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Japanese Family (Wooden block figures)


This hand painted wooden Japanese block family introduces Japanese culture and the concept of family. The father measures 9cm, and is made from sustainably sourced timber. The mother wears a Kimono and the father wears a suit.

Cultural notes

Japanese Family Structure 

The typical Japanese household follows the nuclear family model; however, the extended family is usually kept in close proximity and is visited often. Paternal grandparents may live with their family as they grow older, but Japan’s small living spaces usually limit multigenerational household situations.
The archetypal Japanese man works 6 days a week for long hours. It was once considered inappropriate for mothers to hold jobs. While, gender equality is now embraced, with women receiving equal educational and employment opportunities, men still dominate the workforce.
Within the family, the structure is generally patriarchal. The husband/father is expected to be the breadwinner and receive the utmost respect from his family. The wife and children are expected to facilitate his home-life needs as much as possible. Most mothers devote their time to domestic duties and raising children. They have a lot of authority in their households over their children. They make most of the decisions for their children’s future, seeking the best educational opportunities available to them.
Many Japanese parents are utterly devoted to their children’s success. They want their children to receive a good education and attend university. However, this is often expressed in a way that places heavy expectations on the child to excel to reach their parent’s aspirations – particularly in wealthier families.


The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment. Kimonos are often worn for important festivals or formal occasions as formal clothing. Kimono are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial) and are secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back.

Today, kimono are most often worn by women, particularly on special occasions.  A few older women and even fewer men still wear the kimono on a daily basis. Men wear the kimono most often at weddings, tea ceremonies, and other very special or very formal occasions. Professional sumo wrestlers are often seen in the kimono because they are required to wear traditional Japanese dress whenever appearing in public.

Suggested activities

Books and Storytime:

  • Read ‘All Families are Special’, and start your own discussion about families – how many people do they live with? Who has a pet? Ensure that educators are accepting and positive about each unique family structure.

Art & Craft: 

  • After reading ‘All Families Are Special’ encourage children to draw their family. Provide a variety of materials, colours and mirrors for children to use. Ask children to pick one thing that makes their special and include this below their pictures. Display the portraits around the centre.

Community Involvement

  • Create a family tree at the service. Encourage families to bring in photos of their family to display
  • Communicate with parents and families, asking them to share something special about their family or a special tradition in their family. Children can then bring in an item, photo etc. to share something special about their family. By learning about family traditions we can build on our relationships with families and may also be able to implement these traditions within the centre.

Dramatic Play:

  • Include a range of different cultures in your block play area. Our library has a wide range of different cultures represented, including Aboriginal family, Indian village set, Arabic Family, Tibetan Family, African Family and many more.
  • Ensure your dramatic play section includes clothing from a range of different cultures, in particular those that are represented within your organisation. Have children try on the various items of clothing and discuss the culture that wears each one and why/how that style of clothing was created. Place the items in the dramatic play area so that children can wear the clothing as part of their play scenarios.
  • Introduce felt boards, finger puppets and magnet boards representing people from different cultures, family structures and with different abilities such as our Anti-bias families felt play set 

Puzzles/ Games:

  • Provide simple puzzles that represent diversity – including diversity of culture, gender and abilities

External Links

  • Cultural Atlas  offers clear and concise information about Japanese Culture; including family, religion, ettiequte and do’s & don’ts. This information would be beneficial for educators to gain a further understanding of the culture of Japanese families at their centres.

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The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.