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Society / Culture

Generations in Touch:Linking the Old and Young in a Tokyo Neighborhood

(Cornell University Press 2001)

Leng Leng Thang

Generations In Touch: Linking the Old and Young in a Tokyo Neighborhood by Leng Leng Thang is the product of the author’s year spent volunteering at Kotoen, an age-integrated facility in Tokyo’s Edogawa ward. Comprising a nursing home, an old-age home, a nursery school, and a home-care service center, Kotoen is the subject of Thang’s anthropological study examining how routines and spaces of integration between children and older residents both construct and build on the ideal of fureai, or contact, across the generations. She posits Kotoen as a pioneering 21st-century iteration of daikazoku, the extended family.
While Thang’s study is a step toward remedying the scant literature on how different generations can be united in meaningful ways, its wider contextual contribution concerns her reflections on how postwar changes in kinship experience and structures engage with the very particular welfare and wellbeing challenges faced by an aging population. Thang presents Kotoen as a case study for thinking about the ways in which fureai, or “in-touch connectedness,” has changed across Japanese society since 1945. She shows how rethinking these zones of touch and contact might offer solutions for alienation between generations in contemporary societies, and how in Japan, the dream, if not the reality, of the extended family continues to inform individuals’ conception of interaction between the old and young.

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