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Mr. Chino is a candidate for the M.S. in Education with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation at Southern Illinois University. He received his B.S. degree in Physical Education from Nippon College of Physical Education in Tokyo, Japan. He is a Graduate teaching assistant in the TR and has been highly active as a volunteer in area facilities serving the handicapped. His favorite sports are downhill skiing in winter, playing tennis in summer, and swimming throughout the year.

Dr. Len Cleary is an Assistant Professor of Therapeutic Recreation at SIU-C. An undergraduate minor in Oriental languages and military service in the Far East have resulted in a continuing interest in Japanese culture.


The average American is exposed to many commercial products from Japan including TVs, radios, stereos, cameras, watches, calculators, motorcycles, and cars without ever aquiring any sense of the general environment, much less the leisure patterns, of this highly industrious and highly industrial nation. To allay this lack of understanding, it seems useful to describe the historical evolution of lifestyles and leisure patterns in Japan as well as the role of recreation in modern Japanese society in order to facilitate an increased awareness of a major democratic world power that affects, at least indirectly, most American lives. It seems also useful from a professional perspective in order to stimulate recreators to realize leisure and recreation as a potential element in developing international relationships.

Japan itself is a small country covering an area of approximately 142,726 sq. miles, which is smaller than the state of Montana and only 4% of the total area of the U.S. Approximately 60% of the total land area of Japan is forested. The population of Japan, approximately 115 million is about 50% of that of the U.S. If one can imagine half of the population of the U.S. living in 40% of the area of Montana, one can begin to understand the enormous difficulties in effectively managing lands and facilities to provide leisure and recreation services for people.


Japan, consisting of four main islands, is geographically isolated from other countries by the Japan Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Japanese culture developed in this isolated situation for two thousand years without strong foreign influences. Most Japanese engaged in agriculture until the Meiji era (1867), and the leisure patterns of the early Japanese were based on agricultural living patterns. Activities and events were consequently seasonal and cyclical often centering around festivals and special holidays. Under the strong feudalism and "samurai" spirit, many Japanese men engaged in martial arts such as judo, kendo (fencing), karate, sumo (wrestling). Kabuki and noh drama, two forms of theater, became popular as passive entertainment.

The Meiji era brought the first major transition of Japanese society as a whole. Foreign trade was opened in a limited way and aspects of developed European cultures were introduced including architectural styles, industrial products, the train as a form of transportation, and alternative types of clothing. The importation of part of the European education system, especially physical education, became a strong immediate influence on the leisure patterns of Japanese society.

In the early 1900's many Anglo-American sports, such as baseball, tennis, boating, field & track, table tennis, and soccer began to be taught in the schools. As a result of this incorporation into the educational system, a large number of youth became interested in and participated in these sports. These sports were extremely effective in developing a broader base of per-

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sonal leisure communication. Unlike Japanese traditional sports such as judo, kendo, karate, they involve team play rather than only individual effort. In common with many other cultures, however, the provision and participation in leisure opportunities essentially belonged to men. This male domination remained true during this entire historical period.

By the 1920's, however, magazines for women began to be published to provide household information and to begin the process of increasing awareness for women although a truly "equal" society wasn't even contemplated. In 1925 the first radio station began broadcasting, providing not only news, but various kinds of hobby, travel, and game information as well as major sports events such as horseraces and professional baseball. The first phonograph record also was sold during this period.

Swimming skills classes for children are strongly encouraged.

In the 1930's movies became extremely popular. Many foreign movies were present and after the technology of putting Japanese subtitles on foreign films was perfected, foreign "talkies" were run as often as Japanese films.

Of course, there was a nationalistic fervor during the World War II (1941-1945), and materials from England and the U.S. were controlled with no American movies presented, and no English language allowed even to the extent of excluding English songs. However, despite these restrictions radio entertainment programs in Japanese were increased in order to moderate the population's anxiety resulting from the war.

After the war the rehabilitation of Japanese society began under the control of the occupation force commanded by General Douglas McArthur as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. In 1945 movies were resumed, the magazine called "Shinsei"葉he first since the war began謡as published and sold out on the same day, and professional sumo and baseball were established. These things occurred in spite of the broad devastation that resulted from the war.

In 1946 the National Recreation Association of Japan (NRAJ) was established. NRAJ, a service and professional non-profit society, introduced American and European folkdances, games, puzzles, and songs through elementary school teacher workshops, social worker and recreation leader workshops, as well as through camp counselor training courses. NRAJ declared participation in leisure activities tended to improve individual happiness. The first National Sports Festival was also held in 1946. Although participation in sports increased, the number of bars, restaurants, and cabarets also significantly increased and TVs, radios, and movies became more popular during the period from 1945 through the 1950's. In this period, recreation probably meant passive entertainment to most people as opposed to active participation.

The 1960's brought color TV programs and by 1966, people could watch TV programs anywhere in Japan. As a consequence of this TV accessibility, the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 resulted in an increased interest in sports among the Japanese population. The preparation for the games also brought improvement in transportation systems and the quality of accommodations for travelers. As a result, Japanese increasingly began to participate in sports and games, hobbies, travel, and new leisure experiences. The passive entertainment sector expanded with an onslaught of comedians, a form of entertainment not popular in Japan up until this time.

The 1970's began with publicized outdoor adventures such as downhill skiing and mountaineering at Mt. Everest, and sailing back and forth across the Pacific Ocean as well as around the world. In 1972 the Sapporo Winto Olympic Games accelerated this trend toward outdoor sports resulting in booming winter sport services for all ages particularly in the areas of skiing and skating.

The Japanese enjoy boating and other water activities at a variety of lakes.

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In the midst of the generalized growth the society as a whole became threatened by the energy crisis in 1973 as Japan has no natural fuel resources of its own. In spite of this, between 1974 and 1979 the society continued to develop effectively through its own innovation and industry especially in the area of automotive technology, electrical engineering, and business administration. Within a few years these technological advances resulted in most Japanese coming to have more free time and more money. The phrase "leisure boom" was created during this period. Simultaneously, commercial recreation, evidenced by the growth of tourism, recreation-oriented instructional services, an increase in recreational and sport facilities, and sales of recreation equipment, became extremely popular.


Japanese leisure patterns have changed dramatically as a result of cultural, social, economic, and political influences. The change of overall life styles through the history of Japan was probably the single most important influence on leisure patterns. The agricultural society was transformed to an industrial society and feudalism ultimately became democracy. What was once an undeveloped country became one of the most highly developed countries in the world.

Many commercial recreation enterprises currently compete in providing leisure services. Japanese avail themselves more and more of these services. Although the quality of recreation equipment and facilities has been improved as can be observed by the currently available sporting goods, lodges, hotels, and resort areas, it seems like many of these leisure services are designed mainly for the relatively affluent, a pattern not unlike many commercial recreation services in America.

Blindfolded "beat and eat the watermelon" is a common informal camp activity.

Nonetheless, many community sports such as baseball, volleyball, and table tennis and recreation activities are mostly directed, funded, and organized by the local governmental offices of each region and are designed to be available for all community residents. Typically, many teams and individuals participate in these organized games. Perhaps unfortunately, these sports and recreation activities tend to be very competitive. The participants tend to consider only winning and are often strict about rules and organization making few opportunities available for casual play directed toward participatory enjoyment.

NRAJ, as previously noted, is the national organization designed to promote the individual's mental and physical health in society through recreation. NRAJ provides direct services to public and often introduces many new or imported recreation activities and games through publication and workshops for recreation leaders. Although it trains recreation leaders and surveys Japanese leisure trends and their needs, many traditional recreation leaders tend to provide only games and songs. There is often little interaction between recreation leaders and recreation researchers which again is a trend common to the recreation profession in other countries including the United States.

In regard to the provision of recreation services for special populations, the first year of the Year of International Disabled (1981) brought many special events for the disabled which were held throughout the country. Many people have begun to realize the needs of developing recreation programs for the disabled through the awareness generated during that year, NRAJ has been receiving many supportive and positive opinions in relation to the provision of therapeutic recreation services for special populations.

This evolution in therapeutic recreation (TR) has begun slowly and has only recently become significant. Some recreators have begun to stress therapeutic values of recreation services and many counselors and doctors have become supportive of the potential of recreation services as a useful tool for the clients in institutional and hospital settings. Nevertheless, the basic principles of TR are poorly developed. There is no Japanese TR textbook and the only two translated books that are available are those of Paul Haun and Gerald O'Morrow which are considered to be useful but not generally contemporary by American TR standards. From the authors' viewpoint, there is a strong need of translating many TR textbooks and articles. Making available information concerning professional philosophies and issues in TR would seem to be one of essential elements in further developing therapeutic recreation and its services in Japan.

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In general, Japanese tend to be somewhat disadvantaged in leisure and recreation (Fujimoto and Imai, 1981). Most workers still prefer to rest rather than participate in physical activity and many Japanese still prefer passive amusement and entertainment as opposed to any type of active participation. In Tokyo, amusement parks are so overcrowded on weekends they often resemble the daily rush hour business traffic of weekdays in the cities. Furthermore, the many Japanese individuals who have started participating in outdoor activity and travel often have an unfortunate overuse impact on the limited number of available natural sites including such negative outcomes as excessive trash, soil erosion, and vandalism. The numerous Japanese who have begun to participate in many different kinds of sports, at what is an inadequate number of facilities, experience the same kind of difficulties, length of waiting time simply to play at a sport complex can be enormous and debilitating. It would seem that participating in an active leisure activity is in itself a highly competitive experience.

Although Japanese have copied foreign technology and business, Japanese leisure patterns probably will not completely mirror western patterns. Recreation is very personal and highly influenced by cultural determinants. When an evolving culture phenomenon appears, the traditional pattern challenges it and confusion or prejudice on what recreation does or should do for people appears. Today, leisure and recreation in Japan are at this state of conflict where the modern patterns, heavily influenced by western thought, contrast with the more traditional male dominated, passively oriented (except for the Samuria culture) patterns of the past. It is anticipated that the 1980's will accommodate both sets of values resulting in continued progressive evolution of leisure patterns but in a way that is uniquely Japanese.


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Brigham Young University-Language Research Center. People of Japan: building bridges of understanding. Provo: BYU-Language Research Center, 1976, 47p.

Bureau of Statistics (Ed.). Statistical handbook of Japan-1970. Tokyo: Office of the Prime Minister, 1970.

_________. Statistical handbook of Japan-1980. Tokyo: Office of the Prime Minister, 1980.

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Fujimoto, Y. & Imai, T. The needs of leisure-living advisor. Paper presented at the first National Forum of Leisure Education/Leisure Counseling/and Leisure Prescription, Tokyo, April, 1981.

Gwinn, A.E. & Hibbard, E.L. Fun and festivals from Japan (Rev. ed.). New York Friendship Press, 1956.

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Ishikawa, H. (Ed.) Yoka no sengoshi (leisure history after World War II). Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1979.

覧覧覧覧(Ed.). Goraku no senzenshi (amusement history before World War II). Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1981.

Kieran, J. & Daley, A. The history of the Olympic Games: 776 B.C. to 1972. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1973.

Kishimoto, H. The self-image of the Japanese people. Journal of World History, 1962, 7(1), 86-97.

Kraus, R. Recreation and leisure in modern society (2nd ed.). Santa Monica: Goodyear Publishing Inc., 1978.

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National Recreation Association of Japan. Shokuba bunka taiiku recreation katsudo no jittai chosa (research: national trends of spor-sports and recreation for enterprises and governmental offices in Japan). Recreation*, May 1980, 235, 66-69.

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Okano, S. Sports no kakine o jyoshiki de yaburu (let's play sports with common sense). Recreation, June 1980, 236, 16-18.

Plath, D.W. The after hour: modern Japan and the search for enjoyment. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.

Reischauer, E.O. & Craig, A.M. Japan: transition and transformation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1978.

Reischauer, E.O. Japan: the history of a nation. New York: The McMillan Company, 1981.

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Department of Recreation Studies-Nippon College of Physical Education (Ed.). Yokaseikafsu advisor-Zeno michi (bulletin of leisure-living advisor). Tokyo: Kokudo-chiri-kyokae, 1982.

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*Recreation, written in Japanese, is published monthly by the National Recreation Association of Japan (NRAJ), 1-1-1 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150, JAPAN.

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