When you want to discover a new culture, totally different than yours, there are 3 rules you need to respect:
- Read their fairy tales
- Indulge into their own gastronomy
- Discover their lands – travel
Now, I have read all the Japanese fairy tales, I’ve eaten so much Ramen, which I absolutely adore, but I’ve never set a foot in. Hope, one day, I’ll get to my third rule, as well. I’ll keep you posted, I promise.
Japanese are people that migrated from mainland Asia, while the sea separating Japan from China and Korean Peninsula, was only partially formed. First inhabitants of ancient Japan were left to settle the islands (6.852 to be more precise) – the dominant strain is N Asian or Mongolic, with some Malay and Indonesian admixture.
The vast majority of the population live on the crowded coastal plains of the main island of Honshū. One of the earliest groups, the Ainu, who still persist to some extent in Hokkaido, are physically somewhat similar to Caucasians.
The most known poetry is Haiku, consisting only of 17 syllabes. Here are some:
(Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu)
Literally: If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.
Meaning: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. / You can’t do anything without risking something.
Literally: Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon
Meaning: Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.
(Mon zen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu)
iterally: An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.
Meaning: The environment makes our characters.
(Shiranu ga hotoke)
Literally: Not knowing is Buddha.
Meaning: Ignorance is bliss. / It’s better to not know the truth.
Some Key concepts and values of the Japanese culture:
- Wa – The most valued principle still alive in Japanese society today is the concept of ‘wa’, or ‘harmony’.
In business terms, ‘wa’ is reflected in the avoidance of self-assertion and individualism and the preservation of good relationships despite differences in opinion
- Kao – One of the fundamental factors of the Japanese social system is the notion of ‘face’. Face is a mark of personal pride and forms the basis of an individual’s reputation and social status.
In Japan, causing someone to lose face can be disastrous for business relationships.
- Omoiyari – Closely linked to the concepts of ‘wa’ and ‘kao’, ‘omoiyari’ relates to the sense of empathy and loyalty encouraged in Japanese society and practiced in Japanese business culture.
Japanese national culture is characterized by
- moderate power-distance
- moderate individualism
- very high masculinity
- very high uncertainty avoidance
- high long term orientation.
- high tendency of cynicism and pessimism
Doing Business in Japan
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan swiftly embraced the numerous influences of western technology.
Following the country’s defeat in WWII, Japan experienced a remarkable growth in its economy and fast became the world’s most successful exporter. Since then, Japan’s business and economy has witnessed a wavering of strengths.
Japan is one of the world’s leading industrial powers with a new, stable and exciting business market open to foreign investment and trade.
- When a person travels to Japan for business purposes, one should be prepared to change the way he or she communicates.
- Business cards are called meishi and are to be honored and shown as a sign of respect.
- The receiver of a business card would respect the card and place it in a special card holder.
- It is considered rude to place a business card in your pocket after receiving it.
- In Japan, managers control the meetings and whatever decisions are made by the manager stands and is not questioned.
Japan has a traditionally flex-humble culture. Individuals in Japan attribute success to external factors and failure to internal factors. Recent trends suggest that Japan is remaining true to their flex-humility traits. At least a few big firms, Sony and Nissan, have hired outside leaders as they were facing severe competition from abroad. These leaders have had to battle with corporate culture to formulate their turnaround strategies.
But, to get to know what Japan really means, feel free to discover my presentation for my Intercultural Management class for my MBA in Paris. Doing this presentation, I’ve become more determined to travel to Japan. Hope it will do the same for you.