The Socialization of Aristocratic Children by Commoners: Recalled Experiences of the Hereditary Elite in Modern Japan

Essay Excerpt

In my previous research on Japanese women (Lebra 1984), I learned that, prior to the postwar educational liberation for ordinary women to go on to college, lower- and middle-class girls typically spent premarital years, upon graduation from grade school or high school, at households above their own classes as maids or "etiquette apprentices." For poor families, this was the only available and acceptable employment for a daughter if only to "reduce a mouth to feed," while better-off families considered it a rite of passage to transform an unfinished girl into a qualified bridal candidate. Matchmakers would count such cross-class apprenticeship as an important, sometimes mandatory, credential for a bride. This finding prompted me to turn to the upper-class Japanese, particularly, aristocrats, as the next research project with the hope of gaining a stereoscopic view of Japanese society. Indeed, I found commoners entering the interior of aristocratic lives and leaving an indelible mark there, in a way much more than as apprentices absorbing the upper-class culture. This article presents a portion of my current research on the Japanese elite, focusing on the part played by commoners in socializing the aristocratic children. (Lebra, 78)

About the Author

Takie Sugiyama Lebra is a Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the Universiy of Hawaii-Monola. Her specializations are as follows: Society, Culture and Psychology, aging and life cycle; cultural and social change; cultural anthropology; elite and status; gender, sex roles, women; identity and concept of self; communication; psychological anthropology; socialization and child development; social structure

Post a Comment

Please log in or register to comment