Open accesscreativecommonsPeer reviewed/Research article
Published online: Dec 2023

Robert Owen's legacy to co-operative ideas and practices in Japan

Akira KurimotoORCID

Vol 56 No 3, pp. 78-84

How to cite this article: Kurimoto, A. (2023). Robert Owen's legacy to co-operative ideas and practices in Japan. Journal of Co-operative Studies, 56(2), 78-84.


Robert Owen’s ideas arrived in the Far East in the late nineteenth century when Japan abandoned its “closed-door” policy. Owen’s views became widely known through numerous translations and publications after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. His ideas have proven influential particularly in the areas of childcare, social welfare, management practice and social movements although his influence on communal life has been limited. Owen has often been viewed negatively as a utopian socialist by Marxists but he has inspired co-operative leaders including Dr Toyohiko Kagawa. Owen has been studied by researchers of social philosophy including Professors Shigeru Goto and Chushichi Tsuzuku. Today, Hitotsubashi University and Meiji University in Tokyo hold the Owen Collection and the Owen Library, respectively. The Robert Owen Association of Japan was set up by concerned researchers and co-operative practitioners in 1958, commemorating the centenary of Owen’s death. It is active in promoting scholarship on Robert Owen and worldwide co-operative history through regular symposia and publications in both English and Japanese. The story of the Rochdale Pioneers remains popular even today and is often revisited by academic essays, books, comics and films while a replica of Rochdale’s Toad Lane Museum was built by Co-op Kobe.



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