Japanese Studies Program @ York University

JP1000 Introduction to Japanese Culture and Society


Part I: Observations in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology

The periods 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

むかんしん

無関心

Mukiryoku          

 inertia

むきりょく

無気力

Sogai              

 alienation

そがい

疎外

Tsukaisute-jidai   

 throwaway age

つかいすてじだい

使い捨て時代

Han-taisei-shugi   

 non-conformism

はんたいせいしゅぎ

反体制主義

Ijime              

 bullying

いじめ

虐め

Kyooiku mama       

 education mother

きょういくママ

教育ママ

Juken-jigoku       

 examination hell

じゅけんじごく

受験地獄

Ochikobore         

 dropouts, misfits

おちこぼれ

落ちこぼれ

Boosoo-zoku        

 motorcycle gang

ぼうそうぞく

暴走族

Takenoko-zoku      

 bamboo shoot tribe

たけのこぞく

竹の子族

Shin-jinrui        

 new human beings

しんじんるい

新人類

Nure-ochiba-zoku   

 wet-dead-leaf tribe

ねれおちばぞく

ぬれ落ち葉族

Manyuaru-ningen    

 manual human beings

マニュアルにんげん

マニュアル人間

Washi-zoku         

 washi tribe

わしぞく

わし族

Narita-rikon       

 Narita divorce

なりたりこん

成田離婚

Dankai-sedai       

 lump generation

だんかいせだい

団塊世代

Dokushin-kizoku    

 celibate aristocrat

どくしんきぞく

独身貴族

Pakkeeji-rikon     

 package divorce

パッケージりこん

パッケージ離婚

Asshii-kun
Messhii-kun
Mitsugu-kun
Baggu-kun
Honmee-kun

 plural boy friends

アッシーくん
メッシーくん
みつぐくん
バッグくん
ほんめいくん

アッシー君
メッシー君
貢君
バッグ君
本命君

San-koo            

three highs - education, height and salary

さんこう

三高

San-tee                     

three lows - 'low attitude', low risk, low maintenance

さんてい

三低

Bunsan-ren'ai         

'diversified' love affairs - a married woman with multiple partners

ぶんさんれんあい

分散恋愛

Jakunen-kodoku-shi

young lonely death

じゅくねんこどくし

熟年孤独死

Bankon-ka               

late marriage tendency

ばんこんか

晩婚化

Mikon-ka                  

unmarried tendency

みこんか

未婚化

Konkatsu           

partner hunting

こんかつ

婚活

Sooshoku-kee-danshi

herbivorous male

そうしょくけいだんし

草食系男子

Nikushoku-kee-joshi

carnivorous female

にくしょくけいじょし

肉食系女子

Kuriimii-kee-danshi

creamy male

クリーミーけいだんし

クリーミー系男子

Rikon-shiki        

divorce ceremony

りこんしき

離婚式

Kodoku-shi              

lonely death

こどくし

孤独死

Arafoo                  
Arasaa
   

women around 40
women around 30

アラフォー
アラサー

 

Bibungu                   

beautiful stationery

びぶんぐ

美文具

Roogo-hinkon         

old age poverty

ろうごひんこん

老後貧困

Erabi-zukare       

fatigue due to too many choices

えらびづかれ

選び疲れ

Teenen-josee           

women who retire at the fixed retirement age

ていねんじょせい

定年女性

Oitsume-joshi          

women always keeping tabs on their men

おいつめじょし

追い詰め女子

Kanshi-kamera-joshi

surveillance-camera women

かんしカメラじょし

監視カメラ女子

Danshari                  

decluttering, minimalism (from Yoga)

だんしゃり

断捨離

San-mitsu                

3 Cs (Confined spaces, Crowded places, Close contacts) to avoid COVID-19 infection  

さんみつ

三密

 Hirame ningen
 flounder human being, sycophant
  ヒラメにんげん
 ヒラメ人間

4. Key notions and related sociological phenomena

Culture of Shame

Haji no bunka

fear of losing face, high self-esteem, vindictive, ...

はじのぶんか

恥の文化


Vertical society

Tate-shakai
hierarchical structure, junior-senior relationship, loyalty, ...

たてしゃかい

タテ社会


Gratitude & obligation

On, Giri

おん・ぎり

恩・義理


Patronage & submission

Oyabun-Kobun 'boss-henchmen'

おやぶん・こぶん

親分・子分


Loyalty & filial piety

Chuu-Koo

ちゅう・こう

忠・孝


Dependency syndrome

Amae

あまえ

甘え


Extended family

Ie, in-group identity, company man, ...

いえ

家・イエ


Interdependence

Kanjin-shugi, mutual trust, group orientation,

かんじんしゅぎ

間人主義


Consensus-seeking

Gooi least common-denominator approach, lack of individualism, regimentation, conformism, ...

ごうい

合意


Public eye

Seken 'people, world, society'

せけん

世間


Proper behaviour

Chanto 'properly'

ちゃんと

 


Equal opportunity

Kikai-kintoo standardization, middle-class identity, ...

きかいきんとう

機会均等


Culture of jealousy

Shitto no bunnka avoid jealousy by being humble and inconspicuous

しっとのぶんか

嫉妬の文化


Culture of octopus trap

Takotsubo-Bunka, sectionalism, ethnocentrism, ...

たこつぼぶんか

タコつぼ文化


Japanism

Nihonkyoo, ancestor worship, code of behaviour acceptable to the Japanese clan, adoption and transformation of alien values, systems, religions, ...

にほんきょう

日本教


Structure of Iki

'chic' [appropriately stylish]

いき シック

 


Simplicity & frugality

Wabi 'taste for the simple and quiet' 
Sabi
 'elegant simplicity'
Shibumi 'severity'          

わび
さび
しぶみ

 


Intuitive communication

Haragei 'gut approach'

はらげい

腹芸


  Prearrangement

  Nemawashi 'root-binding'   
  Ringisei
  'rubber-stamping'

  ねまわし
 りんぎせい

  根回し
 稟議制


Single-visioned

Tanshigan-teki monolithic view

たんしがんてき

単視眼的


Pragmatism  

Junnoosee adaptability

じゅんのうせい

順応性


Escapism      

Toohishugi catharsis

とうひしゅぎ

逃避主義


Discrimination

Sabetsu Capital-city snobbery, Koreans,
Burakumin
 'untouchables', ...

さべつ 
ぶらくみん

差別
部落民


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'
ききかん
危機感
Mixture of complexes   
inferiority and superiority complexes, 
gaijin complex, ethnocentrism, ...
れっとう・ゆうえつかん 
がいじんコンプレックス
劣等・優越感
外人コンプレックス
Mentor-seeking         
Oyabun-Kobun, Sensei, Senpai 'senior', ...
おやぶん・こぶん 
せんせい せんぱい
親分・子分 先生 
先輩
Reciprocal dependency  
Amae, On, GiriOkaeshi 'return', ...
あまえ・おん・ぎり・
おかえし
甘え・恩・義理・
お返し
Guilt-trip tactics     
imposing guilt on others
 
 
Clan-oriented          
overriding importance of individual's 
responsibility to the group
 
 
Confrontation-avoiding 
Nemawashi, ...
ねまわし
根回し
Knowledge is power     
basic operating principle, eternal seeker 
after knowledge, competitive
education, amount of reading and
publications, ...
ちしきはちからなり
知識は力なり
Transience             
Mujoo, relativism, non-religious, ...
むじょう
無常
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

    Prominence
    Parameters
    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:



[cognitive/discourse/textual]


holistic

analytic

general

specific

descriptive

explanatory

situational

less situational

context-dependent

context-independent

elliptical

exhaustive [redundant]



[sociolinguistic/pragmatic]


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



[psycholinguistic]


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, ...

Case study: DONATORY VERBS

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."

Solution:
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 2021

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