Original Article

Critically Rethinking Postmodern Social Work in Japan:Academic Madness or a Genuine Alternative?

Akiko Mishima


The last two decades witnessed a growing amount of literature discussing the influence of postmodern thinking on social work policy and practice. In case of Japan, some academics paid attention to this discussion in the latter half of 1990s, but their number remained small. On the other hand, some ideas that have affinity with postmodern thinking, like empowerment, strength approach, and narrative approach, have gathered considerable attention among Japanese people. This paper investigates this unique situation in the field of social work in Japan.
Postmodern thinking began to be discussed in Japan in the latter half of 1990s, when social reforms introduced a market based mechanism in the welfare system. By that time, social workers had achieved little social recognition in Japan, being less than a decade since the occupation became a nationally certified qualification. Thus, general approach was taken as responding to the demand to establish large narratives of social work first, rather than the destructive discussion of postmodern thinking against the larger narratives. Even so, the postmodern approaches and models have been appreciated in Japan, and through these practical approaches postmodern thinking became popular there.

Keywords: certified social workers • postmodern • education • narrative approach • empowerment

Japanese Journal of Social Welfare, 54(5), 31-40 2014