Key Aspects of Japanese Culture

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Short article about Japanese culture

Submitted: November 06, 2017

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Submitted: November 06, 2017

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Buddhism and Shintoism are the two dominant religions, although the latter is actually more a “cult of nature” where supernatural beings are born, live, die and are reborn.

 This karmic cycle allows for the explanation of the Sun Goddess as an ancestor of the Imperial family.  Buddhism, Japan’s dominant religion, was introduced much later (6th Century, A.D.) and teaches a moral life of mercy and compassion, and coexists and is reinforced by Shinto beliefs.  Starting in the 17th Century, western missionaries introduced Christianity to the Japanese.  All three religions are practiced freely in modern-day Japan.

 

The Japanese are abundantly courteous and well-mannered and, in keeping with the Confucian spirit they uphold, they try hard to mask and suppress their emotions - both positive and negative.  Thus, emotions such as love, or anger, or happiness and sadness are carefully reined in.  The Confucian way of life dictates that one doesn’t burden others with one’s personal feelings and frame of mind.  Even in traffic accidents, everyone remains calm.  This characteristic of restrained emotions can make communication with others, and even among family members, more difficult.
 

Exchanging business cards is more prevalent in Japan than in most other countries, especially in business situations.  As soon as one is introduced, a Japanese person will present his or her card and expect to receive one in exchange.  The cards are meant to establish the person’s position in the organization or the person’s professional calling.  Often, but not always, the card will be printed in English on one side and Japanese on the other.
 

Japanese consumers are fiercely brand conscious.  And, while every Japanese will feel a duty to support Japan’s economy, foreign brands have special cachet among the Japanese.  Even domestic brands make an attempt to adopt foreign-sounding brand names.  Western products and lifestyles are avidly imitated and eagerly espoused; this enthusiasm for all things foreign spills over into music, film, art, style and design.
 

Japanese men tend to exhibit a degree of male chauvinism.  On the surface, women are treated with respect, but there is an underlying inclination to see women as either sex objects or as subservient helpers.  In domestic life, a husband will tend to shower affection on the couple’s children, while regarding the wife as the primary home carer or even the man’s “substitute mother.”  The younger generation of Japanese women often resents this treatment and the divorce rate in Japan is surprisingly high for a tradition-bound society.
 

At work, Japanese men and women take their jobs very seriously and this shows in the long and arduous working hours they keep.  There is a clear and focused dedication to the specialized job they are given.  A mechanic, for instance, may know the details of every engine built by every manufacturer in the world, but very little about the brake systems in a car.  This single-minded approach to a job - or even a serious hobby or pastime - generally does not allow most Japanese to acquire a broad general knowledge.  This may make it more difficult for others outside the narrow job to converse about non-work related subjects.
 

As in most Asian cultures, the concept of “saving face” for oneself, and for others, reflects the graciousness that characterises Japanese people.  When there is a dispute or disagreement, the object is to avoid confronting a person in a way that embarrasses or diminishes his or her self-respect.  In such situations, the Japanese will typically allow an exit strategy of compromise, so that no one’s dignity is diminished.  Reaching consensus peacefully reflects the all important desire for harmony in Japanese society.

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