1st Edition

Education and Social Justice in Japan

By Kaori H. Okano Copyright 2021
    234 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is an up-to-date critical examination of schooling in Japan by an expert in this field. It focuses on developments in the last two decades, with a particular interest in social justice. Japan has experienced slow economic growth, changed employment practices, population decline, an aging society, and an increasingly multi-ethnic population resulting from migration. It has faced a call to respond to the rhetoric of globalization and to concerns in childhood poverty in the perceived affluence. In education we have seen developments responding to these challenges in national and local educational policies, as well as in school-level practices.

    What are the most significant developments in schooling of the last two decades? Why have these developments emerged, and how will they affect youth and society as a whole? How can we best interpret social justice implications of these developments in terms of both distributive justice and the politics of difference? To what extent have the shifts advanced the interests of disadvantaged groups? This book shows that, compared to three decades ago, the system of education increasingly acknowledges the need to address student diversity of all kinds, and delivers options that are more varied and flexible. But interest in social justice in education has tended to centre on the distribution of education (who gets how much of schooling), with fewer questions raised about the content of schooling that continues to advantage the already advantaged.

    Written in a highly accessible style, and aimed at scholars and students in the fields of comparative education, sociology of education and Japanese studies, this book illuminates changing policies and cumulative adjustments in the daily practice of schooling, as well as how various groups in society make sense of these changes.

    1. Introduction 2. History of schooling: Always learning 3. Directions and drivers of change: Reforms in transition 4. Culturally and linguistically diverse minoritized social groups 5. Childhood poverty, gender gap and regional variations 6. The politics of shokuiku, and compulsory school lunch 7. Nonformal education for school-aged children: Supplementary and alternative 8. Conclusions


    Kaori H. Okano is Professor of Asian/Japanese Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Her publications include Education in Contemporary Japan (1999, with M. Tsuchiya), Minorities and Education in Multicultural Japan (2012, with R. Tsuneyoshi & S. Boocock), Nonformal Education and Civil Society in Japan (2016), Young Women in Japan: Transitions to Adulthood (2009), School to Work Transition in Japan (1993), Rethinking Japanese Studies (2018, with Y. Sugimoto), and Discourse, Gender and Shifting Identities in Japan (2018, with C. Maree).

    "Her analytical lens, which intersects micro and macro levels, provides a broad, yet nuanced picture of how Japanese education has responded to the increasing diversity and inequality in society". 

    Dr. Misako Nukaga, The University of Tokyo. Review in International Studies in Sociology of Education. DOI: 10.1080/09620214.2021.2006747

    "Education and Social Justice in Japan offers fresh insights into an education system that has undergone some significant shifts over the past two decades. In engaging and accessible language, Kaori Okano illustrates how the system has responded to growing pressure to promote social justice in schools. [...] This book should satisfy readers who focus on Japanese education as well as those interested in topics such as globalisation, social justice, inequality and multicultural education."

    Dr. Christopher Bjork, Vassar College. Review in Asian Studies Review. DOI: 10.1080/10357823.2021.1958708

    "The author convincingly demonstrates that while recent attempts to reform education may have extended school choice and school autonomy, created alternative ways and opportunities to access higher levels of education, and reduced the achievement gap predetermined by socioeconomic status, they are at the same time failing to significantly reduce inequality in educational opportunities."

    Dr. Steve R. Entrich, University of Potsdam. Review in International Review of Education. DOI: 10.1007/s11159-021-09926-6

    "Okano suggests that difference and diversity have become more valued and accommodated over the last decades, allowing "more students to participate longer in schooling" (175). However, relatively little has changed in terms of diversifying the content of schooling. Nor have affirmative action programmes found favour. The approach to social justice in Japanese education is still overwhelmingly about seeking to ensure that all children get the same amounts of the same educational content, regardless of their social group. [...] Inevitably, specialists on this inherently controversial field may disagree with some of [Okano's] analyses or conclusions. However, none will fail to be impressed by the combination of scope, detail, and judiciousness that make [this book] an essential reference on its subject."

    Dr. Peter Cave, University of Manchester. Review in Contemporary Japan. DOI: 10.1080/18692729.2021.1999885


    "It provides an overview of Japanese education from the early pre-modern era to the current reform initiative in 2019. More importantly, the book adds new perspectives of social justice in education to the current scholarship on Japanese education.[...] The book is very informative, easy to read, and can be assigned to undergraduate courses. This is a welcome addition to Japanese studies scholarship."

    Akihiro Ogawa, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Pacific Affairs: Volume 95, No. 3