Japan’s premodern concept of nature at root of distinctive mindset in early childhood education

Watching and waiting with minimal intervention forms educational philosophy guided by balance

Maintaining balance: Watching over with minimal intervention is a hallmark of early childhood education in Japan.

Osaka, Japan — Observers of Japanese early childhood education and care have pointed to the mindset of educators watching over and waiting on preschoolers as being an intriguing tendency. This mimamoru approach has its roots in a premodern concept of nature, according to Professor Yosuke Hirota at the Graduate School of Literature and Human Sciences of Osaka Metropolitan University.

Professor Hirota looked into the works of Sozo Kurahashi (1882-1955) and Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945) to see how this concept of nature from the past made its way into education in the present day. Kurahashi’s writing on education influenced early childhood education and care in Japan, while Nishida was one of the prominent philosophers of Kurahashi’s time.

It is well known in classical literary studies that the concept of nature in Japan had two meanings: voluntary, “from the self,” and spontaneous, “beyond the self.” What Professor Hirota found is that this concept has been carried over into modern education in Japan.

“Japanese educational philosophy has maintained a balance between acting by one’s will and entrusting oneself to something beyond its will,” stated Professor Hirota.

Kurahashi developed a theory of guidance (yūdō), likened to guiding the course of a river as it continues its inevitable flow. Professor Hirota said the achievement of his paper has been to find that this theory of guidance has its roots in Japan’s traditional concept of nature.

The paper was published in History of Education.

Conflicts of Interest

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.


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Published: 22 Apr 2024

Contact details:

Rina Matsuki

3-3-138 Sugimoto, Sumiyoshi-ku,
Osaka 558-8585 JAPAN

Content type: 

Journal: History of Education
Title: The concept of nature underlying early childhood education and care from pre-modern to contemporary Japan, via Sozo Kurahashi and Kitaro Nishida
DOI: 10.1080/0046760X.2024.2304353
Author: Yosuke Hirota
Publication date: 14 March 2024
URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/0046760X.2024.2304353

Funding information:

This work was supported by a Kakenhi Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science under Grant No. 21H00827.