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The History of Applied Psychology in Japan
SATO Tatsuya (Ritsumeikan University)
This review describes the history of "applied" psychology in Japan as it
developed during the 100-year period from the 1860s through the 1960s within
the social and political contexts unique to Japan. The first section of the review
covers the process of development of modern Japanese society and the second
section reviews the process of introducing psychology to Japan.
Table 1 A Chronology of Important Historical Events in Japanese History (1867-1952)
1867-68 Meiji Restoration
1894-95 First Sino-Japanese War
1904-05 Russo-Japanese War
Japan Enters World War ?
The issue of Twenty-One Demands to China
Mukden Incident (Manchurian Incident; Second Sino-Japanese War begins)
Start of World War ?
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, the second on Nagasaki.
Japan surrenders: Occupation of Japan begins.
San Francisco Peace Treaty is signed
The Meiji Restoration, which actualized in 1868, was a joint product of
two different movements, one towards modernization of the nation and the other
towards the restoration of imperial rule, whereas the Edo period, prior to the Meiji
Restoration was an age of feudalism. The Meiji government united these two
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movements and governed the nation under an imperialistic system. The new
national policy following the Meiji Restoration was to make Japan a rich and a
powerful country capable of resisting an invasion by Western powers. Emphasis
was placed on building a strong military and strengthening industries. The
resulting ascendance of Japan to world power status was reinforced by the
victories in the Sino-Japanese (1895) and Russo-Japanese (1904-1905) wars. With
the victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Japan was granted an
enormous indemnity. It moved from an observer to participant status in the
diplomacy of imperialism in East Asia. It had also come to possess a formal empire
of its own that included Taiwan (as of 1895) and Korea (as of 1910). By 1914,
Japan had become what might now be called a "newly industrializing country"
(NIC). After a brief period of liberalization during the Taisho Era (1912-1926),
military-run cabinets made imperialistic inroads to China. The first half of the
Showa Era was a period of ultra-nationalism. After the end of the Second World
War, Japan's economic recovery was triggered by the Korean War (1950-53) and it
gained in strength during the 1960's.
2. Introduction of Pre-Modern Psychology (1877-)
As summarized by Sato and Mizoguchi (1997) and others (Azuma and
Imada, 1994; Kido 1961 ? Oyama, Sato and Suzuki, 2001) after the Meiji
Restoration, "modern" psychology was introduced to Japan from western
countries through two routes: the university, and the normal school (teacher's
colleges). Psychology as a university curriculum commenced at the Tokyo Kaisei
School (the predecessor of Tokyo University) in 1873. In 1877, the university of
Tokyo was founded as the first western-style university in Japan. There,
Toyama Masakazu taught psychology in the general education department using
texts written by Alexander Bain, William Benjamin Carpenter, and Herbert
Spencer (Kuwata, 1942; Oyama, Sato and Suzuki, 2002). From 1887, psychology
was also taught at the Normal School (the predecessor of Tsukuba University).
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The Ministry of Education (Mombusho) published the first book on "shinrigaku”
(psychology) in 1875, a Japanese translation of "Mental Philosophy Including
Intellect, Sensibilities, and Will" (Haven, 1869). Psychology taught in Japan at
that time could not be considered modern (i.e., experimental) psychology. Rather,
it was more similar to mental philosophy. Modern psychology was introduced to
Japan by Motora Yuzero in 1888.
3. Introduction of Modern Psychology by Motora and Matsumoto (1888-)
Two psychologists worked actively in the early stages of introducing
modern (i.e., experimental) psychology to Japan; Motora and Matsumoto who
was a student of the former. Motora Yuzero (1858-1912) was the first person to
hold a professorship in psychology in Japan. He went to the United States to study
psychology under G.S. Hall and earned his Ph.D. degree in 1888. After he
returned to Japan, he began teaching psychology, holding the chair created for
him at the Imperial University in 1890. In 1903, he organized the first Laboratory
of Psychophysics in Japan, and in 1912, he helped to inaugurate the journal
Figure 1 The first psychophysics laboratory in Japan (1903)
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Figure 2 The floor plan of the psychophysics laboratory (Hidano, 1998; Sato and Sato, 2005)
Motora was interested in three areas of research: psychophysics,
educational and clinical psychology, as well as in the philosophical theory of the
mind. Many of Motora’s students later distinguished themselves, and some of
them went abroad to study psychology under the supervision of well-known
psychologists. Matsumoto Matataro (1865-1943) was among these students (Sato,
Namiki, Ando and Hatano, 2004), who learned psychology under a number of
eminent psychologists around the world, including Motora (Japan), Ladd and
Scripture (U.S.A) and Wundt (Germany). His interests included both
experimental and applied psychology.
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4. Development of Applied Psychology (1900-)
4-1. Educational Psychology
Of the various areas of applied psychology, educational psychology was
the first to develop in Japan, and thus educational psychology can be considered
the oldest field of applied psychology in Japan. This is because psychology had
been taught at teacher's colleges (normal schools) since 1877, and therefore many
books including translations of foreign books with titles such as "Psychology:
Applied to Education" and "Educational Psychology" were published in the 1880's.
For example, Nagao Ariga translated and edited Sully's "Outlines of Psychology"
into Japanese. Another example is the Japanese book "Kyoiku Tekiyo
Shinrigaku,” which translates into English as “Psychology Applied to Education.”
The above efforts were only the beginnings of applied psychology in Japan and
they resulted in the application of psychological theories to education by replacing
the more traditional educational methods that were used previously. However, no
empirical research on psychology was conducted in the field of education.
Matsumoto Matataro, the student of Motora who had gone abroad to
study psychology returned to Japan in 1900, whereupon he was appointed
professor at the Higher Teacher's College to lecture on experimental psychology.
Motora who is considered by most to be the first Japanese psychologist had a
strong interest in educational psychology and he pursued investigations into word
association practices of children, as well as into the sense of morality in
adolescents. He also investigated the readability of Japanese characters (kana
and katakana) and invented devices to train preliminary school children to better
keep their attention during lessons. In 1902, Motora and his students organized
the Association of Child Study and Motora became its first president. He
attempted to apply psychological theory and technology to education, being
interested in both the theory and practice of psychology. The influences of Hall
can be clearly seen in Motora’s work. In 1911, he published “Ein Experiment zur
Einübung von Aufmerksamkeit” (Training for Attention) in the journal
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(Zeitschrift für Kinderforschung), Vol. 16. This was the first Japanese publication
in clinical psychology.
In the appendix, there are details on the life of both scholars. Because
the names of the two eminent founders of Japanese psychology, Motora and
Matsumoto are similar, the two people have often been confused (Sato and Sato,
4-2. Industrial Psychology
Kirihara (1959) has pointed out that the rise of industrial psychology in
Japan was influenced by economic, social, and psychological forces similar to those
that were present in Europe and America during the same period. The efficacy
movement in industry was introduced to Japan in the 1910's. Taylor's "Principles
of Scientific Management" was translated into Japanese in 1912. In 1913 Ueno
Yoichi (1883-1957), who was a student of Motora, published his "Lectures on
Increasing Efficacy" in "Shinri Kenkyu” (Psychological Research). Many social and
labor problems arose immediately following the Second World War. Moreover,
with the enlargement of enterprises and increase in productivity, the number of
workers in industry increased enormously and the welfare of workers became an
important social problem in Japan. In major industries, the organization of
personnel departments and other labor related activities also increased rapidly.
Industrial psychology under its current name began in Japan in 1920.
At the Efficacy Research Institute, a number of studies on employment testing
were undertaken. Many psychologists conducted job analyses and motion studies
at industrial plants. At the Aeronautical Research Institute, Matsumoto and other
psychologists conducted experimental studies on the functional effect of
low-pressure environments on mental activity. The main period of growth for
industrial psychology in Japan was between 1930 and 1945. Various kinds of
aptitude tests were devised in psychology departments in universities. Child
counseling as well as research on job security also developed during this time. In
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1942, the two-volume book “Industrial Psychology” was published (Awaji et. al.,
Although psychiatrists in Japan first reported the Binet-Simon
Intelligence Test, it was a group of psychologists who first standardized a
Japanese edition of the Binet Type Intelligence Test in 1918. They included Kubo
Ryoei (a student of Motora; a professor of Hiroshima Bunrika University), Suzuki
Harutaro (a school teacher), and Tanaka Kanichi (a student of Matsumoto; a
professor of Tokyo Bunrika University). Paper and pencil type intelligence tests
such as the “Army test” were also developed and used by the Japanese army.
4-3. Abnormal and Clinical Psychology
The psychologist Fukurai Tomokichi of the Imperial University was the
most renowned abnormal psychologist in Japan during the Meiji Era. However,
his research interests gradually changed and he eventually chose to study
para-psychology instead of abnormal psychology. Furthermore, he insisted on the
existence of clairvoyance. Fukurai believed that an able person could project the
contents of his/her thoughts on a dry plate of photographic film without using a
camera. Fukurai coined this newly discovered phenomenon “thought-graphy”, and
later Nengraphy. Nen is a Japanese word meaning a psychic sense or feeling.
Although many scientists doubted the validity of such psychic phenomena, he
continued to insist on their authenticity. Though details are not clear, Fukurai
was ordered to take leave of absence from his job (see Sato and Sato, 2005). As a
result, psychiatrists and non-academic psychologists were the main facilitators of
Japanese clinical psychology prior to the Second World War.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact date when psychoanalysis
became known in Japan, we do know of two people who met Freud and Jung at an
important symposium held in Clark University in 1909. One of them was Kaise
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Hikozo, who had graduated from the Imperial University under the supervision of
Motora. Kakise studied psychology at Clark University under the supervision of
Hall and probably attended lectures by both Freud and Jung (Figure 3). After
returning to Japan, he gave a lecture on the use of Jung's "free association
method" of uncovering unconscious thoughts. The pioneer psychoanalyst among
Japanese psychiatrists was Marui Kiyoyasu (Anzai, 2000b; Blowers & Yang, 1997,
2001; Kaketa, 1958).
Figure 3 Kakise (Second from the right in the middle row) with Freud and other psychologists.
4-3-2. Morita Therapy
Morita Masatake (1886-1957) who was a psychiatrist founded a unique
form of psychotherapy based on Zen that became known as Morita therapy.
Morita suffered neurotic symptoms from the age of sixteen and he probably
turned to psychiatry because of his own psychological problems. He thought that
the most effective means of dealing with neurotic symptoms was to rely on the
state of “arugamama” (taking things “as they are”) in order to gain an insight into
the problems of the self. In order to achieve such an insight, it is necessary to
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orient one's attitude such that it harmonizes with the universe by not opposing
nature and accepting it and living in peace with it (Sahakian, 1975). Morita
therapy can also be categorized as a type of rest therapy.
4-3-3. The Uchida-Kraepelin Psychodiagnostic Test
The Uchida-Kraepelin Psychodiagnostic Test was developed by Uchida
in the 1920s and it has been one of the most widely administered tests in Japan. A
psychologist, Uchida Yuzaburo, devised the test known as the Kraepelin Mental
Addition Test, which was a "Test of Working Ability." In this test, successive pairs
of digits arranged in long rows are added and the integer in the unit column of
each sum is noted. The examinee works continuously for one minute until he is
stopped and directed to the next row of digits. It is "the pattern of response" that is
more important than the accuracy of each calculation. The Rorschach test, a
projective test of personality was also introduced to Japan by Uchida in 1925, only
four years after its publication in Germany (Oyama, Sato and Suzuki, 2002).
5. Psychology before and During the Second World War (1927-1945)
In 1927, the Japanese Psychological Association was established as a
national scientific organization, and Matsumoto was chosen as its first president.
The Kansai Association of Applied Psychology was also established around the
same time. Though the Kansai association was limited in its charter, it was very
active and held conventions twice a year. From the middle of the 1930's and
continuing through the war, the demands of the Japanese military encouraged
applied research in areas such as aptitude assessment, group management, and
human-machine interfaces. As the war progressed, psychologists were asked to
work on the psychological effects of continuous strain and stress in the war front,
leadership in combat, aviation aptitude, and propaganda psychology, among
others (Azuma and Imada, 1994). During the war, associations related to
psychology combined to cooperate with the war effort, and as a result, a new,
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united association of psychology with six divisions was created. These divisions
were basic, educational, industrial, legal, wound and sickness protection, and
military. Thus, five of the six divisions of psychology in the association were
6. Applied Psychology after the Second World War (1945-)
6-1. Educational Psychology from the USA.
After Japan's defeat in the Second World War in 1945, and during the
period of the occupation, many aspects of Japanese government were reformed
under recommendations of the US Army General Headquarters. Reforming the
Japanese education system was one of its most important agendum. All education
based on Shintoism, as it had been before the war, was abolished, and a new
scientific and democratic educational system was built. Psychology was given a
prominent place in the new system as a fundamental part of scientific education.
Counseling, guidance, group dynamics, and educational measurement among
other disciplines, were introduced from the USA. New psychological technologies
and multidimensional personality tests such as the MMPI, as well as new types of
mental tests such as the WAIS, were also introduced. As a result of these changes,
the number of psychologists in Japan and their areas of activity increased
dramatically. Also, a number of new psychological associations were founded after
the Second World War (Table 2).
Table 2 Psychological Associations Founded after the Second World War.
1949 Japanese Group Dynamics Association
1952 Japanese Educational Psychology Association
1960 Japanese Social Psychology Association
1963 Japanese Criminal Psychology Association
1963 Japanese Association of Education for the Handicapped
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