Fashioning the family: A temple, a daughter, and a wardrobe

Amy Stanley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


How did early modern Japanese families apportion their property? Historians and social scientists do not agree on much about the Japanese “household system” (ie seido), and the issue of property is no exception. The sociologist Nakane Chie famously argued that impartible inheritance was a pillar of the stem family system, which envisioned the house as an unbroken line stretching from a distant past into an uncertain future. Thus, to increase the likelihood of survival, a married couple would typically leave an inheritance to one (biological or adopted) son, leaving other children to fend for themselves. Supposedly, the pressure on the household head to preserve his descendants’ patrimony was so intense that he could not claim the family fortune as his own: “Property belonged to the household and not to its head.” In response to Nakane’s claims, the demographic historian Hayami Akira and others argued that impartible inheritance was a “myth.”3 Their critique was soon followed by scholarship that alternately challenged and defended the traditional interpretation of the Edo period household as patriarchal and patrilineal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWhat is a Family?
Subtitle of host publicationAnswers from Early Modern Japan
PublisherUniversity of California Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780520974135
ISBN (Print)9780520316089
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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