Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry    

written by Elif Batuman. added 12 months ago by @icyflame ARCHIVES

family kazoku japan rent-a-family    

Following the Meiji Restoration, in 1868, reformers united Japan under a “restored” emperor, and, after centuries of isolationism and feudal rule, set about turning the country into a modern bureaucratic military power. They drafted a new civil code, making provisions for what Westerners called “the family”—a concept that had no definite legal reality in Japan, and could not be expressed by any single Japanese word. A new word, kazoku, was coined, and a “family system” was drawn up, based on a long-standing form of domestic organization: the ie, or house. A product, in part, of Confucian principles, the ie was rigidly hierarchical. The head controlled all the property, and chose one member of the younger generation to succeed him—usually the eldest son, though sometimes a son-in-law or even an adopted son. Continuity of the house was more important than blood kinship. The other members could either stay in the ie, marry into a new one (daughters), or start subsidiary branches (sons). Nationalist ideology of the Meiji era represented Japan as one big family, with the emperor as the head of the main house and every other household as a subsidiary branch. “Familism” became central to the national identity, and was contrasted with the selfish individualism of the West.

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