Much of the existing literature on happiness in Japan has been produced in the field of economics and psychology and is quantitative in nature. Here, for the first time, a group of anthropologists and sociologists jointly analyze the state of happiness and unhappiness in Japan among varying social groups in its physical, interpersonal, existential and structural dimensions, offering new insights into fundamental issues.

This book investigates the connections between sociostructural aspects, individual agency and happiness in contemporary Japan from a life course perspective. The contributors examine quantitative and qualitative empirical data on the processes that impact how happiness and well-being are envisioned, crafted, and debated in Japan across the life-cycle. Therefore, the book discusses the shifting notions of happiness during people’s lives from birth to death, analyzing the age group-specific experiences while taking into consideration people’s life trajectories and historical changes. It points out recent developments in regards to demographic change, late marriage, and the changing labor market and focuses on their significant impact on the well-being of Japanese people. In particular it highlights the interdependencies of lives within the family and how families are collaborating for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing the happiness of its members.

Broadening our understanding of the multidimensionality of happiness in Japan, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Japanese Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology.

chapter |28 pages


Making sense of happiness in “unhappy Japan”
ByBarbara Holthus, Wolfram Manzenreiter

part I|65 pages

Childhood and youth

chapter 1|14 pages

Tanoshikatta ne? Learning to be happy in Japanese preschools

ByEyal Ben-Ari

chapter 2|12 pages

“Because I feel happy”

Japanese first graders’ views about schooling and well-being
ByYoko Yamamoto

chapter 3|15 pages

“Unhappy” and isolated youth in the midst of social change

Representations and subjective experiences of hikikomori in contemporary Japan
BySachiko Horiguchi

part II|92 pages


chapter 5|19 pages

Being happy as a woman

The promise of happiness for middle-class housewives in Japan
ByOfra Goldstein-Gidoni

chapter 6|22 pages

The well-being of single mothers in Japan

ByJames M. Raymo

chapter 8|17 pages

The happiness of Japanese academics

Findings from job satisfaction surveys in 1992 and 2007
ByTheresa Aichinger, Peter Fankhauser, Roger Goodman

chapter 9|12 pages

Dilemma of fatherhood

The meaning of work, family, and happiness for salaried male Japanese workers
ByFutoshi Taga

part III|85 pages

Old age

chapter 10|13 pages

Happiness pursued, abandoned, dreamed of, and stumbled upon

An analysis of 20 Japanese lives over 20 years
ByGordon Mathews

chapter 11|19 pages

Senior volunteers and post-retirement well-being in japan

BySatsuki Kawano

chapter 12|17 pages

Well-being and decision-making towards the end of life

Living Wills in Japan
ByCelia Spoden

chapter 13|18 pages

Fear of solitary death in Japan’s aging society

ByTim Tiefenbach, Florian Kohlbacher

chapter 14|16 pages

Reconsidering the four dimensions of happiness across the life course in Japan

ByWolfram Manzenreiter, Barbara Holthus