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As early as at the end of the 19th century, the living conditions of Japanese children captured the interest of Western observers. Travelers visiting Japan spread the image of a “children’s paradise” in which patient parents lovingly took care of their offspring. At the beginning of the 21st century, Japanese children are again in the focus of global interest, and elements of their material and spiritual cultures have acquired trendsetting qualities all over the world. Thus, Manga, Anime, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Tamagochi, Nintendo or Playstation have found their way into most societies. However, in contrast to the positive image of Japan’s lifestyle industry for the young, darker images have gained notoriety as well: preparatory schools, bullying, and cases of brutal murder.
What do these contradictory images of Japanese children and their lebenswelt reveal about the development of childhood in a globalizing world? Can they be traced back to earlier stages of the history of childhood in Japan? Do they reflect distinct orientations towards dealing with the younger generation and towards growing up? Or do they result from encounters between an indigenous childhood culture and universal notions of “modern childhood”? Despite the wealth of materials concerning the history of childhood in Japan and an extensive amount of relevant Japanese research, the subject has not received much interest among Western scholars until only recently. The 14 articles in this volume, written in English or German by scholars of Japanese Studies, offer fascinating insights into the multi-faceted history and rich culture of childhood in Japan from ancient times to the present day.