Teaching Module

Educational Reform in Japan (19th c.)

Two Girls Carrying Children [Photograph]


One of the major obstacles to consistent attendance at the new elementary schools was the fact that children played an important role in the household economy. One such role was that of caregiver for younger children. In this picture, we see an image that was striking to many European and American observers in the 19th century: older daughters–perhaps no older than nine or ten themselves–with younger siblings strapped to their backs. Japanese officials and educational reformers of the Meiji era often complained that rural parents were unwilling to send girls to school because they were needed to care for younger siblings– or, that they arrived at school with infants on their backs. This picture, therefore, captures one of the conflicts between the ideal of compulsory schooling and the realities of rural life.


"Two girls carrying Children." Metadatabase of Japanese Old Photographs In Bakumatsu-Meiji Period, Nagasaki University Library, http://oldphoto.lb.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/en/target.php?id=1701 (accessed September 25, 2008).

How to Cite This Source

Brian Platt, "Educational Reform in Japan (19th c.)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #125, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/125 (accessed August 10, 2021).