School Nonattendance Created the Need for Clinical Psychologists


When I read the special issue of Japanese Psychological Research on the “History of Psychology in Japan” (Sato et al. 2005), I was very surprised to find no mention of clinical psychology. I have been trained in French national universities (Bordeaux, Toulouse) where clinical psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology, inside psychology departments. I was expecting to find psychology departments (shinrigakubu) in Japanese national universities, but I had to come to a very simple and clear conclusion: psychology departments did not exist in the shape or form of which I was familiar.

In this chapter, I will explain some aspects of the history of Japanese psychology which remain widely unknown (note: for a full understanding of Japanese history of psychology before 1950, see McVeigh 2017). Then, I will underline that in Japan, psychology is never autonomous and often subordinated to educational science. Third, “Although the practice of clinical psychology seems to have a long history, clinical psychology is a new and confused academic area in Japan.” (Sato 2007: 133). Fourth, it was the need to reduce school nonattendance (considered a problem to solve) that created the demand for clinical psychologists’ services.

From scientific to clinical psychology Birth of scientific psychology (1867-1927)

After a long period of closure, Japan’s entry into modernity was marked by the Meiji era and a wide diffusion of Western knowledge. Between 1867 and 1888, the psychology that interested Japanese scholars and institutions was primarily a philosophy of education (Sato and Sato 2005: 53). It was a mental philosophy, as indicated by the title of one of the first foreign works translated - Joseph Haven’s (1816-74) Mental Philosophy Including Intellect Sensibilities and Will, published in 1857. This book was translated in 1875 by Nishi Amane, a renowned intellectual of the time. He was one of the first to be sent abroad by the Edo Shogunate and was trained between 1862 and

1865 by Professor S. Vissering (1818-88) at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. When he translated the work of Joseph Haven, Nishi Amane chose to simplify the title by keeping only two words, “Mental Philosophy,” translated to shinrigaku U'íl^ which stands as the current translation of “psychology” today.

In his 1874 Hyakuichishinron, Nishi Amane had used seirigaku (jÊÎl^) to refer to psychology (Macé 2013: 186). In Hyakuichishinron, shinri (mental) is distinguished from butsuri (physical) with “psychology” or seirig

aku included in the category of shinri (grouping the intellectual sciences such as logic, politics, anthropology, etc.). When he translates the title of Joseph Haven’s work as shinrigaku he means a broader category than psychology - that is, mental philosophy - within which psychology (seirigaku 'lÈïfr^) is included. However, the term seirigaku was quickly abandoned, and the exact reasons that led to the transition from seirigaku to shinrigaku, which corresponds to the current meaning of “psychology” (shinrigaku), are not known. In 1875, the Ministry of Education sent some of its best students to the United States, to learn from the American system in order to build the Japanese system of Education. The first course of psychology was offered in 1873 at Tokyo University, and in 1877 was provided by the philosopher and sociologist Toyama Masakazu.

Motora Yûjirô can be considered the founder of psychology in Japan. In his career, a 5-year study trip to the United States played a crucial role. After arriving in Boston in 1883, he obtained a doctorate entitled “Exchange, Considered as the principle of social life” (Motora 1888) under the direction of Stanley Hall at Johns Hopkins, where he continued his training from 1885 to 1888. Upon his return to Japan, he first taught at Aoyama Gakuin University, then at the Imperial University of Tokyo between 1888 and 1890, where he was awarded the first chair of psychology (Satô and Satô 2005: 53-55). His interests were in psychophysics, philosophical theories of the mind, clinical psychology, and educational psychology. The text of his conference at the Fifth International Congress of Psychology in Rome in 1905 was published that same year in English: the conference was entitled “The Idea of the Ego in Oriental Philosophy,” and the text, “An Essay on Eastern Philosophy.” This was commented upon favorably in the journal Revue de philosophie by Ribot (1905: 642-645), and unfavorably in the Revue neo-scolastique by Théophile Gollier (1906: 346-348). Motora Yûjirô’s lecture in Rome focused on his week-long experience in a Zen temple. He said that through the practices of Zen, one could reach a “pure” state of the ego, where no idea or sensory representation occurs. After being elected in 1902 as the first president of the Children’s Studies Association, Motora conducted research with schoolchildren with learning difficulties and focused on the clinical and educational aspects of psychology (maintenance of concentration, attention, and learning to write). For him, children failing at school was not a situation of mental retardation, but one in which a method of concentration and a method for focusing their attention was lacking (Satô and Satô 2005: 56). He was the first

Japanese person to conduct research in the clinical psychology of children, published in 1911 in Germany a year before his death.

Motora’s most notable student is Matsumoto Matataro. After attending classes between 1890 and 1896, he moved to the United States to study experimental psychology with G. W. Scripture at Yale University. He became an assistant professor but was transferred by the Japanese government to Germany in 1897. He studied at Leipzig University with Wundt (but did not obtain a doctoral thesis) and visited some European laboratories. He returned to Japan and became professor of psychology at the Tokyo Higher Normal School in 1900. Together, Motora Yujiro and Matsumoto Matataro opened the first laboratory of experimental psychology in 1903 at Tokyo Imperial University. A large wooden building, donated by the Department of Medical Pathology, was reformed into 12 rooms to allow for the conducting of experiments. In 1904, the first course in psychology began, which produced the first seven graduates the following year. Matsumoto Matataro then went on to found the psychology department of Kyoto University, which he headed from 1906 to 1913, after which he left Kyoto to succeed Motora Yujiro as the chair of psychology at Tokyo University. In 1927, the Japanese Psychological Association (JPA) was created with Matsumoto Matataro as the first elected president.

If the beginnings of psychology can be embodied by Motora Yujiro and Matsumoto Matataro, another character is important to our understanding of psychology, Fukurai Tomokichi. The first student of Motora Yujiro, Fukurai graduated in 1898 and quickly became interested in William James, translating several of his works. As a practitioner of hypnosis, he published Psychology of Hypnotism in 1906, and in 1908, he was appointed the Professor of Abnormal Psychology (hentai shinrigaku HgUT!^) at Tokyo University. Hentai shinrigaku is not the translation for psychopathology (seishin byorigaku) and, therefore, describing him as the first Japanese to hold a psychopathology teaching position would not be accurate. The best translation for hentai shinrigaku is “abnormal psychology” because the discipline named at that time, hentai shinrigaku, developed from Abnormal Psychology, “Abnormal Psychology” being the title of a journal edited by Morton Prince (1854 1929). Japanese Abnormal Psychology includes the study of pathologies and spiritual phenomena, hentai being wider than ijo M'S" (abnormal). Fukurai Tomokichi was drawn to parapsychology and made experiments with two women, as early as 1910: one of them had, according to him, the ability to project the contents of her thoughts on a paper, or a photographic film (without using a camera). He named this phenomenon nengraphy. The problem is that the researchers, scholars, teachers, and intellectuals of the time who attended his experiments suspected a trick and their interest gradually declined. Even Motora Yujiro urged him to stop his research in parapsychology. However, after the death of Motora Yujiro in 1912, Fukurai (1913) persisted and published “Clairvoyance and Thought Writing,” translated into English in 1931. Criticized by the lack of procedures for scientific verification,

Fukurai Tomokichi was marginalized in the intellectual community and forced to resign. After his departure, no one took over the chair of hentai shinrigaku, and Matsumoto Matataro encouraged psychologists to return to the study of normal phenomena in order to regain credibility. The discipline named hentai shinrigaku was withdrawn from programs, and psychopathology, like clinical psychology, was “nipped in the bud” until the early 1950s. Here Fukurai’s little history of developing parapsychology instead of clinical psychopathology meets wider historical processes: industrialization, militarism, and nationalism.

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