The Gift of Generations: Japanese and American Perspectives on Aging and the Social Contract

In The Gift of Generations: Japanese and American Perspectives on Aging and the Social Contract (Cambridge University Press, 1996), I explore aging and helping arrangements in Japan and the United States, and consider the paradox of caregiving relationships. The book covers the different cultural meanings of vulnerability and giving across cultures, and shows how they shape the helping relationships differently. The work interweaves the theory and practice of giving support to Japanese and American elderly people, using concrete examples and interviews in both countries.


"Hashimoto contributes a deep and measured understanding of differences between U.S. and Japanese attitudes toward care of the elderly. Placing her study within the human dilemma of balancing egoism and altruism, Hashimoto contrasts dispositions toward deservedness, self-sufficiency, and dependency. The Gift of Generations is very valuable for its clear thinking on an issue of great relevance." - American Anthropologist

"The comparison [Hashimoto] draws out is both concrete and philosophical. We not only gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between culture and policy in Japan, but also a greater appreciation of the extent to which American values influence both the expectations of citizens and the making of policy in this country..." - Susan O. Long, Ph.D., The Gerontologist

"The author does an excellent job of identifying the concepts and cultural assumptions that define the contract between generations..." - Emily M. Agree, American Journal of Sociology

"In this clearly conceived and well-written book the author shows how different cultural assumptions about old age influence family and household behaviour patterns and social policy in the two richest nations. ...Her book makes an important contribution to our understanding of complex modern societies. It should be required reading for all those with an interest in aging and social policy." - The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Overall, this book flows logically and is very easy to follow....It is hoped that many researchers will build upon the outcomes of this superb book." - Noriko Tsukada, Social Gerontology

"The Gift of Generations is written in many voices. The organization of this book flows in and out of these voices, and helps the reader understand the context and transformations of growing old in these two rapidly changing countries. The writing is scholarly and masterful..." -Dana H. Davidson, Contemporary Sociology

Imagined Families, Lived Families: Culture and Kinship in Contemporary Japan

In Imagined Families, Lived Families: Culture and Kinship in Contemporary Japan (SUNY Press, 2008, with John Traphagan), we take an interdisciplinary look at the dramatic changes in the Japanese family which is at a crossroads of demographic and normative transformations. As the population of children has been shrinking and that of elders rising, attitudes about rights and responsibilities within the family have changed significantly. The realities of life in contemporary society have shaped both the imagined family of popular culture and the lived experience of Japanese family members.

The book looks at the Japanese family from a variety of perspectives, including media studies, anthropology, sociology, literature, and popular culture. The contributors show the representations of family in manga and anime; in outsider families; in families that must contend with state prosecution of political activists; in stereotypes of fathers; in old age and end-of-life.
Contributors include Akiko Hashimoto, Susan O. Long, Keiko McDonald, Susan Napier, Patricia Steinhoff, Mariko Tamanoi, and John W. Traphagan.


“Japanese family patterns are undergoing explosive change. This volume vividly showcases some of the central features and exceptional cases of this domestic transformation. It is important reading for Japan studies and for a family sociology of late modernity.”
— William W. Kelly, editor of Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan

“…Hashimoto and Traphagan’s collection of essays is timely and welcome … Imagined Families, Lived Families could be utilized as a textbook in classes on postwar Japan, particularly in courses focusing on society or culture.”
— Journal of Japanese Studies

“…the high quality of the essays and the presentation of original research not previously published makes this volume valuable.”
— Pacific Affairs

Family Support for the Elderly: An International Experience

In Family Support for the Elderly: An International Experience (Oxford University Press, 1992, with Hal Kendig and Larry Coppard) we offer an introduction to the understanding of aging and family relations around the globe. The 19 chapters on aging in different countries and regions in the volume are designed to illustrate the cultural diversity of aging, and to contribute to the improvement of policies and programs aimed at enhancing the well-being of the world's elderly people. The international contributors have all worked extensively in the field, and the comparisons they draw among practices in different countries have not been previously published in such detail. This book was initiated by the World Health Organization's Global Program for Health of the Elderly.