Kaori H. Okano is Professor of Asian Studies/Japanese at La Trobe University. She researches on sociology/anthropology of education and inequality, women, and multiculturalism in Asia (especially in Japan). She is currently engaged in a longitudinal ethnography of working class women growing up in Japan (1989-2019); and is a chief investigator of an Australian Research Council funded interdisciplinary project, “Thirty years of talk: A panel study of Kobe women’s interview discourse 1989-2019” (DP170102598 ) which produced its first edited book, Discourse, gender and shifting identities in Japan (2018, with C. Maree).
To date, the longitudinal ethnography above has produced two monographs, Young women in Japan: Transitions to adulthood (2009), which received an “Outstanding Academic Title of the Year 2010” award from CHOICE (the book review journal of the American Library Association). The book traces the same group of women from 17 to 30 years of age, and is the sequel to Kaori’s 1993 book, School to work transition in Japan. Kaori is currently working on the third book from the project, looking at the women in their 30s and 40s, in terms of their shifting identities and the impact of cumulative advantages and disadvantages over their life course.
Kaori has authored three books, edited five books and published many papers on how education reproduces or ameliorates social inequality. In addition to those already mentioned, she has published Education in contemporary Japan: Inequality and diversity (1999, with M. Tsuchiya) (also published in the Malay language); Minorities and education in Japan (2011, with R. Tsuneyoshi & S. Boocock); Asia Education Handbook (2011, with Y. Zhao et al), and Nonformal education and civil society in Japan (2016). A recent work with Yoshio Sugimoto, Rethinking Japanese Studies: Eurocentrism and the Asia-Pacific region (2017), captures her recent thoughts about area studies. Pod-cast.
Originally from Hiroshima, Japan, Kaori was a secondary teacher in Sydney and New Zealand prior to her academic career and sees herself as an educational practitioner as well as an academic.
Kaori was the President of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia (JSAA) from 2015 to 2017, and convened the JSAA 2015 Conference.