The Lives of Children and the Conditions of Abortion and Infanticide in the Late Edo Period

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  • 江戸時代後期の堕胎・間引きについての実状と子ども観(生命観)
  • エド ジダイ コウキ ノ ダタイ ・ マビキ ニ ツイテ ノ ジツジョウ ト コドモミ(セイメイカン)

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The purpose of this research is to investigate the actual conditions of infanticide and abortion as methods for population control during the late Edo Period; the customs of giving birth to and raising a child which Japan viewed as rites of passage; and an outlook on Japanese children. Looking back at history, we have found that abortion and infanticide existed as a custom all throughout Japan. Abortion methods such as soaking in ice cold water and using plants in order to cause the womb to shrink were used. As for infanticide, methods such as putting wet paper on the mouth, more direct acts such as covering the mouth with a hand, and indirect methods such as neglect were used. The use of these methods was essentially a result of poverty and was an inevitable choice for parents. The ancient Japanese spiritual belief that the child belonged to the domain of god until age seven also meant that they were returning the child to god. Furthermore, the rite of passage of Shichigosan (when children age 7, 5, and 3 visit a shrine) was a critical rite of passage that proved the overcoming of an unstable era in which giving birth to and raising children was a hardship. Within this custom was the wisdom and prayers of Japanese people who loved the child to which they gave birth. Keywords: Late Edo Period, abortion, infanticide, a stance on children (a stance on life)


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