Youth and Rural Modernity in Japan, 1900s–20s

  • Sayaka Chatani
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


At the turn of the twentieth century, social leaders in Japan and around the world saw the development of youth movements as having an essential role to play in the creation of modern society. In their eyes, youth represented the potentiality of modernity. An industrializing Japanese society ushered youth to the fore in a variety of ways. By the 1920s, elite students in the modern school system, highly trained in Western knowledge and destined for careers as bureaucrats, were referred to as ‘the engine of the nation’. Other students led socialist and communist movements as self-styled ‘vanguards’ of society. On the street, an increasing number of culturally subversive urban youth — sometimes called ‘moga’ (modern girls) and ‘mobo’ (modern boys) — embodied modern consumer culture and urban decadence. But while these archetypes of youth prevailed in big cities, the countryside also witnessed the rise of youth — pure, strong, and hardworking agrarian youth came to symbolize Japan’s masculine empire.


Youth Group Urban Youth Miyagi Prefecture Rural Youth Rural Society 
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    The first national network was established in 1915. State bureaucrats established the national headquarters, the Japan Youth Club [Nihon seinenkan], in Tokyo in 1921. The national network was amalgamated into the Greater Japan Seinendan Federation in 1924, which absorbed the seinendan federations in Taiwan and Korea in 1938. It was renamed the Greater Japan Seinendan the following year, and was merged with similar national organizations of young women and boys to form the Greater Japan Seishônendan in 1941. On these formal changes in institutions, see T. Kumagai (1942) Dai Nihon Seinendanshi (Tokyo: Nihon Seinenkan) and various other publications by the Japan Youth Club. The seinendan were reduced back to village-centered organizations (although still headed by the Japan Youth Club) after the end of World War II.Google Scholar
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© Sayaka Chatani 2015

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