Work on Ethics of Care in Japan

Professor Tetsu Harayama, Tokyo University, on care ethics in Japan.
September 2015

1. How do you relate to Ethics of Care?

I have been studying nursing profession by conducting surveys in France and Japan. I am interested in the question of articulation, cooperation by different professionals in caring in terms of international comparison.

2. Would you consider Ethics of Care an area of interest in your country? What makes you think yes/no? And if yes, in what way?

Yes, the Japanese society confronts a big problem of ageing. All the people have to think about caring. The aged persons living at home have to be cared for, not only by care workers but also by their family (not by their community). However, in big cities, for example in Tokyo, so many aged persons have to live alone, which makes it an important social problem.

The family responsibility for caring for the aged persons has been emphasized by the family itself,  the administration, the care workers, and also the community. However, this could be explained partially by the fact that the Japanese welfare state is not so developed in comparison with European welfare states. In the future, we need to construct the helping relations beyond family, for example in community. I refer to my paper, written in French and entitled ”Les espaces professionnels des infirmières en France et au Japon” in RFAS, 2014(4). This study indicates that many Japanese nurses mention the importance of family having a role in caring for aged persons.

The use of robots would change the way of caregiving. However, if the family’s responsibility for caregiving, by using robots, will disappear or not, is not certain. On the contrary, in French hospitals, in the years 1980-90, I know robots were used already for carrying food to patients.

Forum Bridge Lilies
Online platform Bridge Lilies –

3. Could you give a general impression about (the status of) Ethics of Care in your country?

In faculties of nursing sciences, faculties of medicine, and also faculties of law, the subject “Ethics of care” in practice is an important element in professional educations.

4. Would you find different schools or movements in the area of Ethics of Care?

I could not give you any differences in way of thinking, but I would like to mention some Japanese feminist movements, that imply a kind of interdisciplinary convergence towards “Ethics of Care”.

5. If so, how would you describe them? What are the main similarities and main differences? Could you give names of care ethicists representing these schools/movements?

I appreciate these feminist movements whose objective is to construct a society of care in Japan. They have been saying that caring should not be limited to the role of women in the family but realized by the public.

I appreciate also some recent studies in terms of law, for example, a study of Rieko Yamashita, professor at Tokyo University and my colleague, on legal protection of aged persons.

6. Which are the major publications in the area of Ethics of Care in your country?

I would like to mention:

  1. A book by Chizuko Ueno, feminist, ex-professor at the University of Tokyo: Chizuko UENO (2009). The Modern Family in Japan. Melbourne: Transpacific Press.
  2. Philippe MOSSÉ (Aix-en-Provence), Tetsu HARAYAMA (Tokyo), Maryse Boulongnr-Garcin (Paris), Toshiko Ibe (Tokyo),  Hiromi Oku (Tokyo), Vaughan Rogers (Scotland) (2011). Hospitals and the Nursing Profession, Lessons from Franco-Japanese comparisons. Paris: John & Libbey Eurotext.
  3. A much read book is the Japanese translation (Hakusuisha, 2014) of Fabienne Brugère’s ‘L’Ethique du “care”’ (PUF, 2011).
  4. An online platform that informs you about ethics of care related subjects is


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