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Japan Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

Whenever a conductor is to proceed from a wagon on the Shinkansen's express train, he usually turns around and bends towards the passengers, and then continues the lap around and goes to the next wagon. There will be many bends during a couple of hours of train travel. This little pirate unites two deeply rooted customs that in the eyes of the outside world strongly characterize the Japanese: courtesy and bowing. Train travel also confirms the picture of the importance of punctuality in Japan. Bowing at the right angle to the right person and health with due respect for each other's position in the hierarchies is still fundamental to Japanese. The courtesy as well. These features are world famous, and most striking for visitors to the country.

Shaking hands does not belong to the tradition, but Japanese who are used to foreigners usually use both bow and hand health to facilitate the meeting with the guest. The exact behavior is not so crucial when foreigners meet Japanese, the main thing is that you show normal courtesy and respect. More important is to introduce yourself directly with the help of a business card that explains who you are and what position you have, preferably with Japanese text on the back. Then a brief art break is followed when both sides read through the cards and nod their understanding before the conversation continues.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Japan, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

It is extra polite to hold the business card with two hands when handing over, but in essence, the procedures are not so crucial only if you arrive on time and show kindness, interest and attention. Yet the social codes are so complex that strangers are not expected to understand them.

It is widely known that the formal rules, often unwritten, are of great importance in Japan. Being aware is also important to take into account the group and the positions different people have within it. Decision-making processes in Japanese organizations include many people involved and can be lengthy, but on the other hand, decisions can be firmly rooted. For a foreigner, it can sometimes seem difficult to understand who within the Japanese group has the most to say about business or consultation, but often the boss is the one in the middle and goes out the door first.

Culture and Traditions of JapanA common advice is to approach a Japanese contact through an intermediary, so that you start the connections at the right level.

One pervasive feature to observe is that Japanese society is largely characterized by a general pursuit of risk minimization and the avoidance of open conflicts in business, working life and relationships.

A series of rewrites have also been developed to express a no without directly saying it - for example "maybe" or "I should think about it".

The Japanese group community consists of many groups, says Ambassador Lars Vargö in a summary of his many years as a diplomat and a Japanese expert.

“You have to belong to a group to be accepted, but most groups are small. If they become too large, they are divided into fractions. This applies to politics as well as literature, art and sport. Being completely alone as an individual is usually difficult, there is always group pressure that comes from somewhere, but that the whole community would belong to one and the same group is an illusion.

The groups relate to each other through strictly regulated social patterns. To unnecessarily make sure someone loses face is a declaration of war and a gross violation of the unwritten rules. Likewise, it is looked down on the person who is outwardly disloyal towards his own organization. Conflicts must be kept internally and if they become unsustainable, it is more common for organizations to split up and new ones to be formed than for the criticism to be raised publicly.

So writes Lars Vargö, who also points out that social discipline has its price. But the rules are not always followed, he adds.

“People follow rules, but the rules are so many and sometimes so unnecessary that they are sometimes forced to break them. Not as a form of civil disobedience, more because everyone else does. "

The strength of group behavior can also be attested by those who have met Japanese tourists or seen the work teams in an efficient Japanese factory. It is also noticeable on all groups of officials who can be seen sitting in taverns in central Tokyo with their manager. After many hours in office hours, continuing to interact with colleagues and managers in the evenings has long been a mandatory custom among Japan's salaried employees.

However, his existence as a "salaryman" or "office lady" (easily playful names that were minted early on by the country's officials) is, however, more varied than a few decades ago. Sure, they still tend to be properly dressed in costume or costume, but values ​​change, younger people have new customs, some work in new companies with less strict codes, and more and more work in temporary jobs or part-time. "Lifetime appointments" are not as common as during the first fifty years of the postwar period. Nowadays, only about 60 percent of all jobs are permanent full-time employment.

There are more contrasts. The longing for tranquility, beauty and harmony has been portrayed in Japanese visual art in countless works. This ancient endeavor is still reflected in many ways today - for example, by planting beautiful gardens, arranging flowers, cutting bonsai trees, painting bowls, turning pots, writing calligraphy, participating in tea ceremonies, practicing shinto rites, participating in zen meditation or just sinking. down into a steaming hot bath.

All of this contrasts with the outbursts of vitality, hard work, disharmony, brutal over-indulgence and sudden aggressiveness that can also manifest in Japan. It also contrasts with all the insensitive built infrastructure, all the noise and ugliness that often dominates Japanese cityscapes.

However, the whole is an extremely well-organized and well-functioning society, where the trains run every second and the standard is very high.

At the same time, some patterns are changing, albeit slowly. Criticism of the power of the hierarchies, the corruption and the demands of loyalty to one's own organization have been around for a long time, but were renewed by the many mistakes made in connection with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

The tsunami disaster also showed the good sides of social discipline. No looting broke out, people waited patiently in queues, everyone helped each other to the best of their ability and many stoically mastered their grief. The strength of civil society in this difficult situation aroused admiration in the outside world.

Still, life habits change over time, at least in some circles. Quite a few young people cultivate alternative lifestyles, with, for example, colored hair and excessive schoolgirl attire as signals of something aberrant.

Already in the 1980s, a new generation (shinjinrui) was considered, who were considered to have different views than Japanese born before 1955. The younger ones were, according to the descriptions, more individualistic, took wealth of course, emphasized personal feelings and made decisions based on liking taste. The elderly saw work as a virtue and they valued homogeneity as well as principled decision makers.

In practice, however, this generation's changing patterns have not fully reflected; as they get older they have often mixed old and new beliefs. But many are still less burdened by old customs and customs, and there is a modern Japan with food, computer games, cartoons and manga that has attracted great interest among many younger people in the outside world.

Other designs are fairly unchanged. In working life, strenuous wear and short holidays still apply, although Japan also has many holidays. All work may not be as effective, especially in some office bureaucracies, but working hours are long.

The many duties make leisure, socializing and relaxation all the more important. Japan has its famous and distinctive sports such as sumo wrestling and various martial arts. However, the greatest popularity is baseball, followed by football and golf.

Popular games, for example, are pachinko (a kind of pinball that plays in vending machines with a deafening sound level), mahjong, Japanese card games and shogi (a kind of chess where you can use the pieces you have taken from your opponent).

Food culture is of course also very important for well-being. The role of rice is central, as is soy and all varieties of raw or heated fish. Several specialties are nowadays almost everyday foods in the world, especially sushi but also hot dishes such as yakitori, tempura and sukiyaki. Many Japanese people like to eat at eateries with steaming hot dishes in broth.

Among the drinks is a given role for sake (a rice wine brewed as beer), but since the end of the 19th century when Germans and other Westerners participated in the industrialization of Japan, a lot of beer and whiskey, made in the country, is also drank.

In all these patterns, there is always an underlying knowledge that natural disasters can occur at any time. Life can suddenly be thrown over the edge by volcanic forces or the movements of the earth's plates.

The slippers that are ready under the bed to turn so that they can easily be put on when the quake comes so that you do not cut your feet on broken glass is a small example of that. The backpack with supplies that are constantly ready when you need to escape from a shaking home is another.

Nature is dramatic in Japan. The knowledge that everything can be destroyed is always in the background, although most people usually live their daily lives without acute worry. There is also extensive preparedness in the community to deal with earthquakes, although the organization has shown shortcomings in the large earthquakes in Kobe in 1995 and Fukushima in 2011. Newer buildings have also proven to withstand earthquakes much better than many old houses.

The habit of relying on the collective and organization was also noticed in the disaster in 2011. The group discipline both saved and cost lives. After the tsunami, stories about how teachers, according to the instructions, gathered classes outside the school buildings but hesitated to take the children away and therefore did not escape when the giant wave came. But in a number of other cases, this discipline saved many people's lives.

Thus, there is constantly a practical and psychological disaster preparedness under the surface of Japanese society.

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