Japan Japan! A mystery in many of our eyes.  The culture, behaviour, language, society, people – almost everything about Japan is so different for an outsider. Japan is a brilliant example to the world on how hard work really works. By sincerity and dedication, Japan has risen from an island bombed 60 years back to a nation that is a trend setter in many aspects of life. And all this has been achieved by humbleness and perseverance. I started learning Japanese an year ago and since then my interests on the Japanese culture and their ways of life has increased.

The Japanese society is very much a collaborative society where people tend to work together. Not many cultures have a natural inclination towards this idea. Western society tries to fuel individuality in everything people do right from they start school while the Japanese teach how to work as a group. The society is invariably woven with gadgets and technological advancements and it surprises me to see the past and their culture is preserved with care even when the world continues to shrink. The hi-tech environment breeds innovation and being ingenious is highly regarded in Japan. In the Japanese society,either you are successful or you don’t exist and goes very well with the saying ” There are two kinds of people in this world – the Performers and the Dead.”

The Japanese tend to have a very strong non-western mindset of being unique and think being unique is not as attractive as being successful and one doesn’t need to be unique to be successful. They value tradition to a great extent – though their tradition continues to decline like anywhere else in this world – the rate is much slower. The structure of all the companies in Japan have a very strict hierarchy and have unimaginable number of levels and grades. It is generally the age and experience that would dictate promotions and it is quite a rare scene to have a young boss in Japanese companies.

On the Work front, Japanese are extremely sincere and hard working. They easily work 12-14 hours a day without complaining on being overworked. Overtime is so popular that the Japanese government had to decide on passing a law to restrict overtimes and over working. The other striking feature in the Japanese work culture is their loyalty. Almost all of the Japanese i met have been working for the same company all through their lives. They don’t seem to understand the reason behind changing jobs – which actually made lot of sense to me. When the employer and the employee see themselves more than what they are, they tend to give more to each other. The employees tend to work harder to make more money for the employers and the employers pays them better. This is what everyone wants – but then i wonder why our society lost this whole idea? We are definitely more opportunistic , but does that do any good?

The day to day life of the Japanese are defined by a number of distinct events and features that are alien to the rest of the world. Japanese enjoy their hot bath houses. There are a few natural hot bath springs and many man made ones in Japan. They have their host of festivals where they get together and socialise. The Japanese festivals are spread throughout the year – like the summer holidays, new year week and the Golden Week(during April – May). These holidays and festivals are quite important in Japan as all the companies close and let their workers rest for a week. The Japanese are a very friendly lot when compared to many other cultures and carry less hatred on others. Right from school they are trained to adjust and accommodate themselves for the sake of a group and to make others in the group comfortable and that makes them very approachable.

Japan being an island that lies on 3 tectonic plates that keep moving is very much prone to earthquakes. To handle an unfortunate event all major constructions are rugged in design to handle quakes of sometimes up 13 in Richter scale. But the Japanese houses are different though. They are build with paper and pulp and last for around 20 years or so – after which the house is torn and then rebuilt.

On the business front, Japanese are very successful and try and churn out cutting edge products year after year. The Mobile phone network in Japan is completely 3G enabled with 3.9G networks being tested. (This is when most of the developing countries are caught up with a 2G network). The products made there target more on user friendliness and functionality and less on marketing them. They believe that a good product always markets itself (to a reasonable extent)

The Japanese culture is to take orders from their seniors and elders and obey them. Everyone has very high self-respect in the Japanese society and that aspect lets people respect others and at the same time they expect to be respected by others. They find happiness in pleasing others and so be aware of what you say about the things you like – you might see that presented to you before you realise. Overall, I should say that the Japanese are like a huge group of friends – they help each other a lot. But for an outsider to be recognised as a friend, one needs to have patience – a lot of it!

Looking at the history of Japan, it makes me wonder how did they grow to be one of the G8 countries? How do they motivate and sustain themselves to be the leader in so many fields? How do they excel in the things they do? Is it pure hard work? Is it team collaboration? Is it perseverance?  Is it the focus? Is it the culture? Is it the pressure to succeed? Or is it the vision to be successful?

The answer, however, seems to be ‘all of them’.

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One Response to “Japanese Culture – What can we learn from them?”

  1. Good one!!

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