Thursday, August 15, 2019

Japanese Culture Essay

social forces which influence the society and its values. Every culture has its own unique qualities not found in other cultures. Japan is no exception. It is culture is centered on the core values and traditions. They lead Japanese people to have different ways of looking at the world largely from differences in language and religion. Japanese culture determines specific way of living and social relations, cultural and religious views. History, Culture and Lifestyle Japanese history rises mistily out of the period known to archeologists as the Tomb or Tumulus period. During this important period Japan was unified under the imperial court of Yamato and became intimately involved with South Korea, pathway for many cultural elements of continental origin into Japan. Writing was one such element. Japan began to have historico-legendary records of its own and gradually moved from its protohistoric to the historic period. The main historical period were â€Å"Asoka period (522-710), Nara Period (710-784), Early Heian (784-897), Middle and Late Heian (897-1185), Kamacura period (1185-1336), Murimachi Period (1336-1393), Memoyama period (1573-1614), Edo Period (1615-1867), Meiji Restoration (1867-1911)† (Martines, 1998). During all historical period, Japanese lifestyle was influenced by political, economic and social changes, new perception of the world and religion. Japanese culture is based on unique traditions and values influenced by religion and life style. The Japanese learned to view the world from the perspective of traditional versus modern values after the Meiji Restoration in 1868 following the opening of Japan’s doors to the world. This attitudinal structure started to fall apart in 1978, and its disintegration became definite by 1988. For example, the â€Å"conquering† nature was an important value during the era of Japan’s modernization process, but it has since been replaced by the â€Å"following† nature. In the middle of the XX century, the traditional perspective of catching up with the West and categorizing what is Western and Japanese has become meaningless (Oxtoby 2001). While the industrialization process produced divergent values for Japan and the West, it also is responsible for the development of some homogeneous cultural values. Researchers found three levels of similarities: (1) frequency distribution of single variables, (2) similar impacts of age and gender on attitudes, and (3) similar structures in the way people categorize their experience (Oxtoby 2001). Modern Japanese lifestyle is influenced by industrialization and innovations coming from other countries. Thus, Japanese value their old traditions and rituals adapting them to new social environment. For instance, Japanese take off shoes inside the house, they pay 5% commission tax for purchases, they follow bath and toilette design according to norms and practices of century old traditions (Oxtoby 2001). In short, the Japanese self, characterized by its diffuse nature or collective orientation, represents a self who lost its space to be free of the omnipresence of the giri-ninja social network in Japanese society in return for being taken care of by its group. The strong sense of belonging to one’s company and family assures one materially a comfortable life at the individual level and stability and safety at the social level, making Japan relatively free of violent crimes. Such a life is stifling and meaningless to Americans even if they must pay a high price of alienating from the rest of society (Shelley, 1992). Japan managed to keep a sense of alienation to a minimum as it industrialized and urbanized by maintaining its virtually â€Å"village† mentality and social network. However, the value the Japanese gain by observing the traditional code of conducts, the giri-ninjo, is material and psychological welfare, which is provided to members of Japanese society more or less equally and fairly at the individual level, and public safety, which is provided at the collective level in Japan today. Another pair of terms often used in discussing Japanese culture is tatemae and honne. The former refers to the proper role expectation as defined by society and the second to one’s real inner feelings, however irrational they may be. Often, to act in accordance with giri is to act in conformity with the norm of a community (tatemae). The role language plays in culture cannot be underestimated, for it offers a way of organizing one’s life experience in a particular way that is shared by its speakers but not necessarily by people in other cultures (Davies and Ikeno, 2002). Family is one of the most important social institutions which keep century old traditions and human relations. In response to the traditional call for harmony, the Japanese are expected to conform to group norms. This proclivity yields situational ethics based on flexible standards (Shelley, 1992). There are no absolute criteria by which one passes judgment. The Japanese spend a disproportionately large sum of money for socializing, as embodied in semiannual gift exchanges between friends, relatives, and colleagues and after-work drinking of working men and women among co-workers and friends. Religion In Japan, nearly 100 % of the population are Buddhists and in many cases Scientists. The Japanese are, of course, not religious in the sense that they believe in God. Christians constitute about I % of the total population. Most Japanese are not very concerned with religion. They celebrate the birth of children in accordance with the Shinto rituals and bury their dead with the help of Buddhist priests. Meanwhile, they may get married in civil ceremonies, Christian churches, or other facilities. That is perhaps what makes it possible for the Japanese to accept more than one religion at the same time, an unthinkable option for monotheistic people of the West and West Asia, accustomed as they are to dialecticism. The Japanese approach the world in a diffuse fashion or inclusively. The number of Japanese with a religious faith increases with age (Davies and Ikeno, 2002). Fewer than 10 % of the Japanese in their early twenties and about 50 % of Japanese senior citizens over sixty years of age are religious. The older one becomes, the more religious one becomes. Likewise, Japan never had any revolutions such as experienced by China, France, and the United States. Revolutions are carried out by those who believe in the total destruction of the old regime and the establishment of a radically different doctrine. The Japanese seem to be incapable of totally denying their past. They are always interested in improving (kaizen) their existing system–be it via fax machine, Buddhism, or television sets. The majority of the Japanese do not take religion very seriously from the Western perspective (Oxtoby 2001). Japanese mythology distinguishes two categories of deities, the heavenly gods and the native or territorial gods. Some myths represent the heavenly deities as descending to the land of Japan to conquer or rule its autochthonous deities. The myth of land transfer in Izumo is one instance. Two generals of the heavenly gods were dispatched to Izumo to demand of O-Kuninushi, chief of the native gods and master of the territory of Japan, that he hand over sovereignty to the heavenly gods (Oxtoby 2001).

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