JP1000 6.0 Lecture: Special Lecture

Introduction to Japanese Culture and Society

Part I: Observations in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology

The new name of the imperial reign: 令和 れいわ the Reiwa Era  2019 -

平成 へいせい the Heisei Era
1989 - 2019
昭和 しょうわ the Showa Era 1926 - 1989
大正 たいしょう the Taisho Era 1912 - 1926
明 治 め いじ the Meiji Era 1868 - 1912

0. Possible sources of misunderstanding

1. Culture and its manifestations

Culture         : psychologically real configuration [gestalt] acquired 
                  [internalized] subconsciously in terms of various parameters
Language        : reflections of culture and psyche
    Arts :             Haiku, Tanka, Cha-no-yu, Noh, Kabuki, calligraphy, brush painting, ...
    Martial Arts :  Kendoo, Juudoo, Karate, ...
    Religions :      Shintoo, Buddhism, Confucianism, ...
    Business :       corporate organization, human relations, business practice, decision making, ...
    Education :     goals, expectations, policies, ...

2. Two fundamental constraints on Japanese culture

Peaceful coexistence: harmony, cooperation, interdependence, extended family, 
                      being humble and inconspicuous, ...
Culture of have-nots: simplicity, frugality, making the best out of what is available, sense of vulnerability, self-sacrificing, ...

3. New trends: Emerging conflicts of values in an affluent society

        Mukanshin          : apathy
        Mukiryoku       : inertia
        Sogai           : alienation
        Tsukaisute-jidai : throwaway age
        Han-taisei-shugi : non-conformism
        Ijime           : bullying
        Kyooiku mama    : education mother
        Juken-jigoku    : examination hell
        Ochikobore      : dropouts, misfits
        Boosoo-zoku     : motorcycle gang
        Takenoko-zoku   : bamboo shoot tribe
        Shin-jinrui     : new human beings
        Nure-ochiba-zoku : wet-dead-leaf tribe
        Manyuaru-ningen : manual human beings
        Washi-zoku      : washi tribe
        Narita-rikon    : Narita divorce
        Dankai-sedai    : lump generation
        Dokushin-kizoku : celibate aristocrat
        Pakkeeji-rikon  : package divorce
        Asshii-kun, messhii-kun, mitsugu-kun, baggu-kun, honmee-kun: plural boy friends
        San-koo         : three highs - education, height and salary
San-tee : three lows - 'low attitude', low risk, low maintenance
Bunsan-ren'ai : 'diversified' love affairs - a married woman with multiple partners
Jakunen-kodoku-shi : young lonely death
Bankon-ka : late marriage tendency
Mikon-ka : unmarried tendency
Konkatsu : partner hunting
Sooshoku-kee-danshi: herbivorous male
Nikushoku-kee-joshi: carnivorous female
Kuriimii-kee-danshi: creamy male
Rikon-shiki : divorce ceremony
Kodoku-shi : lonely death
       Arafoo   : women around 40
Bibungu : beautiful stationery
Roogo-hinkon : old age poverty
Erabi-zukare : fatigue due to too many choices
Teenen-josee : women who retire at the fixed retirement age
Oitsume-joshi : women always keeping tabs on their men
Kanshi-kamera-joshi: surveillance-camera women

4. Key notions and related sociological phenomena

        Culture of Shame        : Haji no bunka, fear of losing face, 
                                  high self-esteem, vindictive, ...
        Vertical society        : Tate-shakai, hierarchical structure, 
                                  junior-senior relationship, loyalty, ...
        Gratitude & obligation  : On, Giri
        Patronage & submission  : Oyabun-Kobun 'boss-henchmen'
        Loyalty & filial piety  : Chuu-Koo
        Dependency syndrome     : Amae
        Extended family         : Ie, in-group identity, company man, ...
        Interdependence         : Kanjin-shugi, mutual trust, group 
                                  orientation, consensus-seeking (least common
                                  -denominator approach), lack of individualism, 
                                  regimentation, conformism, ...
        Public eye              : Seken 'people, world, society'
        Proper behaviour        : Chanto 'properly'
        Equal opportunity       : standardization, middle-class identity, ...
        Culture of jealousy     : avoid jealousy by being humble and inconspicuous
        Culture of octopus trap : Takotsubo-Bunka, sectionalism, 
                                  ethnocentrism, ...
        Japanism                : Nihonkyoo, ancestor worship, code of 
                                  behaviour acceptable to the Japanese clan, 
                                  adoption and transformation of alien values, 
                                  systems, religions, ...
        Structure of Iki: 'chic' [appropriately stylish]
        Simplicity & frugality  : Wabi   'taste for the simple and quiet'             
                                  Sabi   'elegant simplicity'
        Intuitive communication : Haragei  'gut approach'
        Prearrangement          : Nemawashi 'root-binding'
                                  Ringisei  'rubber-stamping'
        Single-visioned         : monolithic view
        Pragmatism              : adaptability
        Escapism                : catharsis
        Discrimination          : Capital-city snobbery, Koreans, Buraku-min 
                                  'untouchables', ...

5. Prominent characteristics of Japanese psyche

        Empathy-demanding      : agreement-seeking
        Source of energy       : enhanced by conflicts, constraints, limitations, ...
        Intuitive approach     : based on mutual understanding
        From form to spirit    : martial arts, fine arts, ...
        Vulnerability complex  : strength by Kiki-kan 'sense of urgency'
        Mixture of complexes   : inferiority and superiority complexes, gaijin 
                                 complex, ethnocentrism, ...
        Mentor-seeking         : Oyabun-Kobun, Sensei, Senpai 
                                 'senior', ...
        Reciprocal dependency  : Amae, On, Giri
                                 Okaeshi 'return', ...
        Guilt-trip tactics     : imposing guilt on others
        Clan-oriented          : overriding importance of individual's responsibility 
                                 to the group
        Confrontation-avoiding : Nemawashi, ...
        Knowledge is power     : basic operating principle, eternal seeker after 
                                 knowledge, competitive education, amount of reading 
                                 and publications, ...
        Transience             : Mujoo, relativism, non-religious, ...
        Volatility             : when pushed too far

6. Globalization and Japan

               Impact of globalization on Japanese language and culture

Part II Cultural differences observed in linguistic contexts

1. Language and cognition

    Cerebral dominance

Some characteristics of the Japanese language

1) Word order: S O V
2) Vowels
3) Onomatopoeia
4) Classifiers
5) Answers to negative questions
6) Adversative passive
7) Topic-Comment structure
8) It's the case that S

2. Characteristic differences in tendency between Japanese and English

observed in linguistic contexts

JAPANESE tends to be:                       
ENGLISH tends to be:

holistic analytic
descriptive explanatory
situational less situational
context-dependent context-independent
elliptical exhaustive [redundant]

formal informal
indirect [indecisive] direct [decisive]
rank-conscious egalitarian
submissive independent
concessive self-determined
agreeable [understanding] competitive [challenging, provocative]
appreciative less appreciative
apologetic self-righteous
modest [reserved]
boastful [proud]
responsive less responsive
less exclamatory exclamatory [exaggerative]
less derogative derogative
less rewarding rewarding

introversive [inconspicuous] extroversive [conspicuous]
collective individualistic
subjective [intuitive] objective [logical]
emotional [sentimental] rational
pessimistic [negative] optimistic [positive]
retrospective prospective

3. Interface between language and culture

Male vs. female speech
Politeness phenomena: honorifics, donatory verbs, formal-informal style, ...


SPEAKER says, "Father gave a camera to my younger sister."

a. Chichi wa imooto ni kamera o | *agemashita.    [ageru]
b.                                                  | *yarimashita.    [yaru]
c.                                                  | *kuremashita.   [kureru]

    father top sister   to camera obj gave
   "Father gave a camera to my younger sister."

d. Imooto wa chichi ni kamera o moraimashita.     [morau]
     sister  top father from camera obj received
   "My younger sister received a camera from father."


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©Norio Ota 2019
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