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Temporal Behaviour in Japanese rural society - Schmidtpott

Katja Schmidtpott (FU Berlin) Temporal behaviour in Japanese rural society and the Local Improvement Campaign (1906-1918)

Katja Schmidtpott (FU Berlin)

Temporal behaviour in Japanese rural society and the Local Improvement Campaign (1906-1918)

While it can be assumed that the Western 24-hour system became accepted in daily life rather quickly, it seems that temporal behaviour as such remained largely unchanged for more than a generation. Temporal values crucial to the building of the nation-state such as punctuality and efficient time use were taught in modern institutions such as schools, the military and the factory since the 1870s. Outside these institutions, however it appears that large parts of the population continued to follow ‚pre-modern’ patterns of daily life that were only loosely structured by clock-time.

In the course of Japan’s rise as an imperialist power after the wars against China (1894/95) and Russia (1904/05), the ‚pre-modern’ temporal behaviour of the population became increasingly perceived as a problem by the government bureaucracy. An ubiquitious lack of time discipline not only hampered agricultural productivity, it also endangered the functioning of local government. By means of a moral campaign mainly directed towards the rural population, the state in cooperation with private actors tried to persuade people to be punctual and to use their time productively. Although they aimed at strengthening the modern nation-state, the methods they recommended were often borrowed from pre-modern times: e.g., early rising was propagated as an indigenous substitute for daylight-saving time which was introduced in the belligerent nations of Europe and the USA during the First World War.

In my presentation, I will show how individual temporal behaviour in daily life became the focus of official attempts to create modern citizens, how the ‚modern’ and the ‚pre-modern’ were intertwined in the Local Improvement Campaign, and how this was linked to Japan’s emergence as an imperialist power.