Today, traditional annual events are believed to play an important role in early childhood education in Japanese kindergartens and nurseries. This paper examines how traditional annual events were introduced and established in kindergarten education in Japan and clarifies how the content of these events and ways of celebrating them were modified depending on the period. In particular, this paper focuses on the Doll Festival.
With the adoption of the new calendar in 1873, the Meiji government abolished the “Gosekku” (the five seasonal festivals); accordingly, the Doll Festival declined. However, from the 1890sto the 1900s, the Doll Festival was revived against the backdrop of rising nationalism and as a commercial strategy for promoting the sale of dolls by department stores. For example, it was confirmed that Aisyu Kindergarten in Osaka started celebrating the Doll Festival around 1910. Then, from the Taisho to the early Showa period, the Doll Festival spread extensively in kindergartens throughout Japan.
In the Meiji and the Taisho periods, the main purpose of the Doll Festival was to participate in the festival on March 3 and enjoy playing with dolls. Songs, plays, storytelling, and other activities related to the Doll Festival were only partially introduced into daily life. In contrast, after the early Showa period, traditional annual events, including the Doll Festival, were placed in the kindergarten curriculum, which implies that the educational value of the Doll Festival was formally recognized. As a result, kindergarten teachers tried to integrate various activities (manufacturing, songs, plays, storytelling, etc.) under the subject matter of the Doll Festival. In addition, along with the festival itself, the process of preparing for the festival also held educational value. The Doll Festival was planned so that children could take part in the preparation with enthusiasm and organize events in cooperation with their friends and teachers.
The South Manchuria Railway Company, which assumed responsibility for education in the land appurtenant to South Manchuria Railways, enforced the Childrenʼs Playground Regulation in 1909 for Japanese children living in Manchuria, and revised it as the Kindergarten Regulation in 1922. It is important that the company initially named their institution for early childhood education as Childrenʼs Playgrounds rather than Kindergartens, because it reflected the Companyʼs unique policy. In fact, their focus on sanitary and physical education, as shown in these regulations, was based on “physical-culture-oriented education” in what educators of the day called “the policy of adapting to a local situations.” Also it is noteworthy that the Company founded the Childrenʼs Playgrounds earlier than they did secondary education institutions, indicating the importance of early childhood education in the Manchurian educational system. To develop early childhood education under the Companyʼs policy, women teachers with high educational background were hired. It was a higher-paying job for women with better working conditions than were available in Japan proper. Because of the financial difficulties and the increase of migrants from Japan, not all of their ideals relating to kindergartens were materialized. However, each kindergarten tried to live up to the ideal by setting a limit to childrenʼs age for entrance and making class compositions flexible. The management of kindergartens was crucial for promoting migration from Japan proper to Manchuria because the development of early childhood education was considered to be an indicator of Manchurian living standards. In this sense, kindergartens were connected to imperialism.
The purpose of this paper is to clarify activities of the National Committee on Nursery Schools (NCNS, 1927-1931) in the United States of America during the 1920s through an analysis of its conference reports of nursery school workers, publications such as “Minimum Essentials for Nursery School Education”and magazines, “Childhood Education”and “School Life.”
Concerned with the proliferation of various types of nursery schools despite the lack of standards during the 1920s, Patty Smith Hill founded NCNS in 1927. NCNS was charged with three responsibilities: (1) to plan conferences necessary for the progress and improvement of nursery schools; (2) to make public the activities of NCNS; and (3)to hold a meeting of the Committee for a reconsideration of its plan of organization. Hill sought to build a nursery school fitted to American educational needs. NCNS gave higher priority to proving the value of nursery education scientifically, compared to Englandʼs incorporation of nursery schools into the public school system.
NCNS called national conferences of nursery school workers. The purpose of these conferences was to provide a forum for the exchange of different practices given in various types of nursery schools and to secure the input of various specialists indifferent fields related to nursery school education. Participants discussed pertinent problems of nursery school education, such as training of nursery school teachers, parent education, play activities, etc. NCNS also published “Minimum Essentials on Nursery School Education (1929),”which helped to define and safeguard nursery school education. Certain standards were formulated in relation to children enrolled, personnel of staff, program of activities, facility set up, and records. The activity to secure the quality of nursery school education led by a nonprofit association like NCNS was a characteristic of the American Nursery School Movement.This activity influenced the “Day Nursery Manual (1931),” issued by the National Federation of Day Nurseries.
There are three reasons to reflect on child-rearingin the traditional societies. First, there is the motive for civilized societies to attempt to restore the environment and child-rearing conditions that children have lost due to the modernization process. Second motiveis, are search of traditional society itself in order to see the modern society relatively. This is the primary motive of myself who hassteadily engaged in socialhistory research. Thirdly, there is recent interest in the mid-19th century, that is, the period from the late Tokugawa through the Meiji Restoration. That is much concern regarding the significance of the Meiji Restoration to people who lived through it. Due to progress in socialhistory reseach, the life and mindset of people in the early modern period is becoming more concretely clear, and it is now possible to inquire the meaning of modern take-off from the view point of early modern era.
This paper follows the example of Kondo Makoto, who recognized the importance of the activities of mothers who introduced literacy to their children at home, and sought to improve language teaching methods based on KANA, using“AIUEO”rather than “I-RO-HA”. Such recognition of the importance of home education as a preparation for school education led him to understand quickly the functions of Western Nurseries and Kindergartens and to introduce them in Japan.