chapter  2
18 Pages

The house and family system

In Japan, as elsewhere, life for most begins in a family and it is here that children build up a picture of the world. Family members are usually the first people they learn to classify, and the way in which these close relations are defined varies greatly from one society to another. The perception of relatives is also influenced by residential arrangements, and Japan has as many possibilities as any other modern society, but it is important not to draw conclusions based only on apparent similarities in lifestyle. Anthropologists have found that understanding the principles defining relatives, sometimes even quite different from the biological ones implied in English usage, is vital to understanding systems of classification used in the wider society. Kin relations are also inextricably associated with other types of relations, so that economic activities, political relations and religious practices may also only properly be understood when considered in the context of the kinship system.