The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Sociocultural Dimensions in the Creation of Pluralistic Societies

Joint Research Coordinator YOKOYAMA Hiroko

Reserch Theme List


A new challenge in contemporary society is the search for something besides the conventional values that emphasized productivity and efficiency, so that while supporting a certain degree of economic development, a pluralistic society will be fostered in which various forms of individuality can happily coexist together. At the individual level all individuals will be able to fully exert themselves for possibilities in their relations with others, and will foster a society which allows for a sense of fulfillment through self-realization. In terms of society, a pluralistic society includes guidance for the diverse abilities of people with various special characteristics, so as to create a civil society in which contradictions and frictions can be smoothed to allow everyone to live together. We propose to research the question of how the sociocultural dimensions required for the formation of such pluralistic civil societies can be achieved from the viewpoint of anthropology and other related fields. Specific objects for our study will include groups, including volunteer organizations; common-use buildings; forums for everyday living; and, networking among individuals. We will also gather new information about the conditions needed for constructing pluralistic sociocultural dimensions, and specific examples of obstructions to their achievement, and how they have been overcome. Through multidimensional research on ways of thinking (including ideals and value systems), social arrangements and systems, or even economics and technology, we hope to acquire new knowledge.

Research Results

The first major pillar of this research is pluralistic living that allows for groups, which are minorities for one reason or another, to participate in social dimensions, including those who are in a more difficult position than the majority.
This research began by bearing in mind among other things both the difficult problems faced by the physically handicapped, as well as the nature of the museum as a space for people to come together. As a first step, starting in 2005 we have hosted a dance workshop. Different participants, regardless of age, sex, the presence or absence of physical handicaps, and differences in experience, have together researched from the Museum exhibitions the process of the creation of dance. This has involved relating to members of the cultures depicted in the displays and those involved in their creation, including diverse questions in other dimensions of understanding other cultures. Second, there was research concerning the universalization of the museum. Through these two practical research efforts, while on the one hand pointing out specific methods related to the possibilities for a museum as a pluralistic gathering place, we also brought into focus topics for future research. It became clear that developmental research on information equipment with multi-sensory capabilities designed to promote the effectiveness of study, the enjoyment of music, should serve simultaneously to broaden the potentialities for individuals, bridging the gaps in individual capabilities, while facilitating the participation of many people. These results could be considered for application in museums.
For research about minority ethnic groups, cultures and issues related to understanding the current situation and pluralistic coexistence for small-scale ethnic groups in China and the Ainu in Japan, we were able to pursue research from a comparative standpoint. Through comparative research we were able to recognize the importance of laws and administrative measures, as well as education, while highlighting the need for research on their implementation of the law. For movements about environmental damage, we achieved a certain degree of development regarding solving problems in forging new ties with local administration. At the same time, the question of sociocultural dimensions tied to remembrance, which invites the fading away of such issues, also surfaced.
The second pillar was our research that considered pluralistic coexistence in the context of an attempt to understand how changes in recent years have impacted families, neighborhoods, local cooperative bodies and other groupings. While reconsidering such things as traditional festivals and tea houses as pluralistic spaces replete with diversity, we also analyzed non-traditional attempts to create families or common-living arrangements for local individuals or community spaces. We discovered easygoing spaces, including those dedicated to amusement, which facilitate contacts that allow participants to display their individuality. Research which shows that entertainment and laughter, as well as clowning, may prove effective in treating illness is yet another instance of how we can better understand the multidimensionality of humanity. We confirmed that this is another key point to be considered when creating pluralistic communal spaces.
In addition, we investigated the challenges for pluralistic commonality in Japanese ethnology, as well as the possibilities for research that can overcome the parameters of Yanagita Kunio-style ethnology or criticism of ethnology limited to a single nation.