The Japanese culture is one rich with history and tradition. When many people think about the land of the rising sun, they get intrigued with the mystery and tranquility of this culture. In watching the Karate Kid II as a child and adult, I have always been fascinated with the Japanese concepts of respect, dignity and honor. In the face of adversity these three concepts are more important than to give into a breakdown of self-restraint. These concepts are of great importance to the Japanese people and their culture. It is a society that has many thousands of years of cultural development, because of that and their deep pride in their culture Japan is a very safe place to be. Japanese people tend to be indirect as a way of showing respect and politeness.
The Japanese culture has made many contributions to society today in areas such as language, visual arts, literature, cuisine, gardening, anime and martial arts. Martial arts such as karate, judo, sumo and jujitsu have origins in Japan. The contributions this culture has left have had a great impact upon many generations of the world. Sushi is found in most developed countries. Dojos are also found in most areas of developed countries. Culture plays an integral role in the psychological processes of each individual. In this course, we have discussed extensively emotion, morality, gender roles and aggression.
Emotions are a part of every human’s life. Emotions are the vehicle that drives how we express ourselves and how we behave throughout the course of our daily life (Matsumoto & Juang, 2008). Collectivistic cultures, such as Japanese, value groups over individuals; this results in harmony and cooperation. In the Japanese culture, emotions are said to be interactive and reflects social contexts as opposed to the inner-self. In Japan, the expression of emotion is controlled. In Japan, the expression of anger is less acceptable it because it threatens authority and harmony within relationships (Miyake & Yamazaki, 1995). The opposite emotion such as sadness is more acceptable in the society because it serves to be a less threat to the society.
As with emotion, cultural display rules are viewed important parts of any given culture (Safdar, Friedlmeier, Matsumoto, Yoo, Kwantes, Kakai, & Shigemasu, 2009). They can be defined as culturally accepted rules, which are learned by individuals early in life through the socialization process. These rules influence how people from any culture with respect to what express emotion that particular culture has deemed acceptable or unacceptable (Safdar, et al., 2009).
When thing go awry in a relationship, for instance, the American culture tends to blame the environment or situation around them for the cause of the breakup, however Japanese culture internalizes and takes blame for the break up. According to Matsumoto & Juang (2008), in the Japanese culture, the person has the responsibility to ensure that the relationship works. This is in contrast to the American culture in which events just happen and the break up is the by-product of the events that transpired. Japanese people do not express emotions openly as is done in the American culture.
Morality, generally, refers to either personal or cultural values, code of conduct or social behaviors that dictates what is right and what is wrong. This does not mean that morality is equal among various cultures but that this is what a particular culture sees as being correct in their society. Lebra & Lebra (1986) states, “Japanese morality is regulated by the highly sensitive social radar built into each individual”.
Japan has a very strict moral code and the Japanese people endeavor to keep to it as best they can. The world in turn views the Japanese as rather morally strict. There is a great importance placed on order in Japanese culture, everything has it`s place. Manners and politeness are on constant display and Japanese people will never be shamed in public, either by insult or error. Though America considers itself as a moral society, when compared to other cultures (which is relative) American culture would rate considerably lower in morality than the Japanese culture. What is right in one culture is not necessarily perceived as right in another culture. According to Gardiner & Kosmitzki (2011), there are inherent differences in moral reasoning between two or more cultures due to the different beliefs within each culture.
Gender roles are the social and behavioral norms that a culture has that consider what is socially appropriate for individuals of a specific gender within that culture. Gender roles affect household security, the well being of a family, and many other aspects of life (Bravo-Baumann, 2000). Traditionally in Japan, gender roles were very pronounced and distinct. The Japanese culture was a patriarchal society with the man being the primary breadwinner and the woman the primary caregiver (Iowa, 1994).
The woman’s role in the household was that of a housewife, a mother and taking care of ill parents if needed (Iwao, 1994). The society typically adopted a chauvinistic attitude towards women with careers and it was considerably difficult for a woman to climb the corporate ladder (Iwao, 1994). Now, attitudes are changing and women are forging their way into the labor force due to the influence of education and a younger class of ladies coming forth.
Aggression is hostile actions or attitudes towards another person. It can also be noted that it is the readiness of an individual to attack or confront another individual. Freud and Lorenz argue, as cited in Baron, Branscombe & Byrne (2009), that aggression is instinctual and innate. It is the internal drive within a person that pushes them to achieve, however it is often times misplaced by people.
In the Japanese culture, exposing one’s teeth is a sign of aggression. In contrast to the Japanese culture, the American culture views this as a sign of sincerity and friendship. American’s pride themselves on showing their pearly whites. White teeth and a straight smile are deemed, in the west, as attractive and show that a person is trustworthy.
An example of how the American culture differs from the Japanese culture can be seen in the toy maker Mattel. One of the most popular dolls made in the history of the United States is the Barbie doll. One of the reasons that the original Barbie doll failed in Japan was her white toothy smile. When a Japanese woman laughs, she covers her mouth in an effort to not show her teeth. With Barbie showing her American award-winning smile, the Japanese people thought she was being aggressive.
It is apparent that the Japanese culture is one that has provided many significant contributions to the world. It is worth paying attention to this culture in order too see more contributions they will innovate in the world. There is a wealth of knowledge and understanding this culture could share with other cultures in how to demonstrate respect, honor and dignity. Throughout history, the Japanese culture has had an affect on the global community, this culture continues today to have effects on the world, whether it is from the exotic cuisine to the latest electrical wonders.
Baron, R., Branscombe, N., & Byrne, D. (2009). Social psychology (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Gardiner, H., & Kosmitzki, C. (2011). Lives across cultures: Cross-cultural human development (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education
Iwao, S. (1994) The Japanese Woman: Traditional image and changing reality, Harvard University Press:Cambridge.
Lebra, T., & Lebra, W. (1986). Japanese culture & behavior. University of Hawaii Press
Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture and psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth
Miyake, K., & Yamazaki, K. (1995). Self-conscious emotions: The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride. New York: Guilford Press. Safdar, S., Friedlmeier, W., Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S., Kwantes, C. T., Kakai, H., & Shigemasu, E. (2009). Variations of emotional display rules within and across cultures: A comparison between Canada, USA, and Japan. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 41(1), 1-10.