Nichibunken Evening Seminar

The 253rd Nichibunken Evening Seminar


Japan’s Fertility Century: How Reproduction Became National Policy


▶ view PDF In Japan’s 20th century geopolitical milieu, population management was intrinsic to maintaining hegemony across Asia. During the Fifteen Year War, the quantity and quality of the Japanese ‘race’ was promulgated through various means, including efforts to lower the age of marriage and first births, to reward healthy children, and mass campaigns to move citizens to the colonies. The convergence of a demographic transition and postwar baby boom meant the Japanese government in the 1950s had a population it could not feed, and it quickly aimed to lower fertility, promoting various forms of birth control, and creating urban housing systems that precluded prewar family sizes. Delving into evidence such as propaganda made for children during 20th century wars and the fertility policies on offer today, this talk will be devoted to exploring the policy continuities across the century.

More than thirty years after the phenomenon of shōshika, the precipitously falling fertility rate, was recognized in 1989, it remains a hot button political issue at the national level, and yet, individuals have not been moved to bear children or increase the size of the families they create. Reflecting on long-term fieldwork in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures post-3.11, this talk examines the lived experience of childrearing people in the shōshika era, as well as the programs being implemented as shōshika policy that attempt to respond to both national edicts and local concerns.
Michaela KELLY
Visiting Research Fellow, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Visiting Research Fellow, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Edward BOYLE
Associate Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies


Date: 2023.06.08 (Thu) 
Seminar Room 1, International Research Center for Japanese Studies and ONLINE (Zoom)
Start time:
End time:
Target audience:
Open to researchers, including students
ONLINE Participation:
Application required. Please apply using this form by NOON on June 6.
The URL for the Zoom meeting will be provided by the day before this seminar.
ONSITE Participation:
First come, first served.
Contact details for inquiries:
Projects Unit, Research Cooperation Section,
International Research Center for Japanese Studies
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