Post-War Folklore Research Work in Japan.pdf

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Post-war Folklore Research Work in Japan.
I. Introduction
11. Research Institutions and their Activities
111. The Trends of Folklore Reseach
IV. The Various Fields of Research Work
V. Conclusion
I. Introduction
To get an idea of the conditions prevailing in the domain of Japanese
Folklore Science after the second World War, we first have to keep in mind
the following points :
1) Folklore Science in Japan came to life and is growing up as a science
existing among the people only, not yet given the rank of an academic subject
taught on the chairs of the country's universities.
2) Scope and range of the Science of Folklore show differences in the
various countries. In Japan, for reasons of convenience in collecting materials,
we may subdivide the field of research hitherto attacked into the following
headings :
a) Physical Culture : dwelling; clothing; food ; fishing ; forestry ;
hunting; agriculture ; traffic and commerce ; exchange of gifts ; social life ;
labour ; village organisations ; family system ; marriage ; birth ; funeral ;
annual customs and festivals; religious ceremonies; handicrafts; children's
games and plays.
b) Oral Literature : giving of names; dialects; proverbs and riddles;
sonnets ; folksongs; children's songs ; story-telling and folk-tales ; legends.
c) Mental Phenomena : ghost apparitions; taboo practices; magic;
omens ; divination ; interests and tastes ; folk medicine.
In England and America Folklore Science remained more or less restriced
to oral literature, costumes, customs and manners, belief, witchcraft and magic ;
the Japanese Folklore Science has adopted a wider scope, including also
technology, dialects and folk-speech, ressembling in this point the French and
the German concept of our science.
3) The Japanese Folklore Science as on occupation with organised col-
lecting activities and comparative studies came into existence about the year
1910, that is rather late compared with other countries. Concerning its
historical background and the ways of its gradual growing we may refer our
readers to the paper by Yanagida Kunio : Die japanische Volkskunde. Ihre
Naoe Hiroji
Vergangenheit, Entmicklung, und gegenmartige Luge (German translation by
M. Eder.) Folklore Studies, vol. 111, 2 (1944).
11. Research Institutions and their Activity.
A. The revival of the review Minkan Densho (Folklore) and the founda-
tion of the Japanese Folklore Society.
In the year of 1935 the Japanese Folklore Society was founded, with
Yanagida Kunio as its president and with the monthly review Minkan Densho
as its publication organ. The latter suffered great hardships as the war was
drawn out so long and had finally to be discontinued after No. 6 of vol. X.
After the war the review could make its appearence again. In August 1946,
the review made its first step into the post-war world by sponsoring a series
of conferences on Folklore.
The Japanese Folklore Society numbers 2000 members scattered all over
the country. I endeavers to spread the knowledge on Folklore among the
great public. The society underwent a reorganisation in April 1949 in order
to strengthen its inner structure and to add new stimuli to its undertakings. It
is headed again by Yanagida Icunio, its office was established in 631, Seijb-
machi, Setagaya-ku, Tbkyb.
B. The foundation of the Institute of Japanese Folklore.
The pioneer of the Japanese Folklore Science, Yanagida Kunio, was
directing, since 1935, the Rural Life Research Institute, and guiding in this
capacity research workers in carrying out investigations on actual conditions
of rural life throughout the whole country in numberless villages lost in the
mountains and scattered along the sea-shores of our islands. The investiga-
tion results were laid down in two publications in book-form, namely " Studies
on the Life in Mountain Villages " (1937) and " Studies on the Life in Fishing
Villages," both edited with contributions of his own by Yanagida Kunio.
Yanagida, furthermore, donated his large collection of books and data to
the said institute in order that further studies on Folklore might be conducted
on a well organised basis. The Rural Life Research Institute above refered
to was developed into a larger body in March 1947. It came to be called
The Institute of Japanese Folklore. The new institute succeded the former
Rural Life Research Institute.
Fortunately Yanagida's book collection escaped damage by the ravages
of the Pacific war and was not scattered. Through the donation of this library
the institute obtained a fine basis for a center for further collection of field-
work material and for the study of such and it is making rapid progress to-
wards perfection of its equipment. The institute aims above all at the
systematization of Japanese Folklore as a science. Its office is to be a center
for the training of research workers and to give guidance and encouragements
Post-war Folklore Research work in Japan
to its cooperators in the field.
In April 1948 the institute was made a corporative juridical person.
The Japanese Folklore Society is giving, as a frame organisation, its collabora-
tion and enlightenment to the institute. At present the research institute
pursues the following tasks :
1) Publication of the Bulletin of the Institute of Japanese Folklore.-This
bulletin, issued semi-annually, carries reports of the proceedings of the fort-
nightly meetings of the institute and papers of its members.
2) The compilation of a Bibliography of Japanese Folklore.-The Japa-
nese Folklore research work has rapidly made headway but it consisted until
now almost exclusively in collecting data. These have now to be brought into
order in a bibliography so that they become better available and accessible for
further studies. The bibliography will include all related publications which
appeared since the early years of Meiji classified under about 25 headings and
will be provided with an index. The editors will also see to it that not only
the vast field of Folklore is covered by the bibliography but also that those
branches of cultural science that have bearing on it will be duely surveyed.
3) Publication of folk-customs descriptions of all provinces of the
country.-Field surveys are at present already on the way, for them rather
limited areas, single villages and settlements in the mountains, are taken as
units, to get as exact as possible a picture of real life. The final goal is to
record all manifestations of folk-life in geographically defined monographs,
about one hundred of such are planned, several of them have already appeared.
4) Compilation and edition of folkloristic glossaries.-As far as it is not
contained in ordinary Japanese dictionzries, the whole terminology connected
with marriage, birth and upbringing of children, funeral, farmers' villages,
fishermen's villages, mountain villages, clothing and dwelling, the seasons of
the year, taboo customs, kinship and family systems has already been catalogued
and published in eleven single books. After the war two more have come off
the press, one is a supplement to the glossary of speech in farmers' villages, the
other is dedicated to the language of children. In preparation are : a supple-
ment to the glossary of terms on dwelling, glossaries concerning dwelling,
glossaries concerning food, traffic, labour, village organisation, that is how
villages came to existence and are growing, in a word the making of villages.
All these vocabularies are continuously revised and enlarged and it is intended
to prepare at the end a synthetic vocabulary of Japanese folk-customs.
5) Giving assistance to sociological education.-After the war, under
the new educational system, sociology figures among the subjects taught in
primary and middle schools. In this connection a good deal of folkloristic
knowledge is thought necessary. An ofice for the compilation of sociological
reference books exists in the vicinity of our Folklore Institute, namely 377,
SeijB-machi, Setagaya-ku, TBky6. In matters of Folklore Science the former
Nace Hiroji
is assisted by the latter.
C. The Research Institute of Folk-Culture (Attic Museum) and the
Museum of Japanese Folk Art.
The Attic Museum, under the directorship of Shibuzawa Keizb, has
since its foundation (1934) published about one hundred reports, but after the
end of the war it was handicapped by lack of funds. The Museum of Folk
Art got through the war undamaged. After the war students of folk arts
among the nationals of the allied powers took some interest in it, but it could
not yet return to its former lively activity.
111. The Trends of Folklore Research.
In the past, the attitude of Japanese scholars in general was too abstract
and theoretical. Against this a reaction came after the war. Especially in
social sciences the research took a new turn to positive work and field explora-
tions. After the war jurisprudence and sociological studies and particularly
sociological surveys of agricultural villages were started with a fresh impetus
and these studies and surveys are falling in line to a great extent with Folklore
Science as far as the collection of their datas in the field and their arrangement
is concerned. For such work law students and sociologists are looking up to
the folklorist for theoretical and methodological guidance. This came about
with the rising estimation of folk-customs and folk-life as valuable research
material for sociologists and also others. The analytical method of the folk-
lore-explorer is now made use of also by the students of social life. Labour
organisations, family systems, marriage customs, youth associations, the
arrangement of religious ceremonies and festivals are now becoming out-
standing and favorite topics in the field of sociology. Thus it is not surprising
that Folklore Science and Sociology, as far as theoretical and methodological
orientations go, came to have many common interests and are walking side
by side on not a few stretches of the way.
The importance of Folk!ore Science is still more increasing due to another
circumstance. Sociological thinking has penetrated the field of historical
research, and consequently also the study of history begins to profit from the
methods and techniques of Folklore Science.
The materialistic concept of history in the doctrine of Marx begins to
encroach on the field of Japanese Folklore in the hope of finding there new
arguments and avenues of approach. Some Communist minded people think
they can inject their materialistic concept of history into the body of Folklore
Science to the embarrassment of the cultivators of this science. In the past,
the Japanese Folklore Scientists never worked with preconceived historical
notions and will hardly do this in the future. They intend to continue their
research in an objective spirit that respects facts and will not try to model the
Post-war Folklore Research Work in Japan
28 1
facts after ideologies. On the contrary, the ambition is to improve methods
in order to establish the facts with the greatest possible accuracy. Pursuing
this aim, great stress is laid on a correct relationship with cognate sciences,
such as history, sociology, religious science, linguistics, psychology, and on
collaborating with these sciences within the own sphere and to the advantage
of Folklore.
IV. The Various Fields of Research Work.
Under the never failing encouragement and direction of Yanagida Kunio,
a good number of monographs, covering almost all fields of our science, has
been produced, some of them we shall name below. " Village and School
Youth " (Sept., 1945); " The Appearance of Villages " (July, 1948), "Annual
Customs and Festivals " (March, 1949). In these books, meant for youthful
readers, clothing, food, dwelling, plays and games, ~eople'scustoms and
beliefs are treated. Humoristic literature is represented in the " Sources of
Laughing " (Jan., 1946) and " Fables and Tales " (Oct., 1946). " Oral Litera-
ture " (Jan., 1947) investigates the field of unwritten oral traditions and their
relationship to Japanese Literature. " The Language oj Daily Life " (July,
1946) consists of reflections on every-day Japanese speech from the view-
point of Folklore Science. As a result of dialectical research appeared " Where
is the West goisg " (June, 1948). It is a comparative study on the words for
silk-worms, ants, fruits of the mulberry-tree, the rain-bow and related terms
collected from all over the country, with suggestions for the study of Japanese
and the methods of its teaching. " Glossary of names of Japanese Fairy-tales "
(March, 1948, under the editorship of the Japanese Broadcasting Association
and the supervision of Yanagida Kunio) is the largest accomplishment of the
Japanese Folklore Science after the war, classifying as it does 240 groups of
fairy-tales under fifteen headings. Of each fairy-tale, the outline of its con-
tent are given, its variations, the places of its geographical distribution and the
titles of the literary sources which contain them. At the end of the book an
index is added. This scholarly work sums up the results of thirty years work
of Japanese fairy-tales research and it can serve as a starting point for the
inclusion of Japanese fairy-tales into the international comparative study of
Since the end of the war Yanagida'Kunio has devoted most of his time
and strength to the study of the indigenous beliefs of Japan, especially to the
question of ancester-worship, and has laid dmhis conclusions in " 071
Ancestors " (April, 1946). This book was followed by " On Festival Days "
(Dec., 1946). " On Buddhist Temples in the Mountains " (June, 1947), " On
Clan-gods and Clan-members " (Nov., 1947). These writings form a series
with the title " The New Nipponology." " On Marriage" (Aug., 1948) deals
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