Organized Panel Session
Coeducation was introduced to Japan after World War II as part of the Occupation-era (1945-1952) reforms that sought to elevate the status of women by providing them with equal educational opportunity. Critics of coeducation fretted that it would invite “moral problems,” given that in prewar Japan the sexes had been educated in isolation from one another and had little experience interacting socially with one another. These arguments were often intertwined with concerns about the possibility that new opportunities for women would destabilize conventional discourses of gender, which envisioned distinct yet complementary roles for men and women. Debates about the merits and demerits of the practice developed into a fully blown moral panic once Occupation censorship ended and conservative Japanese politicians attempted to roll back many of these reforms.
Postwar Japan was thus torn between two incommensurable models of education that had profound implications not only for gender relations, but also for ideals of citizenship in modern Japan. Prewar ideals of education in the interest of the state still held sway, in spite of postwar reforms that sought to instill a more “egalitarian” model of education as a means of individual self-actualization. This meant women received contradictory messages about the kind of education they should pursue. Should they educate themselves to become “better wives and wiser mothers,” or to compete with men for fulfillment through academic and career advancement? Failure to resolve these contradictions meant that conventional expectations of women’s roles persisted in spite of Occupation reforms.