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The Role Change of Japan's Culture

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The Role Change of Japan's Culture

My experiences in Japan have been surreal in that the cultural behaviors are nearly an exact opposite to those with which I had grown up. The order of daily life is solely dependent on the roles and duties of each individual. When people begin to go against the regular flow of the excepted norms, great controversy is created. Japanese culture patterns follow a specific code that is rarely altered. When they are disturbed, there is panic caused by the insecurities of change.

The identity of Japanese culture is collectivism. Japan's culture is dependent on the community of the people. The Japanese do not strive for individual success, but rather for group accomplishment. It is better for the group as a whole to be healthy than for one person to achieve higher status. The Japanese do not believe in leaving one person behind, they would rather slow the entire group down until that person can catch up. In addition, the person who is slowing the group down will feel shame because he has hurt his "family". For example, I volunteered in a Kindergarten in Shinagawa the last four months, and one day there was a little boy who was moving his chair into the group much more slowly than the other students. The other students sat quietly watching him. When he finally put his chair down and the teacher was ready to begin, the student did not have his materials ready and had to go back to the closet to get things. The teacher became agitated and went after the boy. She pointed to the clock and spoke to him sternly. Then she looked at the students and held him so they could all look at him as she reprimanded him. The child did not scream or cry for his mother as I expected. Instead he looked down as tears flowed down his cheeks. The other students went back to looking at the teacher's chair and she returned and did the lesson without the boy. The boy continued to stand still until the group finished and then he rejoined them. I had seen the students hitting each other and misbehaving many times, but I never saw a student get punished by a teacher until this day. This boy, at four years old, was feeling Haji (shame). He had hurt the group by cutting their time short. When a student causes problems that do not affect the group, they are not punished; they are only reprimanded when they hurt the collective group. Japanese culture encourages silence over individual thinking. When a person is unsure of how to do something, he should either refuse to do it or follow the crowd as carefully as possible. Because Japan is a collectivist society, the Japanese are afraid to do something individual so if they are not sure of the right answer, they avoid the question. When I taught the game "Duck, Duck, Goose" to a group of 4 year olds, the teacher chose a little girl to go first. She stood up paralyzed. When the teacher asked if she understood the game the child nodded and began to walk around the circle. She apparently did not understand the game because she was not touching the other children's' heads. The teacher asked if the child needed help. The little girl began to cry stifled tears just as the little boy who was punished in the other class. I was amazed to see a child so afraid to ask a question. Another example of this is when you go to the Buddhist temple. At the Buddhist temple you are supposed to through money into the well and pray without clapping. However, at the Shinto shrine you clap before you pray. It is taboo to clap at a Buddhist temple. When I have visited them though, I have seen young people clap. After one person claps, many times the people around them will look around nervously and also clap quietly. They prefer to follow others rather than risk being wrong even though they may have been taught not to clap. Japan's team player attitude leaves little room for distance of power between people. You can recognize how this developed when you consider that for more than a hundred years Japan was closed off from the rest of the world. This helped them become very dependent on being a family-like community. In a Japanese company, you will see the shacho, the company president, though he is the head of the company, will not make a company decision without getting the input of the entire company. The company has hierarchy but is still considered a family. There are regular social outings and all employees started in the same position. A person earns their salary by the number of years they have worked with the company. Though I did not get much of a chance to observe the shacho at my job placement, I did get to observe the teachers deciding which game the children would play. Rather than two teachers taking initiative and starting a game with the children, they would speak to each teacher before a consensus was formed. I witnessed group decisions often amongst the teachers.

In Japan, the male is the provider and the female serves him. Though females can work, they do not hold equal positions to males and it is assumed they will leave their job to get married and have children. Most men go out drinking after work while the women, who spent all day taking care of the house and preparing dinner, will spend the evening taking care of the children and waiting for their husbands return. Also, there are many forms of entertainment targeted at men. They are considered hard workers and family providers, so they have many rewards. If we examine the kanji character for male it is the kanji for field (meaning farmer or work in the olden days), above the symbol for power. You only see male train drivers, police officers, and salary workers. By looking at all the various kinds of entertainment provided for men, various "massage parlors" and "hostess bars". Few things of this sort are provided for women. Also, this is defined when you consider gender-oriented holidays. March 3 is girls' day, hanamatsuri. The symbol for this day is a doll wearing a kimono. On this day the family must display



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