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Are Children Who Do Not Go to School “Bad,” “Sick,” or “Happy”?: Shifting Interpretations of Long-Term School Nonattendance in Postwar Japan

  • Sachiko Horiguchi
Chapter
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 46)

Abstract

This chapter examines postwar debates in Japan around long-term school absence at the level of discourse and practice. The chapter begins by unpacking postwar official statistics and policy discourses on long-term school absence in relation to competing medical and citizens’ discourses, with a particular focus on changes in terms used to refer to school nonattendance. I show how moves toward the medicalization of absenteeism as an individual “sickness” in the 1980s were met with criticism from citizens promoting alternative school movements, leading to encouragement for noninterventionist approaches at policy level. I then outline the “emergence” of hikikomori (social withdrawal) as a youth social problem in the 2000s, which prompted a revision of these approaches, shifting the blame back to the individual children and their families. This chapter reveals how policy and popular discourse have resonated with each other and how various stakeholders of education have led competing discourses and practices on long-term school nonattendance, both positive and negative, shedding light on a larger question of whom education is for. The chapter concludes by introducing the latest debates and issues around school absenteeism and by highlighting the diversification of alternative schooling opportunities.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Part of the research conducted for this chapter was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 22720333). I would like to thank all the individuals and institutions that have supported me during the course of this research, including the tōjisha, the practitioners and scholars, with special thanks to Shimizu Katsunobu for his invaluable assistance.

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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sachiko Horiguchi
    • 1
  1. 1.Temple University JapanTokyoJapan

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