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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Child’s Play: Multi-Sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan


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This chapter, by Elise Edwards, explores how, in its quest for success in the men’s FIFA World Cup, the Japan Football Association encourages parents to enroll preschoolers in its kids’ program to increase the number of children playing soccer and the quality of their training, emphasizes the importance of physical activity and play for children, and promotes the notion of a golden age between the ages of nine and twelve when the opportunity for physical development is said to peak. This popularizes a vision of a segmented childhood determined by age grades and developmental stages underpinned by a fear that Japanese children are in physical and psychological danger if they do not exercise correctly, with grave consequences for the Japanese state. Outdoor play and sport are essential for strengthening the national body, just as they were during World War II. The repetition and discipline required of soccer hopefuls mirrors the much-criticized educational system, which emphasizes excessive discipline and excessive competition and tethers childhood potential to adulthood success.


This Book Chapter was originally published in: Frühstück S. & Walthall A. 2017. Child’s Play: Multi-Sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan. California: University of California Press. DOI:

This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author.