Thesis Research: Moral Education in Japan; Implications for American Schools

Taku Ikemoto
May 10, 1996


Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 The History of Moral Education in Japan
Chapter 3 The Contents of Moral Education in the Current Curriculum in Japan
Chapter 4 Social Implications for American Schools
Chapter 5 Conclusion

Chapter 1. Introduction

In the United States, moral education has been always at issue in schools, although the methodology and the content have changed over the past years. Especially after World War II, moral education was largely impacted on by social and cultural change, and it also had a huge influence on the society.

Today, moral education became one of the biggest concern of the public since our society is facing an increasing amount of juvenile crime. According to the twenty seventh annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the American public has pointed out to "lack of discipline" as what it sees as the biggest problem for local public schools (Elam & Rose, 1995). In 1983, 2,951 children and teens in the United States died from gunfire. Ten years later, in 1993, 5,751 people under the age of 20 died at the hand of a gun - a 94 percent of increase. A new report by the Children's Defense Fund, based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, reveals that

the "morally unthinkable" killing of children by guns has not only become common, it continues to escalate. The report also finds that the 5,751 youths killed in the United States in 1993 were more than three times the total number of gun homicides in Australia, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and Finland combined.

Furthermore, more preschoolers than police officers or US soldiers shot in the line of duty were killed by guns in 1993 (The Christian Science Monitor, 1995). James Fox, Dean of the criminology department at Northeastern University, says teens are much more threatening than adults because they will kill over trivial matters - a jacket, some sneakers, a dirty look, and murder is just not the taboo for them that it once was (Urschel, 1995). Today, the most urgent task is to build a moral society, and educators ought to take the leading roles in it.

This paper is intended to present the essence of Japanese moral education in a historical and philosophical context and give implications for American education in such trouble. Japan is one of industrialized countries, implementing moral education under the strong administration of the government.

Sometimes Japanese moral education is viewed as the counterpart of the one in the United States in terms of the perception of values. Japanese education aims to preserve social values and transmit them to the next generation, while American schools try to be neutral in terms of values. Often the philosophical foundation of Japanese education is introduced to other countries with some distortion due to the unpleasant period in the modern history and cultural misunderstandings. However, Japanese moral education currently implementing can give meaningful suggestions to American education facing moral confusion.

Several educational research dealing with Japanese moral education have been done by both Western and Japanese researchers so far. Thomas (1985) introduces Japanese moral education not only based on curriculum but in relation to whole school life. Beauchamp (1985) and Klaus (1990) examines the moral education in a historical, cultural, and social context, referring the impact of religion. Besides, Naito (1990) and Takahashi (1988) describes several characteristics of moral education in Japan from the view of Japanese educators.

However, there are only a few studies which were attempted to give implications for other countries. In this paper, first, the history of moral education in Japan, including the impact of major religions and culture in Japan, is presented.

Second, the current curriculum of moral education is introduced from several points of view. Finally, social implications for American schools is presented.


In this study, Japanese moral education was discussed based on the course of study (Gakushu-shido-yoryo), published by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The course of study is based on national laws. Therefore all schools, regardless of whether they are public or private, are expected to follow. It provides academic standards of all academic subjects, moral education, and special activities and minimal hours allotted to them at elementary through high school level (Moral education is implementing only in elementary and junior high schools). In Japan, moral education may vary from classroom to classroom, and also many arguments concerning moral education, such as the objection against the course of study and highly centralized education system, are being raised today. However, one of the primary purposes of this paper is to introduce the content of Japanese moral education so that the discussion was solely based on the current curriculum, shown in the course of study. The course of study is revised approximately every ten years. The one used in this study was the 1989 version, which is the latest one as of 1996. As for the 1989 course of study, English version is not currently available. Therefore, it was translated by the author, referring the English version of the 1983 course of study.

Chapter 2 The History of Moral Education in Japan

From the ancient to medieval times, three major religions of Japan, which are Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism, were formed or introduced to Japan. Then, gradually, they influenced on each other and became the core of the Japanese value system.

Shinto is the natural indigenous religion of Japan. There are two main characteristics of Shinto, the worship of nature and ancestors. In Shinto, all natural objects and phenomena used to be considered as having gods (kami). There were no specific leaders in Shinto religion, nor any books of scripture so that, after the advent of Buddhism, Shinto survived and assimilated Buddhist doctrine.

Buddhism was introduced to Japan during the sixth century from Korea. Buddhism spread among the then dominant class, and the first Constitution, based on Buddhism philosophy, was issued in 604 A. D.. Up to the twelfth century, Buddhism was the religion of the aristocracy only, but from about the thirteenth century it became very popular among the common people. At about this time, Zen, an enlightened religious and mental state attained by achieving serenity of mind, became widespread among the military (samurai) class. Since those times and up to the present day, Buddhism has been the principal religion of the Japanese people.

With other things Chinese, Confucianism reached Japan in the early sixth century. Confucianism has four key principles: the hierarchical relationship, the family system, benevolence, and the emphasis of education (Chen & Chung, 1993) and they gave a profound influence on Japanese morals and the view of life.

The Japanese value system, centering on those three religions, was well developed in the Edo period (1603 - 1867), when peace prevailed. In the following modern period, there were two major events which caused dramatic change in education, that is, the Meiji Restoration (1867), and the end of World War II (1945). Moral education was the one which was influenced upon the most at both times. In the following part, moral education in the Edo period (1603 - 1867), before the Meiji Restoration, the period of nationalism (1867 - 1945), and the period of democracy (1945 - present) are discussed.

Moral Education in the Edo Period (1603 - 1867)

The Edo period is the era that feudal system reached the highest point and then collapsed. Even during such period, the people were enthusiastic about education. At that time, the military (samurai) class was in charge of both military and political affairs. For this reason, schools (han schools - schools of the feudal domains) were established all over the country to teach the children of samurai families the cultural, moral and martial subjects necessary for their duties.

Their moral is called Bushido, the code of the samurai. Based on the ideas of Confucianism and the Zen sect, which is one of the denominations of Buddhism, originated in the Kamakura period (1192 - 1333) and reached perfection in the Edo period. It puts emphasis on loyalty, self-sacrifice, justice, sense of shame, refined manners, purity, modesty, frugality, martial spirit, honor, affection, and other such values.

Two important aspects of moral education are martial spirit and honor. That is to say, emphasis is on prevailing over others. However, this does not mean simply winning over others by physical force. Rather, in Bushido, one is encouraged to pursue spiritual training for the purpose of conquering oneself, for only through conquering oneself it is possible to conquer others. Strength is deemed to drive from victories in self-discipline and it is strength obtained in this manner which spiritually overpowers and commands the respect of others as manifestation of spiritual stature. Refined manners were considered to be an important aspect in the expression of spiritual strength.

In Europe, chivalry developed under the influence of Christianity and gave much weight to such virtues as courage, reverence, a sense of shame, honor and generosity. Although chivalry had much in common with Bushido, it was different from Bushido in that the relation between a knight and his lords was contractual while Bushido stressed absolute loyalty (Nippon Steel Human Resources Development Co., Ltd., 1993: 409, 411)

To the common people, there were also more than ten thousand terakoya (literally "temple schools" though they were not generally operated by temples) set up to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic (by use of the abacus). Especially, since the nineteenth century, common people in the middle class, the lower-class samurai, monks, Shinto priests opened terakoya at their home, and they prevailed throughout the country, not only urban areas but rural areas (Ishikawa, 1995: 195). Attendance at these schools was not mandated and there was no age limit on those who did. About 40 percent of the common people are estimated to have studied at such schools (Nippon Steel Human Resources Development Co., Ltd., 1993: 210). Under the strongly centralized administration of the Tokugawa Shogunate, it is not difficult to imagine how much the common people were impacted on by the moral code of the dominant class through those schools.

Moral Education in the Period of Nationalism (1868 - 1945)

The modern Japanese system of education was inaugurated in the fifth year of Meiji (1872) by the promulgation of Gakusei, the Government Order of Education. With its words, "We look forward to a time when there will be no illiteracy in any village house, no illiterate in any home," a compulsory educational system was established in Japan for the first time. Moral education of this period was called Shushin, which literally means "self-discipline," the word cited from one of the classics of Confucianism. Shushin appeared in Gakusei for the first time merely as one of eight subjects to be taught at elementary level.

In the early period of the Meiji Restoration, the reformer's approach was a pragmatic one, based on the Imperial Charter Oath of April 6, 1868, which called on the people to eschew old-fashioned ways, and insisted that "Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world." However, they gradually began to recognize that things were moving so rapidly; that certain western ideas (e.g., individualism) were not well suited to the Japanese environment and they systematically began to slow down the process (Beauchamp, 1985: 5).

Consequently, moral education, based on Confucianism came to occupy an important position in whole education system. Kyogaku-taishi, The Primary Objective Education (1879) said "The essential task education is to clarify the virtues of humanity, justice, loyalty and filial piety, and to allow one to enhance his knowledge and various talents (Takahashi, 1988). In 1880, when Kyoikurei, Ordinance of education, established in 1879 to replace the prior Government Order of Education, revised, the government prohibited the use of the majority of the translated texts on ethics and morality, and moral education, based on traditional spirit, was listed at the top of all subjects at elementary schools.

After repeated trial and error, moral education reached a solid foundation by the promulgation of Kyoiku-chokugo, the Imperial Rescript on Education. This document is "probably the single most revealing source of Japanese education's underlying ideology, set the basic contours of that educational system" (Beauchamp, 1985: 8) until the end of World War II. Translation of the Imperial Rescript is following:

Know ye, Our subjects,

Our Imperial ancestors have founded our Empire on a basis broad and everlasting and have deeply and firmly implanted virtue; Our subjects ever united in loyalty and filial piety have from generation illustrated the beauty thereof. This is the glory of the fundamental character of Our Empire, and herein also lies the source of Our education. Ye, Our subjects, be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters; as husbands and wives be harmonious, as friends true; bear yourselves in modesty and modernization; extend your benevolence to all, purse learning and cultivating arts, and thereby develop intellectual faculties and perfect moral powers; furthermore advance public good and promote common interest; always respect the Constitution and observe the laws; should emergency arise, arise courageously to the States; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of our Imperial Throne coeval with heavens and earth. So shall ye not only be Our good and faithful subjects, but render illustrious the best traditions of your forefathers.

The Way set forth here is indeed the teaching bequeathed by Our Imperial Ancestors, to be observed alike by their Descendants and the subjects infallible for all ages and true in all places. It is Our wish to lay it to heart in all reverence in common with you, Our subjects, that we may all attain the same virtue (Passin, 1965: 151).

While the Imperial Rescript expected the people to follow the traditional Confucian ethics, such as loyalty, filial piety, affection, harmony, trust, modesty and so on, it sought to observe the Constitution, along with the laws and duties which were part of the modern Western thought. Since then, the Imperial Rescript had been hold as the "sacred," and the spiritual pillar in the whole education system.

Although the Rescript was invalidated in 1948, the impact on the nation can be seen even today in the fact that there were several the Prime Ministers and education ministers, who expressed their belief that the Rescript contained universal moral values.

Moral Education in the Period of Democracy (1945 - present)

Since the end of World War II, Japan began to rebuild itself into a peaceful, democratic nation under the postwar occupation and indirect rule of the Allied Force, primarily the U.S. military. The major goals of the occupation of Japan can be stated as the democratization, demilitarization and decentralization of Japanese society.

As regards education, one of major goals of the change was to establish moral education based on democracy, and as the first step in that direction, Shushin was suppressed. Then to assist in carrying out this transformation, the First United States Education Mission, composed of twenty-seven prominent American educators, was invited to spend a month in Japan examining the educational system for the purpose of making recommendations for the reform of education system. In regard to moral education, the Mission reported as following:

Morals, which in Japanese education occupy a separate place, and have tended to promote submissiveness, should be differently construed and should interpenetrate all phases of a free people's life. Manners that encourage equality, the give-and-take of democratic government, the ideal of good workmanship in daily life - all these are morals in the wider sense. They should be developed and practiced in the varied programs and activities of the democratic school (The United States Education Mission to Japan, 1946: 58)

In the new system of education, moral education was implemented through the entire curriculum, with the course on social studies given the central position, rather than as an independent subject on morals. After the proclamation of The New Constitution on November 3, 1946, The Fundamental Law of Education was established the following March. The law determined the direction that the moral education was supposed to take in democratic society:

Education shall aim at the full development of personality, striving for the rearing of the people, sound in mind and body, who shall love truth and justice, esteem individual values, respect labour and have a deep sense of responsibility, and be imbued with the independent spirit, as builders of the peaceful state and society (Passin, 1965: 302).

The main idea of the 1947 course of study was intended to be a mere guide to set a curriculum by each school freely in order to meet the needs of the children and community. However, since both the ideas and theories of the such new educational scheme did not fit into traditional ways of thinking, these efforts did not result in practical success. In 1955, when the course in social studies for primary and secondary schools were revised, moral education was again emphasized in the social studies curriculum. Great importance was placed upon attitudes of respect for humanity, independence, and the capacity for problem-solving (Takahashi, 1988).

Then, in 1958, there was another complete revision of the educational scheme, directed toward "centralization" and "unification" of education. This revision clearly defined the course of study, set standards for curriculum content and minimal hours for each subjects. Moral education was again restored as an independent subject (Dotoku, which literally means "the path of virtue") and counted as a primary goal, with an allotted period (one hour a week, at all grade levels of compulsory education) assigned to it. The goal that the "spirit of human respect" should penetrate the life of family, school and society, was reaffirmed as well (Takahashi, 1988). Since then, the course of study has been revised every ten years and the content of moral education has also been improved and adjusted gradually. The latest revision of the course of study occurred in 1989.

Chapter 3 The Contents of Moral Education in the Current Curriculum in Japan

In this chapter, the content of Japanese moral education is introduced from several viewpoints. Currently, Japanese curricula consist of three categories: academic subjects, moral education and special activities. Each school organizes a curriculum based on the course of study (Gakushu-shido-yoryo), which shows the academic standards set by the Minister of Education, Science and Culture. Schools are legally obliged to observe the standards. Concerning moral education, the course of study, for both elementary and junior high schools, states as follows:

It should be a basic principle that moral education in the school should be provided throughout all the educational activities of the school. Therefore, proper instruction for moral development should be given, not only in the hours for Moral Education, but also in the hours for each Subject and Special Activities, in conformity with their respective characteristics (The Course of Study, Elementary School, 1989: 1).

Also, the course of study describes six objectives of moral education: (1) to foster a spirit of respect for human dignity and awe of life, (2) to nurture those who endeavor to inherit and develop traditional culture, and create a culture that is rich in individuality, (3) to nurture those who endeavor to form and develop a democratic society and state, (4) to nurture those who can contribute to realizing a peaceful international society, (5) to nurture those who can make independent decision, (6) to foster a sense of morality (The Course of Study, Elementary School, 1989: 105).

Moral Education as an Independent Subject

At elementary (Grade 1 - 6) and junior high schools (Grade 7- 9) moral education, as an independent subject, is allotted 34 school hours in the first grade, 35 school hours in the second to ninth grade. This represents 3.3 - 4.0 percent of all school hours in a year for each grade. In other words, it is one school hour (45 minutes in elementary, 50 minutes in junior high schools) of moral education a week. Teachers usually design such classes according to the guidance manuals and reference books based on the course of study, the collection of reading materials, and other tools. Teachers prepare one-year-curriculum. The primary moral values to be taught are assigned to each class period. Teachers pick a few moral values related to each other, then integrate with the suggested theme, using materials such as anecdotes, short stories, students' essays, educational television programs, and the like (Naito, 1990).

The contents of moral education are classified into four areas, consisting of 76 items in total. Those four are "Regarding Self," "Relation to Others," "Relation to Nature & the Sublime," "Relation to Group & Society." The following is the content including major values with examples of goals of moral education as an independent subject in the course of study.

1. Regarding Self

1) Moderation

To do what one can do by oneself and hold a moderate life. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

2) Diligence

To work hard on what one ought to do by oneself. (Grade 1 & 2, Elementary School: 105)

3) Courage

To do what is seemed to be correct with courage. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

4) Sincerity

To hold life with sincerity and cheer. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

5) Freedom & Order

To value freedom and act with discipline. (Grade 5 & 6: Elementary School: 107)

6) Self-improvement

To know oneself, and change what to be changed and develop one's good points. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 107)

7) Love for Truth

To love and seek truth, and explore one's own life, aiming at the realization of an ideal. (Grade 7 - 9. Junior High School: 117)

2. Relation to Others

1) Courtesy

To understand the significance of courtesy, and be able to speak and act appropriately according to situation. (Grade 7 - 9, Elementary School: 118)

2) Consideration and Kindness

To be considerate to everybody, and be kind, putting oneself in other's position. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 107)

3) Friendship

To understand, trust in, and be helpful to one another. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

4) Thanks & Respect

To meet those who support people's live and senior citizens with thanks and respect. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

5) Modesty

To be modest and respect others with different ideas and positions with a broad mind. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 107)

3. Relation to Nature & the Sublime

1) Respect for Nature

To be familiar with nature around and have affection toward animals and plants. (Grade 1 & 2, Elementary School: 105)

2) Respect for Life

To respect life and all living things. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

3) Aesthetic Sensitivity

To have aesthetic sensitivity and a feeling of awe toward power over human beings. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 107)

4) Nobility

To believe in strength and nobility of human beings to overcome their weakness and ugliness, and endeavor to find joy of life as a human being. (Grade 7 - 9, Junior High School: 118)

4. Relation to Group & Society

1) Public Duty

To keep promises and rules in society, and esteem a sense of public duty. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

2) Justice

To be fair and impartial to everybody without discrimination and prejudice, and endeavor to realize justice. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 107)

3) Group Participation & Responsibility

To be willing to participate groups around, be aware of one's role, and do one's duty in cooperation with others. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 107)

4) Industry

To understand the importance of working, and be willing to work. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 106)

5) Respect for Family Members

To love and respect parents and grand parents and be willing to help them with housework. (Grade 1 & 2, Elementary School: 106)

6) Respect for Teachers & People at School

To love and respect teachers and people at school, and endeavor to build better school tradition in cooperation with others. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 108)

7) Contribution to Society

To be aware of being one of members of local community, with the respect and love toward those who devoted themselves to contribute to society and senior citizens, contribute to the development of community. (Grade 7 - 9, Junior High School: 119)

8) Respect for Tradition and Love of Nation

To be interested in culture and tradition of our nation, and love the nation. (Grade 3 & 4, Elementary School: 107)

9) Respect for Other Culture

To value foreign culture and people, with the awareness of being a Japanese, endeavor to promote international friendship. (Grade 5 & 6, Elementary School: 108)

Moral Education through Academic Subjects

The goals and contents of each academic subject, at both elementary and junior high levels, include nature somehow related to moral development directly or indirectly. The following is examples of them excerpted from the course of study.

Japanese Language

"To develop the ability to accurately understand and express the Japanese language, to develop the sense of language, to deepen the interest in the Japanese language, and to cultivate an attitude of respect for the Japanese language." (Overall objectives, Junior High School: 7)

Social Studies

"To make students understand the history of Japan, in the context of the world history, thereby thinking about the traditional and cultural features of Japan from the wider view point, and foster their consciousness as Japanese." (History, Junior High School: 23)

"To make students properly recognize the significance of individual dignity and respect for human rights, and particularly the relationship of freedom and rights with responsibilities and duties as basis for social life, thereby deepening the understanding of democracy and cultivating a foundation of knowledge necessary for citizens who exercise the people's sovereignty." (Civic, Junior High School: 30)


"To have pupils understand that living things grow under the influence of their environment, and develop an attitude of respecting life, while examining the process of the growth and body structure of living things." (Science, Grade 5, Elementary School: 62)


"The Japanese National Anthem "Kimi-ga-yo" should be taught in each grade in a manner appropriate to the developmental stage of pupils. (Music, Elementary School: 84)

Health & Physical Education

"To make students cultivate a fair attitude through competition and cooperation in exercises and foster the attitude of observing rules willingly and of fulfilling responsibilities through a mutual cooperation." (Physical Education, Junior High School: 76)

Foreign Language

"Materials should be useful in helping international understanding from wider view points, and to foster a sense of being a Japanese, living in the international society, and the spirit of international cooperation." (Foreign Language, Junior High School: 115)

Moral Education through Special Activities

According to the course of study, Special Activities are expected to achieve four goals described as follows:

Through desirable group activities, to promote harmonious development of mind and body and develop the individuality, to foster an independent and practical attitude in order to build a better life as a member of a group, to deepen the self-awareness regarding life as a human being, and to nurture the ability to fulfill oneself (The Course of Study, Junior High School, 1983: 121).

Special Activities consist of four major activities described below.

Special Activities in Junior High Schools

1. Classroom Activities

2. Students' Council

3. Club Activities

4. School Events

1) Ceremonial Events

2) Study-related Events

3) Physical education-related Events

4) Field Trips

5) Social Service Activities

Those activities have close tie with moral education as an independent subject and they are complementary each other.

Moral Education through Daily Activities

As stated before, Japanese moral education is designed to achieve the goals through all educational activities in schools. Other than three domains, which are moral education, each academic subject, and special activities, there are several remarkable things considered to take important roles in moral instruction.

The first one is cleaning of school premises. Every day, every school , elementary throughout high schools requires students to clean their classrooms and public spaces, such as, rest rooms, entrances, gymnasiums, outside buildings, and so forth. This is for the purpose of not only creating good learning environment and atmosphere by themselves, but also for students appreciating the value of work and public mind.

The second one is activities with living things. It is not uncommon among elementary schools that pupils have various animals or plants that they take care of. This is sometimes regarded as one of special activities or a part of science class. Pupils feed or water them in turn, sometimes even during vacation. Through the activities, pupils get familiar with nature around and have affection toward living things, and consequently they learn to respect life.

Third, club activities after school in junior and high schools (They are differentiate from Special Activities in curriculum.) are regarded as significant to acquire interpersonal skills and rules in a group. Some junior high schools even mandate that all students to join some clubs. In fact many students are willing to join them. These club activities involve many items shown in the goals of moral education, such as, cooperation, courtesy, responsibility, diligence, self-improvement, friendship and so on. Students learn them through pursuing common goals of their groups.

In conclusion, Japanese moral education is totally comprehensive, and the achievement of the goals has priority over all other subjects in education.

In contrast to American moral education, Japanese one is highly standardized in terms of content. These content is not only taught in classrooms, but also reinforced outside. Also it is implemented through the entire school life in addition to the separate moral education class, while American schools often regarded moral education as a part of social studies.

Chapter 4 Social Implications for American Schools

A central function of moral education in Japan and other places is to transmitting the culture with its established values and knowledge. The precise English equivalent for the Japanese moral education does not exist. Their concern is not really with morality as Westerners understand the notion. There is no catechism in Japanese moral education. Nor does it have any theological underpinnings. The concern is with personal attitudes and their behavioral consequences -- social virtues. Values are not laid on, nor are they "clarified" as often American schools understand that term (Thomas, 1985).

Consequently, the materials on moral conflict do not deal with different moral values as juxta-posed in the moral dilemmas used by Kohlberg (Kohlberg, 1984). Rather, the materials dealing with conflict make use of a moral value versus an anti-moral value (such as honesty versus personal gain) and the resulting conflict between them. The conflicts are designed to help students understand the importance of the moral values in real life-conflicts. Also many teachers prefer introduce general principles which they may regard as having universal validity (Naito, 1990). In this sense, Japanese moral education can be called as "virtue education."

In terms of content, Japanese moral education can be characterized by three points, which can also be implications for American schools: (1) teaching respect for life, (2) teaching the relationship between an individual and a group, and (3) teaching a sense of "vertical" order.

(1) Teaching respect for life

Respectful attitude towards life aimed by Japanese education has been cultivated by Shinto, which has enabled people to coexist with nature in spite of many natural disasters. The Japanese people and their culture have been always related to nature. Even today, schools offer plenty of opportunities to contact with living things. Those activities with living things, especially in elementary schools, promote children to learn about life, eventually, to realize the significance of life of self and others through encounters with the beginning and end of life of plants or animals. The respect for life can be developed to the stage that children are able to understand or feel pain of others and show consideration towards people in trouble. Such respect for life is necessary in American schools because they face increasing violence.

(2) Teaching the relationship between an individual and a group

In general, the Japanese tend to identify themselves strongly with the group they belong to, and often put group interests before personal ones. It is also widely acknowledged that the Japanese group consciousness is related to Japan's long-standing culture of rice cultivation, which require to work in groups and have a system of cooperation. Also, with the spread of the Confucian ethic from China there was a strengthening of the concept of belonging to a family group, and among the warrior class, of belonging to a clan (Nippon Steel Human Resources Development Co., Ltd., 1993: 407).

In Japanese schools, the relation between an individual and a group or society are stressed throughout the entire school life. It does not aim at an excessive totalitarian notion as Japan used to have during the war period, however. Schools and the society promote the notion that one lives being helped by others. Unless people stands on such a thought, the notion, such as "respect for others, " or "appreciation to others," is hard to be understood (Guide for Elementary Schools, 1989: 24). Such a notion is not only discussed in the class of moral education, but also reinforced through performing allotted share of class work, cleaning schools, club activities, or special school events. These activities actually make the notion clearer and enable children to learn the role of individual and responsibility expected in a group to keep school life smooth. This notion acquired at school level can be extended to the social level. The view of "an individual in a group" promotes self-control, moderation, and sound, not excessive, individualism.

Moreover, each one's realization of the position in relation to a group naturally brings understanding of the significance of diligence, social service, and social responsibility. This understanding also fosters proper attitude toward public property.

(3) Teaching a sense of "vertical" order

Many researchers have pointed out a rigid social hierarchy as one of reasons of business success of Japan. As regards education, Nathan Glazer (1976: 816) argues that a major reason for Japan's educational success is that the "vertical" nature of Japanese society has been transferred to other institutions, including the school, but "modified to accommodate [their] specific objectives."

Originally, "vertical" order here does not mean the discrimination between individuals, nor does it require unconditional subjugation to authorities. The nature of Japanese vertical order is based on the seniority system coming from the Confucian ethic. Further, the prototype of this system is a family, tying members of different age with directional but natural affection (such as one from grandparents to parents, parents to children) rather than mere power or ability. In this sense, Japan could be described as a pseudo-family society.

Reflecting such a social characteristic, while education takes as its basis the Constitution which provides equality of all the people under the law, schools lay emphasis upon understanding a self in relation to other family or community members of different age. Often children are expected to be able to take care of younger children in schools or at home, or show courtesy towards elder people. This attitude can be developed to a higher phase that one can have a sense of responsibility naturally expected in accordance to one's age or position in a family or group.

These three notions above reflect Japanese culture and are regarded as fundamental values in the society. Therefore, it might be seemed that these social implications are not matched to American culture and hardly adoptable. However, it is not true. They have certain universal validity since the learning of these notions are closely related to family life. Throughout the world, wherever a solid foundation of family can be seen, children naturally learn these notions at home. As for moral education, what Japanese schools are doing is enforcing what children learn at home. This is more discussed in the next chapter.

Chapter 5 Conclusion

Japanese moral education is highly centralized and comprehensive. National guidelines of moral education as well as all other subjects clearly provides academic standards. Besides, moral education is implemented through all school activities. It is obvious that the primary purpose of moral education is to preserve and develop traditional culture, which highly reflects religious values, although teaching a specific religion in public schools is prohibited.

In general, values are considered to have two aspects; one that can be pluralistic or "clarified" (such as conceptions of taste, fashion, and convictions that lead to human self-realization) and the other that should not be (such as the normative conditions that enable one to settle and balance competing forms of self-realization: conditions of humane conflict-solving procedures) (Oser & Reichenbach, 1994). In Japan, there is clear differentiation between these two aspects and the latter tends to be emphasized in classes of moral education as well as in the society.

The close ties between family and school in terms of values is also crucial point of Japanese moral education. One of major differences of Japanese educational environment in comparison with the United States is that majority of Japanese schools and families are standing on same philosophical foundation. Consequently, Japanese moral education in schools is an extension of the family. Therefore, without moral education at home, a program of moral teaching at the school will not function well. In fact, family is the first place that children are aware of morality. The moral foundation is established through family relationship -- especially extended families. Apparently, nuclear family system and the decrease of the number of children in a family take away chances that children learn such notions as respect for life, self-control in a group, consideration to others. Children have little opportunities to encounter the beginning or end of life of family members in nuclear families. Children do not really learn the meaning of life or death and what they feel in such occasions as human beings. If children do not have siblings in their family, they hardly learn that sometimes they have to restrain their desire for the sake of their siblings. Also, children do not have many opportunities to help younger or elder members in family. As a result, they do not realize the significance of showing consideration to others, nor the joy of doing so. Children learn the basis of what is regarded as social virtues at home. From this point of view, it seems that the primary cause of moral decline in the United States does not lie in moral education itself but decline of family foundation.

Although the real key to build moral society may be in a family, moral instruction in the school is indispensable. The role of moral education in schools is to enforce "social" virtues acquired at home so that children can apply them in schools and then society. The goals of moral education cannot be attained by unnatural or "artificial" method such as indoctrination. Morality learned in "natural" setting can be retained with natural feeling. There should be no fundamental differences between the family and school in terms of education for moral development. Teachers' role should resemble parental one so that they could be respected. Schools should maintain the atmosphere that senior pupils take care of the younger. The problems occurred in classes or schools should be solved from the viewpoint of family relationship. However, it does not mean indulgence. It is necessary for schools to keep good order based on what parents do in the family. The notion of a family is the key to resolve most of school and social problems of the youth in the natural way.


Beauchamp, Edward R. "Japanese
Education and the Development of Postwar Educational Policy, 1945-1985," 1985.

Chen, Guo-Ming & Chung Jensen.
"The Impact of Confucianism on Organizational Communication," Paper presented at the annual meeting of SCA Convention, Miami Beach, Florida, November, 1993.

The Christian Science Monitor.
"Guns: a Children's Issue," p. 20, April 12, 1996.

Elam, Stanley M. & Rose, Lowell C.
"The 27th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappa, Vol. 77, Iss. 1, pp. 41-56, September 1995.

Glazer, Nathan.
"Social and Cultural Factors in Japanese Economic Growth," in Hugh Patrick and Henry Rosovsky (eds), Asia's New Giant: How the Japanese Economy Works, The Brookings Institution, Washington, 1976.

Ishikawa, Shotaro.
"Terakoya," Kyoiku-gaku yogo-jiten (Handbook of Educational Terms), the third edition, pp. 195, Gakubunsha, Tokyo, Japan, 1995.

Klaus, Luhmer.
"Moral Education in Japan," Journal of Moral Education, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 172-191, October 1990.

Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.
"Shogakko Gakushu-shido-yoryo (The Course of Study for Elementary Schools in Japan)," The Printing Bureau of Ministry of Finance, Tokyo, Japan, 1989.

Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.
"Chugakko Gakushu-shido-yoryo (The Course of Study for Lower Secondary Schools in Japan)," The Printing Bureau of Ministry of Finance, Tokyo, Japan, 1989.

Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.
"Shogakko Shido-syo -- Dotoku-hen (The Guide for Elementary Schools -- Moral Education)," The Printing Bureau of Ministry of Finance, Tokyo, Japan, 1989.

Naito, Takashi.
"Moral Education in Japanese Public Schools," Moral Education Forum, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 27-36, Summer 1990.

Nippon Steel Human Resources Development Co., Ltd.
"Nippon : sono sugata to kokoro (Nippon : the land and its people)," the forth edition, Gakuseisha, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

Oser, F. & Reichenbach, R.
"Moral Education: Philosophical Issues," The International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition, Volume 7, p. 3922, Elsevier Science Inc., Tarrytown, NY, 1994.

Passin, Herbert.
"Society and Education in Japan," Teachers College Press, Columbia University, New York, 1965.

Takahashi, Susumu.
"An Overview of Reform and Tradition in Japanese Moral Education since 1868," Moral Education Forum, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 10-16, Summer 1988.

Thomas, Paul F.
"Moral Education in the Schools of Japan," Horizon, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 17-19, September 1985.

The United States Education Mission to Japan.
"Report of the United States Education Mission to Japan," Submitted to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Tokyo, March 30, 1946, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1946.

Urschel, Joe.
"The Dean of Death," USA TODAY, p. 1A, April 10, 1995.