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The family is humanity’s oldest and most universal institution. But its shape, size, aims and ideologies seem infinitely variable. Japan’s families down the ages have been polygamous and monogamous, multigeneration and single-generation, swarming with children or comparatively, if not entirely, devoid of them.

Through vast changes over vast stretches of time, the family has transmuted but endured. It was sacred. One didn’t argue whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, whether it worked or not; it simply was. The wonder is that now, when no thing simply is, when everything is open to question, the family as an institution survives. Will it indefinitely?

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