Japanese Culture: Japanese Men
As every person is different, any article as general as this clearly is rampant with stereotypes, so it should not be construed as how ‘all Japanese men are.
With that disclaimer out of the way let’s dive right in.
Confidence & Manners
The people of Japan in general suffer from a lack of confidence, women, men and children. This is easily observed in the cultural phenomena of denying a compliment. For example:
Kenji shows his friends a new song he learned on guitar. It was nicely played. Kenji’s friend says: “that was great, you’re a skilled guitarist!”. Kenji replies: “no no, that’s note the case”
Clearly Kenji is a good guitarist and what his friend says is true. But Kenji cannot accept the fact that he is a ‘good guitarist’, even if he became a professional and performed a grand concert, and if another professional told him he was a skilled musician, he would deny this complement. However, strangely, if an audience member told him he was a skilled musician he would take the compliment with a ‘thank you very much’. This has to do with status. As the audience is lower than he is, he would not degrade himself. However, with an equal (fellow musician) or superior, he would have to deny the compliment.
This even continues with great absurdity into relationships where a man’s wife is complimented as being ‘very beautiful’, at once he must deny this, even if the wife is present!
Completely aside from the social aspect of taking or denying compliments, runs deeper the fact generally they think they are no good, which is of course not true, as every human being is important.
Whether it is their appearance, their weight, their ability to speak English, their skill at their occupation or others, the Japanese consider themselves to be lacking in the above. And even when mastery is achieved, the most they could say about it is: “its so so”.
Emotions & Direct/Indirect Communication
Ironically or maybe not so ironic, the well known physical phenomena of the ‘expressionless Japanese face’ also presents itself in the emotional realm with ‘no expression of personal feelings’. After being in Japan for any measure of time you will see men and women alike with very fixed expressions, and capable of display rather few types of faces/expressions.
And as for showing emotion or feelings, if you thought Western men were tough to read or emotionally inhibited, wait until you see a Japanese man. It is astounding for a Westerner to witness. For example they would be incapable of communicating the following concepts to a close male friend:
- I’m happy you are my friend
- I enjoy hanging out with you
- That was really considerate for you to do that for me
- I don’t like you
- You are wrong
Instead of being so direct the Japanese employ their fine art of ‘indirectness’ to impart their feelings:
- you’re a good person
- it was fun
- you are so kind
- maybe we see things differently
- it’s different
Needless to say there is quite a contrast. In fact, in some parts of Japan (Kyoto), people are so indirect and afraid to be definite that if a friend has invited you to his house, and he would like you to go he would not ask you to leave politely he would instead, offer you ‘ochazuke/bubuzuke’ (a simple Japanese dish which is basically green tea poured on rice, with savory toppings). At which point you are supposed to refuse and then be on your way. However this is less frequent these days.
One of the positive attributes of Japanese men is that they are completely dedicated to their work, with the salaryman (typical Japanese office worker) getting an average of 5 hours of sleep a night, and devoting the rest of his time to his work.
This is so much the case that the advent of ‘capsule’ hotels was resultant from their lifestyle.
It is normal and expected for the Japanese male worker to neglect his family or lover if it is in the best interest of his job.
As for responsibility, like the samurai before them, if a male makes a gross mistake at his place of work he is expected to quit or even commit suicide depending on the level of disgrace.
As previously stated, with most Japanese men absorbed into their work, this is usually a cause of interpersonal relationship problems. And as also stated above, just to have a Japanese man communicate to a girl that he likes her can require great effort, depending on the man. This problem is also compounded by the lack of confidence which makes approaching women a difficult task. Therefore with lack of confidence, difficulty expressing feelings and tremendous focus on work it makes for quite a challenge in the relationship department.
Despite a solemn demeanor most Japanese men are cheerful and all around enjoyable people. It is only required that one gets to know them well enough to the point where they feel they can ‘let their hair down’ and be themselves around you.
Whereas in the West you can become ‘instant’ friend with someone, just by sharing a common reality, for the Japanese you need to give them some time so they can come to know you and get comfortable. This is easily mistaken as being cold when meeting with people initially.
Another issue which is becoming less as time marches on is the age old concept of male superiority in Japanese culture, which just recently started to decrease, due to the extinction of the samurai and the old world. It is still an issue however, and Japanese boyfriends/husbands have been known to be very controlling of their significant others.
Hobbies & Downtime
Japanese men still enjoy some downtime and hobbies despite their bustling existence. A favorite yet addictive activity is Pachinko. Others include Karaoke, going to the izakaya (pub) reading manga (Japanese comics) are the most popular, followed by photography, computer games and reading.
Although this writing focused mainly on the negative (as that is what people are most interested in reading anyway) Japanese men have many more positive points including: being responsible, good with finances, polite, hard working, considerate etc.