A History of Schools and Local Communities in Modern Japan

  • Yoshihiro KokuniEmail author
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 47)


How do schools interact with their local communities in modern Japan (1867-present)? This essay briefly examines the history of the relationship between these two entities over the course of the past one and a half centuries. Historical records show that many local schools relied heavily on their communities for the financial and human resources they needed. Most schools, however, were also under the strict control of the state, which was interested in “national education” (kokumin kyoiku)—turning its people into ethnically homogenized yet supposedly voluntary members of a modern nation state—through an institutionalized educational system and a standardized curriculum. This national project, on the one hand, increased the possibility of social mobility through school credentials and thus contributed to a democratic ideal that guarantees each member of the society equal opportunity. On the other hand, national education, through its intrinsic attributes, flattened and effaced the distinctive features of each regional community, to be replaced and represented by the supposedly homogeneous Japanese culture. Thus, the history of school education in modern Japan cannot be understood without looking at the history of local communities and their unique, complex identities, as well as the process in which such uniqueness and complexity disappeared in the name of the homogenized national culture. In the analysis below, by focusing on the role local uniqueness played in classroom at school, I will show how the relationship between local schools and regional communities changed since the late nineteenth century.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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