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Illegitimacy In Japan

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Chapter Summary

Before the Meiji Restoration of 1868 there was no clear distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children. Concubinage was a recognized practice among wealthy and upper classes and in farming communities sexual relationship before marriage was an accepted custom. The distinction between kosei (legitimate) and shisei (illegitimate) in the statistics of Meiji period is the result of introduction, after the Restoration, of European philosophy and systems of registration, which required creation of new terms to translate Western concepts. Prior to Restoration public documents do not distinguish between these two categories: in the shū mon aratamechō there is neither a categorical nor a terminological distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children in any household. In this chapter those children who appear in the shū mon aratamechō as having only one parent are classed as illegitimate. The first illegitimacy statistics taken in the post-Restoration period were prepared by government of Metropolitan Tokyo in 1878.

Keywords: illegitimate children; Japan; Meiji restoration; post-restoration period; shū mon aratamechō



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