentially for children to assimilate into group life.

Japanese children gather in a school gym. Image courtesy of John Donaldson's site with pictures of Japan.

        Another value that is gaining importance in Japanese society is that of raising an academically superior child. Parents are very concerned with having their children succeed in school and receive good grades. Such academic success, of course, is valued in many societies, but in Japan people go to great lengths to achieve it. The general schooling is not even enough anymore in most cases, and students must go to additional tutoring and lessons outside of school (see high school page).

        These two main values in Japanese society have become problematic in their contradiction to one another. To raise an academically superior child sometimes requires the child to adopt a competitive nature toward his or her peers. This attitude, however, may cause the awareness of group life to diminish as children feel forced to focus their energy on their own success rather than the benefit of the group. Although, it is still apparent that in trying to raise academically successful children, the Japanese are trying to contribute to the good of society as a large group. This reinforces the idea that group life is very important as part of the social structure in Japan.


        Such a strong sense of group life creates the desire for Japanese children, especially teenagers, to move in and act as part of friendship groups. Adults in Japan encourage friendship among teenagers and do not view the friendships as threatening for their children's behavior. Whereas in America parents often fear the influence of peer pressure on their children from friends, in Japan peer relationships are fully supported because they prepare children for interaction in adult relationships. Therefore, friendship groups are very important to Japanese teens. They are fairly structured groups, and the members do not tend to overlap. They usually have an even number of teens in the group so that no one is ever left out and members can be paired off.

Children hanging out with their friends. Image courtesy of John Donaldson's site with pictures of Japan .

        When teenagers spend time together in these friendship groups, a common activity is to go shopping. Japanese teenagers today tend to have money at their disposal, and if they don't it can be hard to be part of one of these groups, because spending money is such a central focus. Japanese society recognizes this value among teens of spending money and does a great deal of marketing to the teenage audience. Especially since teens in Japan strive to be exactly like their friends due to the importance of the group in Japan, trends catch like wildfire. The market acknowledges this and mass produces the products that they think will be popular among teenagers. This leads to an extreme materialism among Japanese youth and commercialization of Japanese society.

Sources used for this page:

Crystal, David S. 1994. "Concept of Deviance in Children and Adolescents: The Case of Japan." Deviant Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15: 241-266.

Peak, Lois. 1991. Learning to go to School in Japan: The Transition From Home to Preschool Life. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Tobin, Joseph, David Wu, and Dana Davidson. 1989. Preschool in Three Cultures: Japan, China, and the United States. New Haven: Yale University Press.

White, Merry. 1993. The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

More Resources (pdf annotated bibliography).

The purpose of this site is to inform web users on the status and lifestyles of children in Japan. This site was designed by Joanna Boyle, Rachel Riezman, Hannah Wolod, and Ellen Vollmers as part of a collaborative web project for the first year writing seminar Children & Society at Tulane University taught by Professor April Brayfield.