Japanese Culture: The Japanese Way
Showing respect and kindness
One of the key concepts of Japanese society is showing respect to others and being kind. There are many ways to achieve this, the most popular of which you are already familiar with, that being the bow.
Even when talking on the phone the Japanese will do a bow, you may find that absurd but it is the thought that counts, despite of the person not being there, they still show their respect.
When two people meet for the first time they will bow. When co-workers say good bye they will bow, when a train conductor enters a train car, he will bow. When two friends see each other they will bow, (this depends on age and seniority)
Although you are not expected to, it does help grease the cogwheels of social intercourse if you yourself bow along with them.
Orderly and quiet
The Japanese are a very quiet people, as clearly seen when you ride the train or subway, for it is completely silent (save for Friday nights when everyone is drunk, at which time people loosen up and engage in conversation.
Another phenomena is on the streets where there has just be a major sports victory (For example the Soccer World Cup), people will dance, jump and gather in the streets, but only so long as the light is red for that road. When it turns green, the police push everyone back, the cars drive though, and once it turns red again everyone will come back out on the street and continue their mirth just as if nothing happened. This repeats for some time.
So orderly are the Japanese that there was no looting and riots after their most recent catastrophic 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. This in itself speaks volumes of the Japanese concept of maintaining order and peace.
However this didn’t stop the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) from knocking off a few banks in the disaster affected areas, but what can one expect? Regardless of what country one is in, criminals will be criminals.
Raise the other person up
A wise man once said “Don’t talk about yourself. Let other people talk about you”. This applies. In Japan you will rarely hear a Japanese speak of how great he is or of his accomplishments, resources etc. Instead they speak highly of others, not themselves.
The way it works is, one man shows another some respect and praise, and then the man who receives this praise then denies this praise. This according to the Japanese is a perfect exchange. On one hand you have a man showing respect, and on the other you have a man being humble about receiving it.
The entire structure of the language and way of speaking is centered around this concept. (Keigo for instance)
The only caveat of this concept is that it has a tendency to result in tremendous denial of self and lack of confidence to the point where people think they are no good (Which is no surprise, as they say it so often (that they are no good), and thus it becomes so).
Honor & Responsibility
A very admirable attribute of the Japanese is their inherent feeling of duty to take responsibility for a wrong doing. For example if a worker had made a mistake on the job he would bow deeply and frantically and offer his apologies, and except and expect punishment. He would be sincerely sorry and ashamed for his misdeeds.
A caveat of this on the extreme side is completed suicide, to take responsibility for one’s misdeed.
With the preservation of the environment and respect to all things living (even bugs) running deeply through the religions of Japan (Buddhism and Shintoism) It is no surprise to see its influence upon modern society. (Save for the 1960-70’s when Japan started its industrial boom and engaged in wholesale polluting which rendered some areas completely contaminated, however that has more or less ended)
You will notice the Japanese fervor for eco-friendly lifestyle the next time you want to throw something in the trash when you’re on the street for you’ll find much to your dismay absolutely NO trash cans! (Unless you’ve had to carry your garbage around for an hour you have not experienced this kind of maddening inconvenience).
The idea is that if you have garbage then you must carry this burden until you can dispose of it properly, in the appropriate receptacles that is. You can find said receptacles in front of convenience stores, where they will have three bins: glass, plastics, paper.
This continues with the legal requirement of having to sort your trash into those three categories, and bag them separately. Refusing to follow this actual law will result in hefty citation fees.
Certainly the most visible of the Japanese virtues is their tremendous industry. For when people think of the Japanese they conjure up images of hard working men with little time off, this is in fact the case. They do work long and hard hours in order to get their pay, however it is not always just about the paycheck, there is a sense of duty that they must work hard and do their best as to not let down their company and superiors.
And it is not just the men. In this new day and age women are entering the workforce more than ever, seeking careers and independence.
The average salaryman (office worker) in Japan works to the extent that he only gets five hours of sleep a night, the rest of his time is spent on the commute and at his job.
One a philosophic note if one examines closely he will see that for every admirable and pure attribute of the Japanese Way there is a debased inverted mockery of it.
Courtesy – Tatemae (social lies)
Gentle – Submissive
Modest – Self-abasement
Responsibility – Suicide