Changes in Female Height and Age of Menarche in Modern Japan, 1870s–1980s: Reconsideration of Living Standards During the Interwar Period

  • Ken’ichi TomobeEmail author
Part of the Monograph Series of the Socio-Economic History Society, Japan book series (MSSEHSJ)


This paper aims to show the trends and fluctuations of mean age at menarche from the 1880s to 1980s by using two kinds of menarche data collected by hospitals, volunteer organizations, private companies and so on: one is primary research data and the other are cited data in journals and books. Three findings emerge. (1) The long-term trend in the mean age at menarche was relatively stable at around the latter half of age 14 until the 1940s and afterward steadily declined to 12 years old in the 1980s. (2) The mean age at menarche showed a statistically significant decline even during the 1920s and 1930s in the case of students and mill workers; and (3) the velocity of height growth of both boys and girls was mostly increasing until the 1930s, and was at its maximum during the 1920s. These findings enable us to reconsider the conventional view of living standards and economic recession during the interwar period in Japan by analyzing not only economic but also anthropometric indices.


Mean age at menarche Height Economic recession Anthropometrics Living standard 



Both the Grant-in-Aid for scientific research of “the anthropometric history of school boys and girls and its historical analysis of socio-economic factors in modern rural Japan”, (2016–2019, Hitotsubashi University, Ken’ichi Tomobe, No. 16K03775) and the Grant-in-Aid for scientific research of “Historical Changes in the Standard of Living and Socioeconomic Structures in Japan: Perspectives from Household Financial Diaries”, (2019–2022, Hitotsubashi University, Yukinobu Kitamura, No. 19H00593) offered financial support for this research. I would like to convey my special thanks to Dr. Tsutomu Hirayama of Shōnan Institute of Technology who contributed significantly to making the database and revising some of the complicated tables and figures used in this paper. Needless to say, all errors remaining in the paper are my responsibility.


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Copyright information

© Socio-Economic History Society, Japan 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EconomicsHitotsubashi UniversityKunitachiJapan

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