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The Love and Hate Relationship with Filial Piety: Japan from the 8th Century to the Present

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Among East Asian countries, Japan must be the country which likes filial piety the least. Why is that? Many of you may know that in the Edo period commendation on filial children was very popular and in the Meiji period Imperial Rescript on Education (教育勅語 Kyōiku Chokugo) forced citizens to embrace loyalty and filial piety. According to the standard narrative, following the defeat in WWII, a backlash occurred and people rejected innocent obedience to parents. Yet, things are more complicated. In fact, filial piety had been abandoned before the defeat. There was also an unsuccessful movement to revive filial piety commendation in 1980. Recently, a new commendation system is emerging. While mainly focusing on commendations, this lecture will describe the rise and fall of filial piety in Japan from the retrospective of 1400 years.

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About the speaker
Motoi Katsumata obtained his Ph.D. from Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan (Department of Literature, 2001). He is a professor at Meisei University. He was also a visiting scholar at Harvard Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (2014-15) and a visiting professor at Brandeis University (2019-20). His research mainly focuses on filial piety culture, book history, ghost stories, and storytelling art in the Edo period. Publications include “Filial Piety in Rakugo and Kōdan” 落語・講談に見る「親孝行」 (Rakugo Kōdan ni Miru Oyakōkō)" (NHK Books, 2013), “Do We Really Need Classical Literature? Serious Thoughts Following Debates with Nay-sayers.” 古典は本当に必要なのか、否定論者と議論して本気で考えてみた。"(Bungaku Tsūshin, 2019), and "The History of Filial Piety in Japan” 親孝行の日本史 (Oyakōkō no Nihonshi)" (Chūko Shinsho, 2021).