The Ie Family System Essay

The le Family System BY Blueberry1008 For more than 1,000 years, central to Japanese family and kinship ties was the Japanese version of the patrilineal extended family called ie. le is a patrilineal extended family system in which the oldest son, and perhaps the next one or two sons in succession, stays as adults at home and run the farm or other enterprise, while other sons born after them move off to form branches of the main family. Women leave their own family of birth and become official ‘e members of their husbands.

The traditional Japanese ie family includes the oldest living members of a single amily, at least one grown son, his wife, all young children, and the oldest male children even after marriage. An overriding characteristic of the extended family system is an exaggerated gap in gender roles. Men and women are treated almost like separate species, with women relegated to almost complete concentration on the domestic details of raising children and running the household. Women are only accepted as real members by having children, especially male children.

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In most versions of the extended family, emotional ties between husband and wife re not usually very strong, being far outweighed by ties between a husband and his own parents. Marriages bind one extended family to another and so is a matter for the family heads to consider carefully. The Family Law in 1898 formally established a stem family system that stipulated primogeniture, the passage of family headship succession and allocation of rights of inheritance of the entire estate from eldest son to eldest son.

Thus, the Meiji state established the central regulation of the family, and arranged marriages spread thereafter in the late 19th century. The state also enforced laws to make married ouples use the same surname, and intensified the domestication of women, and the gendered division of labor. This form of patriarchal regime empowered the male head of households, and disempowered female family members by prohibiting them from making decision about property, assets, marriage, or divorce.

Women lost legal rights as autonomous social agents. At the same time, patriarchal ideology also took on a national dimension with the stipulation of the notion that the emperor was the supreme patriarch of the nation. Thus, an intense ideological campaign sought to situate oyalty to the state above the family, and promoted the notion that the state was itself the ultimate big “family,” with the emperor’s family as the main family from which all others are offshoots. In the wake of W. W. II. Japanese people experienced another formal revision of the family system as the patriarchal stem family and primogeniture were formally American Occupation. The Family Law of 1947, enacted during the SCAP occupation, had considerable social consequences. The Japanese family discarded the old garb – the ie – and remade itself into anew image modeled on the Western democratic ideal f the nuclear family. The new postwar family was represented in the language of equality, individual rights, freedom of choice, and voluntary unions.

Today in Japan, the word le is hardly ever used to mean family. Nowadays Japanese use the word kazoku, which for most people has come to have a meaning very similar to the English word family. For the most part, kazoku is seen as a residence unit: children, parents, and perhaps grandparents. The breadwinner, the person in the unit who provides the most income, together with his or her spouse, tend to be the main decision makers. The postwar growth in the kazoku was consolidated by the creation of the Danka’ Sedai.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), those Japanese born in 1947 – 1949 each numbered between 2. 2 and 2. 3 million, for a total of approximately 6. 8 million. These groups of baby-boomers came to be called the Danka’ Sedal (“Danka'” means clod and here refers to the clustering of births in these 3 years). The dankai sedai grew up during the years of high economic growth, and found Jobs by the first “oil crisis” (1973) at the latest. Many of them had purchased homes before the bubble years.


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