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