Peter Cave

Peter Cave


Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Research interests

  • Educational reform in contemporary Japan
  • Self in Japan
  • History education in Japan (and England)
  • Primary education in Japan (especially the teaching of literature and mathematics)
  • Politics and education in Japan
  • Informal education (especially school clubs)
  • History of education, childhood and youth in Japan

My books Schooling Selves and Primary School in Japan examine educational reform policies and their implementation in the classrooms of lower secondary and primary schools respectively , exploring the relationship of reform policies and classroom practices to configurations of selfhood in Japan. Primary School in Japan argues that teaching practices in literature and maths help to create classrooms that are 'communities of inquiry'. The study also examines gender in Japanese primary education. I have also explored educational reform policies and their results in journal articles and a book chapter.

I am interested not only in how Japanese children are socialized inside the classroom, but also outside it, particularly in the school clubs that make up a very intense part of the junior high and high school experience, and this resulted in a 2004 article.

Other research interests are the connected subjects of history education, and education and politics. I have published two articles and a book chapter on history teaching in Japan. Two of these compare curriculum, textbooks, and practices in Japan and England, focusing especially on how the two countries teach (or don't teach) about their imperial pasts. I have also published an article and a book chapter on the relationship between politics and education in Japan, the first of which focuses on controversies over the use of the Japanese flag and anthem in schools.

From 2011, I carried out oral history interview research on memories of childhood, education and youth in Japan before 1945. This formed part of the research project 'Remembering and Recording Childhood, Education, and Youth in Imperial Japan 1925-1945', funded by the AHRC (ref. no: AH/J004618/1) from August 2012 to December 2015, for which I was the Principal Investigator, with Dr Aaron Moore as Co-Investigator. Earlier interviews in 2011 were funded by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Invited Research Fellowship at Kyoto University. This research has resulted in two special journal issues to date, in Japan Forum and Japanese Studies. I continue to work on the history of education and childhood in Japan between 1900 and 1945.

My latest research is on mathematics education in Japan for children in the first two years of elementary school, and during the preschool years. This involved seven months of fieldwork in Japan in 2018.



I grew up in London and in Blackburn, Lancashire, and my first degree was in English at St Catherine's College, Oxford. Literature and theatre remain among my great passions. Having spent only two weeks outside Britain before the age of 22, I thought it was time to broaden my horizons - this seems to have worked out, at least in the sense that I ended up spending most of the next 20 years abroad. Three years in rural Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme ignited a desire to learn more Japanese and more about Japan, which was accomplished first through returning to Oxford for a second BA in Japanese Studies (including a delightful year at Kyoto University), and then by research degrees at Oxford in Social Anthropology. My DPhil thesis was a study of the transition from primary to junior high school in Japan, and involved 18 enjoyable months in schools in the Kansai (where most of my time in Japan has been spent). Just before finishing the doctorate I was offered a lectureship in Japanese Studies at the University of Hong Kong, which gave me the opportunity to experience life in a different part of East Asia, and discover first hand that societies in East Asia are just as diverse as those in Europe. Life in Hong Kong was fascinating, though hectic; regrettably my Cantonese remained minimal after nine years ('gau chaw!'), a fact I largely blame on anything and anyone but myself. I must also thank Hong Kong for educating me in how to make (and lose) money in stocks, mutual funds, commodities, and most other financial instruments devised by humanity or the devil. While there, I became a member of the editorial board of Asian Anthropology. I have been Distinguished Visiting Associate Professor at Kyoto University (2018-19) and Visiting Lecturer at Chuo University (2000). When not attempting to illuminate myself and the world about Japan, my pursuits include reading, theatre-going, walking, political and church activities, while my main vice is trying to make money on the financial markets.

Further information

Research students:

I have supervised masters and doctoral students on a variety of subjects to do with contemporary Japanese society, including history education, employment rights, martial arts, civil society activism, delayed marriage, preschools and gender socialization, Japanese war orphans and widows returned from China, educational reform, juvenile delinquency, work among the over-sixties, popular culture, and fashion. I am particularly interested in supervising students in my own research areas, but am happy to consider supervising other topics in the field of contemporary Japanese society.

Teaching Areas:

I currently teach courses on modern Japanese society, as well as teaching Japanese (especially reading), and have previously also taught courses on Japanese history, qualitative social research methods, Japanese to English translation, business Japanese, Japanese education, and Japanese popular culture.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Distinguished Visiting Associate Professor, Kyoto University

19 Mar 201818 Mar 2019


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