5-1 | Children as Treasures: Childhood and the Middle Class in Early Twentieth-Century japan

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010. Contents, notes, works cited, index. 407 pp. $45.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780674053342
Andrew C. McKevitt

In the last decade, scholars in a range of fields have explored the rich child-centered world of contemporary Japanese consumer culture. Works like Anne Allison’s Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination (2005) and Joseph Tobin’s edited collection, Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon (2004), have illustrated the ways contemporary Japanese children live in a world full of imaginative playthings linked to powerful currents of national culture and global commerce. Scholars know much less, however, about the origins of one of the world’s most influential play cultures. We also understand little about how Japanese children’s pervasive popular culture conflicts with an apparent national obsession with entrance examinations and juku (cram schools). Mark A. Jones’s ambitious Children as Treasures provides a welcome history of childhood in Japan in the first decades of the twentieth century. Jones embeds his examination of childraising practices within a complicated background of changing class identities, arguing that the "rearing of children became the defining emblem of middle-class identity in early twentieth-century Japan" (p. 2).