1 Education at the End of the Shogunate

When we search for the origins of Japan's modern national education, the influence of Western education is most obvious.The speed with which the influence of Western thought penetrated into this country after the opening of the port cities and the rise of the new Civilization and Enlightenment(Bunmeikaika) sentiment in the early Meiji era was remarkable.Thus it seemed to many that modern education developed solely as a result of Western influence and completely independent of traditional Japanese educational ideals.

Yet on closer examination, we can recognize that the content of Japan's modern education was not one and the same with that of the West. The long historical process through the Edo (or Tokugawa) period generated a distinctively Japanese style of life and thought, which was destined to have a profound influence on the development of modern educational institutions.

Moreover, the high level of national culture and education that Japan achieved during the Edo period proved an important resource in the nation's bold effort to achieve rapid modernization. Thus it is of special importance that we examine this educational heritage.

One distinctive feature of the feudal society of the Edo period was the traditional stratification of classes into samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants with an especially strict distinction made between the samurai and the remaining strata.This fact colored the entirety of social and cultural life in the Edo period. In the area of education, distinctive schools were developed for each strata - the fief schools (hanko or hangaku) for the samurai and the terakoya for the commoners - and it is to these we first turn. As we shall see, toward the end of the Edo period, this dualistic educational system had already begun to crumble.


(C)COPYRIGHT Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

((C)COPYRIGHT Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

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