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

Understanding 'The Lives of Children' in the Contemporary Fields of Health, Medicine and Social Welfare

Joint Research Coordinator MICHINOBU Ryoko

Reserch Theme List


Regardless of differences in age, gender, and external environment, children are active agents who produce information about their lives. Every society and culture develops shared frameworks for understanding that information. Within each society and culture, however, there may be subtle differences in that understanding. In contemporary societies, the gap between shared and different understandings has widened in ways that influence policies toward medical care and health and social welfare services for children.

For this joint research project we are bringing together anthropologists, a sociologist, a medical doctor, and other experts/practitioners in the fields of health, medicine and social welfare to look at the lives of children, from such multifaceted perspectives. The results will be of significant value to all four fields.

Research Results

This joint research held 11 study meetings in total, three of which were open meetings including two held outside the National Museum of Ethnology. At the open meetings, we discussed the social system that supports the lives of children based on the theme of children’s experience of separation by death, the public administration of vaccinations, home healthcare for children and rehabilitation for children. In addition, we invited five special lecturers to our open meeting held at the National Museum of Ethnology to discuss children’s daily lives in various situations and how to understand the lives of children from viewpoints of various occupations, including topics such as the care at a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), child-rearing support and social work in disaster-hit areas, the daily lives and bullying experienced by children living on the islands of Okinawa, and the interaction between children and their families in child rearing. In the final fiscal year, we collected our knowledge and opinions from anthropology and the studies of health, medical treatment and welfare to study how to address contemporary issues in a collaborative way with regard to the health and medical treatment of children. Finally, we presented an interim report at the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology (the 48th conference) and held a workshop at Rishiri Island, Hokkaido, targeted at children.

(1) Publication
Ryoko Michinobu, “How lives are born to grow—Medical treatment, welfare, culture and children” (Iwanami Junior shinsho 799) Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten 2015

(2) Open meetings
1. June 2012 (Sapporo) “Face the lives of children—from the scenes of medical treatment and welfare” Based on children’s experience of life and death and of separation by death (by Kikuko Iwamoto), Japan’s vaccination and preventive measures against infectious diseases and the lives of children (by Hajime Kamiya)

2. June 2013 (Sapporo) “Medical treatment for physically or mentally challenged children or children with disease ~ home health care and rehabilitation”
The lives of children supported by collaboration of medical treatment and welfare—the significance of home health care for children in Japan (by Hirotoshi Maeda), The rehabilitation for children mainly supported by their families (by Nobuaki Himuro)

3. October 2014 (the National Museum of Ethnology) “Disease prevention and the lives of children in regions”
Initiatives taken by regional society for disease prevention: the case study of malaria (by Chihiro Shirakawa), Primary healthcare to protect the lives of children—the dancing health education in Republic of Zambia (by Miki Fujita)

(3) Workshop
The project was subsidized by Japan Society For The Promotion of Science: Hirameki☆Tokimeki Science “Communicate with the lives of children!—the living of and medical treatment for children around the globe” at Fuji-machi, Rishiri, Hokkaido on September 2014 (by Ryoko Michinobu as the representative, Mari Kagaya, Chihiro Shirakawa, Makiko Habazaki, Nobuaki Himuro and Miki Fujita)