The Japanese Preschool's Pedagogy of Feeling: Cultural Strategies for Supporting Young Children's Emotional Development



Abstract Among the lessons to be learned in Japanese preschool is how to experience, present, and respond to feelings. We suggest that the feeling most emphasized in Japanese preschools is sabishiisa (loneliness). Japanese preschool educators draw attention to feelings of sabishiisa, or loneliness, to promote a desire in young children for social connection. This social connection is built on a foundation of amae (expressions of dependency needs) and omoiyari (responding empathically to expressions of amae). Using examples from everyday life in a Japanese preschool, we argue that the Japanese preschool's pedagogy of feeling emphasizes learning to respond empathetically to loneliness and other expressions of need. Our analysis suggests that sabishiisa, amae, and omoiyari (loneliness, dependence, and empathy) form a triad of emotional exchange, which, although not unique to Japan or to the Japanese preschool, have a particular cultural patterning and salience in Japan and in the Japanese approach to the socialization of emotions in early childhood. [emotion, feeling, Japan, preschool, amae]