Children’s Daily Life in Japan, 1925-1945

The aspects of daily life discussed on this webpage include sleeping, bathing, heating, clothes, footwear, and appearance. Other aspects of daily life, such as food and eating, play, or household chores, are discussed on their own web pages.

Children’s daily life during this period varied significantly according to a child’s immediate environment – for example, whether they lived in the city or the countryside, the type of household they lived in, and the socioeconomic position of their family. However, there were also some commonalities. Interviewees generally reported sleeping in the same room as other family members, and also sleeping under a mosquito net at least part of the year. Bathing customs showed much more variation. Some interviewees, especially those from better-off families, reported that they had their own bath inside the house, most often a so-called goemon-buro or cauldron bath, heated from the bottom (there is a lively description of the goemon-buro in Ronald Dore’s book Shinohata, and a good photograph in Village Japan, edited by Beardsley, Hall, and Ward). Others, who grew up in urban areas, went to the local public bath (sento). In rural villages, where there were no commercially run public baths, interviewees often reported that neighbours would share a bath, taking it turns to heat a bathtub. Several emphasized that bathing was less frequent than today, and the water both scantier and less hot. There were also reports of communal baths outside. It seemed common for the (male) household head to bathe first, and his wife last. Less frequent bathing may have been connected to the prevalence of lice reported by some interviewees, though not all.

Interviews suggested that the shift from wearing kimono to Western clothes occurred earlier in urban areas and in better-off households. It was reported that boys had shaved heads, while elementary school age girls most often wore a short bobbed hairstyle known as o-kappa. Footwear often seems to have been a sign of socioeconomic position. In rural areas, many children seem normally to have worn straw sandals (warazōri), going barefoot in school. The straw sandals were often made (and repaired) at home. In winter, elementary school children would wear traditional socks (tabi), but no indoor shoes, as school children do today.

Peter Cave

How to Cite This Source

Peter Cave, ‘Children’s Daily Life in Japan, 1925-1945’, in Childhood, Education and Youth in Modern Japan [add URL and access date].