Seminar Series

Adoption and Reproduction in Tokugawa Japan: Family strategies in a society of low fertility

Thursday, 7 July 2022 | 9:00 - 10:00 (JST)
Zoom Webinar
  • Satomi Kurosu Faculty of Global Studies, Reitaku University
  • Sawako Shirahase TCJS Director

Adoption is an important strategy for families without biological children to secure a successor. Adoption also serves as a means to redistribute a surplus of sons for families with many children. This study utilizes a longitudinal database from early-modern Japan, providing a rare opportunity to analyze how adoption practices were used and how they relate to reproduction. The data record is based on Ninbetsu-aratame-cho, annual population registers from 1716-1870 in north-eastern Japan. Commoners suffered a series of famines and crop failures, the hardship of which manifested in declining population and low fertility. Applying the method of event history analysis, this study reveals how the economic condition of the villages as well as the socioeconomic status of households and co-residents influenced a couple’s decision of having children versus adopting. The empirical study of a society with low fertility will make us consider the continuity and change of Japanese families throughout the centuries.


Satomi Kurosu is a Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Population and Family History Project (PFHP) at Reitaku University. Her work covers the area of historical demography and family sociology, with a focus on household and life course studies in early modern Japan. She was a key member of the Eurasia Project, led by Akira Hayami (1929-2019), the founder of Japanese historical demography. As the inheritor of Hayami’s large collection of historical population materials, Prof. Kurosu continues to archive, construct and analyze population records from pre-census Japan. Her work includes international collaborations, Similarity in Difference: Marriage in Europe and Asia (MIT 2014).