Cultural resume Japan

Japan is a constitutional monarchy where the power of the Emperor is very limited. he climate and landscape of the country. Formation of language and contemporary trends, religious trends. Household and national traditions. Gender Roles in Japan.

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In post war era, the Japanese woman was expected to be a SENGYO SHUFU or 'professional housewife', and KYOIKU MAMA or 'education mother', who works as well as takes care of children and their education needs. Thus, in spite of participation in workplace, the Japanese women still holds the responsibility of the household. A large proportion of women leave their job after marriage, for the sake of rearing children and most of them rejoin the work-force only after their youngest child have started going to school. As a result, there is a tendency to treat them more like part-time workers - a factor that has been a big obstacle in their career development and wage-equality with their male counterparts.

7. Gender Roles in Contemporary Japan

language religious tradition cultural

In today's Japan, most males are permanent employees, while women form three fourth of the part time or irregular workforce. Less than 10% of senior managerial posts are occupied by women, unlike the United States, where the corresponding figure is 43%. In 2001, a white paper by the Government publicly expressed concern on the gender discrimination situation highlighted by an index developed by United Nations called the 'Gender empowerment measure' that showed Japan as 41st among 70 countries that participated in the survey. It highlighted that wages of women were around two third of their male counterparts. Surveys done in subsequent years have shown the situation of Japanese women to be more or less unchanged.

In 1970s, labor economist Alis Cook and her associate Hiroko Hayashi published the summary of their interviews with members of 'Keidanren', the national Federation of major Japanese companies, which clearly indicated that in spite of high participation in workforce in terms of numbers, the employers considered them a secondary, less trained and inferior workers not deserving of wages equal to their male counterparts.

In recent years, the modern Japanese women, has started expressing a far greater choice in her life-style. This has led to frequent change of jobs and delayed marriage sometimes extended far enough to retain single-hood as a way of life. As a corollary to the falling fertility rate and shrinking population, the greater independence of women in today's Japan ironically co-exists against the backdrop of a social order that still does not seem to be ready to give them an equal independent status in spite of all the economic, legal and social developments.

Aging of Japan

The aging of Japan is thought to outweigh all other nations, as the country is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens; more than 20% are over the age of 65 today. [Asia: Japan: Most Elderly Nation. The New York Times. 2006-07-01.] In 1989, only 11.6% of the population was 65 years or older, but projections were that 25.6% would be in that age category by 2030. However, those estimates are updated at 23.1% (as of February 2011) are already 65 and over, and 11.4% are 75 and over, now the world's highest (though 2010 Census age results have not yet been released). This change, referred to as kreikashakai, [John W. (2003). Demographic Change and the Family in Japan's Aging Society.] will have taken place in a shorter span of time than in any other country.

The age 65 and above demographic group increased from 26.5 million in 2006 to 29.47 million in 2011, and 11.2% increase. The Japanese Health Ministry estimates the nation's total population will decrease by 25% from 127.8 million in 2005 to 95.2 million by 2050. [Japan's Elderly Population Rises to Record, Government Says Bloomberg] Japan's elderly population, aged 65 or older, comprised 20% of the nation's population in June 2006, [Europe's Aging Population Faces Social Problems Similar to Japan's. Goldsea Asian American Daily] a percentage that is forecast to increase to 38% by 2055. [International Futures. Population of Japan, Aged 65 and older.]


Power distance

This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal - it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. Power distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

Japan is a mildly hierarchical society. Japanese are always conscious of their hierarchical position in any social setting and act accordingly. However, it is not as hierarchical as most of the other Asian cultures. Some foreigners experience Japan as extremely hierarchical because of their business experience of painstakingly slow decision making process: all the decisions must be confirmed by each hierarchical layer and finally by the top management in Tokyo. Paradoxically, the exact example of their slow decision making process shows that in Japanese society there is no one top guy who can take decision like in more hierarchical societies. Another example of not so high power distance is that Japan has always been a meritocratic society. There is a strong notion in the Japanese education system that everybody is born equal and anyone can get ahead and become anything if he (yes, it is still he) works hard enough.


The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether peoples self-image is defined in terms of I or We. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to `in groups' that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.

Certainly Japanese society shows many of the characteristics of a collectivistic society: such as putting harmony of group above the expression of individual opinions and people have strong senses of shame for losing face. However, it is not as collectivistic as most of her Asian neighbours. The most popular explanation for this is that Japanese society does not have extended family system which forms a base of more collectivistic societies such as China and Korea. Japan has been a paternalistic society and the family name and asset was inherited from father to the eldest son. The younger siblings had to leave home and make their own living with their core families. One seemingly paradoxal example is that Japanese are famous for their loyalty to their companies, while Chinese seem to job hop more easily. However, company loyalty is something which people have chosen for themselves, which is an individualistic thing to do. You could say that the Japanese in-group is situational. While in more collectivistic culture, people are loyal to their inner group by birth, such as their extended family and their local community. Japanese are experienced as collectivistic by Western standards and experienced as individualistic by Asian standards. They are more private and reserved than most other Asians.

Masculinity / Femininity

Masculine on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field - a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational behaviour.

Feminine on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (masculine) or liking what you do (feminine).

Japan is one of the most masculine societies in the world. However, in combination with their mild collectivism, you do not see assertive and competitive individual behaviors which we often associate with masculine culture. What you see is a severe competition between groups. From very young age at kindergartens, children learn to compete on sports day for their groups (traditionally red team against white team).

In corporate Japan, you see that employees are most motivated when they are fighting in a winning team against their competitors. What you also see as an expression of masculinity in Japan is the drive for excellence and perfection in their material production (monodukuri) and in material services (hotels and restaurants) and presentation (gift wrapping and food presentation) in every aspect of life. Notorious Japanese workaholism is another expression of their masculinity. It is still hard for women to climb up the corporate ladders in Japan with their masculine norm of hard and long working hours.

Uncertainty avoidance

The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the UAI score.

Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries on earth. This is often attributed to the fact that Japan is constantly threatened by natural disasters from earthquakes, tsunamis (this is a Japanese word used internationally), typhoons to volcano eruptions. Under these circumstances Japanese learned to prepare themselves for any uncertain situation. This goes not only for the emergency plan and precautions for sudden natural disasters but also for every other aspects of society. You could say that in Japan anything you do is prescribed for maximum predictability. From cradle to grave, life is highly ritualized and you have a lot of ceremonies. For example, there is opening and closing ceremonies of every school year which are conducted almost exactly the same way everywhere in Japan. At weddings, funerals and other important social events, what people wear and how people should behave are prescribed in great detail in etiquette books. School teachers and public servants are reluctant to do things without precedence. In corporate Japan, a lot of time and effort is put into feasibility studies and all the risk factors must be worked out before any project can start. Managers ask for all the detailed facts and figures before taking any decision. This high need for uncertainty avoidance is one of the reasons why changes are so difficult to realize in Japan.

Long term orientation

The long term orientation dimension is closely related to the teachings of Confucius and can be interpreted as dealing with society's search for virtue, the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view.

Japan is one of the long term oriented societies. Japanese see their life as a very short moment in a long history of mankind. From this perspective, some kind of fatalism is not strange to the Japanese. You do your best in your life time and that is all what you can do. Notion of the one and only almighty God is not familiar to Japanese. People live their lives guided by virtues and practical good examples. In corporate Japan, you see long term orientation in the constantly high rate of investment in R&D even in economically difficult times, higher own capital rate, priority to steady growth of market share rather than to a quarterly profit, and so on. They all serve the durability of the companies. The idea behind it is that the companies are not here to make money every quarter for the shareholders, but to serve the stake holders and society at large for many generations to come (e.g. Matsuhista).

Polychronic/ Monochronic

Monochronic time means doing one thing at a time. It assumes careful planning and scheduling and is a familiar Western approach that appears in disciplines such as time man-agement. Monochronic people tend also to be low context.

In polychronic cultures, human interaction is valued over time and material things, leading to a lesser concern for getting things done - they do get done, but more in their own time. Aboriginal and Native Americans have typical polychronic cultures, where talking stick meetings can go on for as long as somebody has something to say. Polychronic people tend also to be high context.

The Japanese in the official business side of their lives where people do not meet on a highly personalized basis, provide us an excellent example of tight monochronic time. But they are polychronic when looking and working inward, toward themselves.

High/low context

Japan is a high-context culture. A lot of things are left unsaid, but it's already understood by the members that constitute the group. As they say, a smart person learns 10 things, when he's been told 1 thing (a Chinese proverb.)

We can prove that Japanese culture is high-context if we reread the section `traditional Japanese wedding' and `nonverbal communication'. We can see a lot of special traditions, rituals in wedding section and wonderful gestures and specific behavior for foreigners in `nonverbal communication' section.

There are some characteristics of High Context culture, which we can notice in Japanese culture.

* Less verbally explicit communication, less written/formal information

* More internalized understandings of what is communicated

* Multiple cross-cutting ties and intersections with others

* Long term relationships

* Strong boundaries - who is accepted as belonging vs who is considered an outsider

* Knowledge is situational, relational.

* Decisions and activities focus around personal face-to-face relationships, often around a central person who has authority.

I hope that I'll visit Japan someday and sink into this wonderful, exceptional and unique culture!


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39. Europe's Aging Population Faces Social Problems Similar to Japan's. Goldsea Asian American Daily

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