Commentary on Maekawa & Macer

-- Masahiro Morioka
Integrated Arts and Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University, Gakuencho, Sakai, Osaka 593, JAPAN
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 69-70.

Maekawa and Macer did new surveillance on the Japanese concept of familial privacy, and discovered some interesting points. I want to add some comments to their discussion. First, they interviewed and handed out their questionnaires in the Tsukuba area, but more information has to be shown about this area because Tsukuba has unique history in developing the town, besides being a place where our bioethics meetings are regularly held. Some decades ago Tsukuba was a rural area where farmers lived and worked, then the government artificially made a big city for Japanese advanced science and technology. They built Tsukuba University and a lot of research institutes. Many professors, researchers, doctors, and college students came to this town. Hence, people in the large Tsukuba area consist of a sort of mosaic, made of people who had lived before and who came afterwards. The reason why I say this is that there may be some differences between those who had lived many years and those who came later on. When I heard Hiroko Kawashima's presentation at Fukui in 1992, I was impressed with the attitudes of people who were living in a rural place where Kawashima was working. My first impression was that some of the attitudes Kawashima reported, particularly harsh discrimination against daughter-in-law, would rarely occur, for example, in the uptown of Tokyo. I do not know whether my impression was right, hence, I want to know the differences between areas and groups. In addition, discussing the topic of this kind we have to be very careful about the definition of "family". For example, in Japanese we have words "kazoku", "ie", and "kakei"; these are for English word "family", but their meanings are slightly different with each other. "Kazoku" is ordinary used for "family". "Ie" is a difficult concept; this has been the topic of debate in the field of cultural anthropology. In essence "ie" means functions or relations from ancestors to descendents that sometimes include adopted others. "Kakei" means "lineage", or historical chains of "ie". When analyzing Japanese concept of family, we have to be sensitive to nuances of these concepts. People's idea of genetic information may have a special connection to the concept of "kakei" and "ie", rather than "kazoku", that was used here. I think it important to discuss these aspects when thinking about the relationship between culture and genetics.
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