Let the data speak!  Life, family and society in early modern Japan

Population and Family History Project (PFHP) is dedicated to archive, construct and analyze population records from pre-census Japan. Building on the long endeavor of Prof. Akira Hayami and his group to establish the collection of Shumon-aratame-cho(SAC) and Ninbetsu-aratame-cho (NAC), which are the two major sources for the research of historical demography in Japan, our aim is to construct life course data records and analyze them to reveal lives and households of common people in early modern Japan. The longitudinal and comparative approach applied to the records of thousands of lives of people will allow us to gain new understanding of our history and the resilience of people to socioeconomic and environmental changes.

PFHP started in 2006 upon the occasion of Prof. Akira Hayami’s retirement from Reitaku University and the donation of his life-time collection of materials on historical demography from his earlier offices including Keio University, Nichibunken (International Research Center for Japanese Studies), and Reitaku Tokyo Center. With the generous support from Reitaku University, we started to physically gather, sort and file documents at the library of Reitaku University (Kashiwa Campus) as Reitaku Archives. The project is located on the 3rd and 4th floors of the library and we are working on archiving materials and establishing a system to make them accessible and useful for researchers. We have also been continuing the efforts of transcribing original documents into, and manually liking individuals with, Basic Data Sheets (BDS, the data organization method Prof. Hayami established), and digitalized data following the method established during the Eurasia Project (1995-2000).

As of May 2016, our archives include (1) about 1900 volumes of historical demography books (Japanese and other languages); (2) 4,350 copied volumes of pre-census prefecture level statistics; (3) about 1300 original documents ofSAC; (4) microfilmed documents of original SAC/NAC for about 1,660 communities (about 32,250 village/town-years); (5) 4,500 volumes of printed and bound documents of original SAC/NAC (about 800 communities); (6) BDS of about 470 villages/towns (about 9,960 village/town-years); (7) other handwritten forms (FRF, ITS, Kohyo) used/prepared for analyses by Prof. Hayami; and (8) digital data of about 100,000 lives.

We have started to construct “big data” for historical demography by combining different forms of data digitalized in the last 20 years by various projects preceding PFHP. At this point, we are constructing basic information and reviewing data from 50 communities during 1650-1870.
In the meantime, our efforts also continues in applying the EAP model (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/series/eurasian-population-and-family-history) to other villages, and exploring collaborations with national and international colleagues from various disciplines.

Satomi Kurosu
Director, Population and Family History Project
Professor of Sociology
Faculty of Global Studies, Reitaku University