General Concepts

Japanese culture is made up of many layers, which are old and new, foreign and native. The interest the Japanese people have for other cultures and the historic process of integration, as Japanese welcomed foreign cultural elements without throwing away tradition customs, adds to the multi-layer of the Japanese culture.

In addition, the Japanese culture is basically uniform throughout the country. Great importance has traditionally been placed on the group rather than on the individual, and this custom accounts for much of Japanese society’s homogeny. It is a very high collectivist culture and this value has been integral to the identity of being Japanese. The Japanese collectivist culture encourages people to put the interest of the group above their own and maintain strong ties and obligations to group members. Take for example the Japanese workplace. The workplace widens the circle of social relationship for the Japanese and once hired an employee rarely leaves the workplace even if he/ she is given the opportunity to leave. The Japanese employee identifies himself as a member of his work group. When a work group has reached its goals, no individual member is singled-out for his achievements, rather the whole group is recognized and rewarded.

The Japanese are also more risk adverse and future oriented. Risk adverse, meaning their culture is uncomfortable in unstructured situations, avoids uncertain situations and adheres to strict laws and procedures. Future oriented, meaning their culture believes it is important to trade off short-term gains in the present for long-term benefits in the future, will more likely invest and save for the future.

In addition, the Japanese have been very skilled at making distant elements their own to create something that is uniquely Japanese. Their culture is extremely practical, emphasizing specific circumstances more than universal truths.