Skip to content Skip to footer

Brief Remarks on Paradigm Shifts in Japanese Anthropology during the 20th Century

Author: Josef Kreiner

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.1 (2017), pp.23-66
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Yanagida Kunio, Japanese anthropology, minzokugaku, ethnology, folklore studies, Rangaku


Anthropological thinking has a long history in Japan and had already reached a rather high level during the Edo period. For these “roots”, I refer to the very compact and up to now the best review in a Western language by the founder of folklore studies in modern Japan, Yanagita Kunio (Yanagida (sic!) 1944). In this paper, I will restrict myself, however, to the developments starting from the beginning of the modernization of Japan since the Meiji Restauration of 1868. Under the term “anthropology” I summarize here ethnology (cultural and/or social anthropology) and folklore studies (both referred to in Japanese as minzokugaku, but written with different characters), but will also include parts of neighboring sciences, such as sociology, linguistics, archaeology and prehistory, and physical anthropology, as far as they pertain to the central questions dealt with by the former.