Japanese tradition and values
Most of the people of Japan are descendants of immigrants from the Asian mainland in around 300AD. A small group of the indigenous population (the Ainus) remain - mainly on Hokkaido. Much of the culture of Japan has been adapted from that of China, although it has also been greatly influenced by Western countries over the past century.
Japanese SocietyJapanese society is extremely homogeneous with non-Japanese people (mainly Chinese and Koreans) accounting for only around one percent of the population. Other ethnic groups represented are from the Philippines and Brazilians of Japanese decent make up 5-10% of the population in some industrial towns. The family is the basic unit of society and respect for the elders is of great importance. The group is regarded as more important than the individual, and social hierarchy is more strictly observed than in the West, with respect and deference shown to older and more senior people. Education is extremely highly valued in Japanese society, and academic achievement is held in great esteem. The importance of hard work and perseverance is instilled into Japanese children from an early age and this remains a fundamental belief throughout adulthood. The concept of "face" pays a part in relationships. Much of the behaviour adopted by the Japanese is based on making sure that no one loses face. The Japanese tend to be more formal and polite and less physical and personal in their everyday dealing than "westerners". To avoid losing face the Japanese rarely say "no" directly, nor ask a direct question or give a direct order. Equally, "yes" may not always mean they agree.
Customs and TraditionsJapanese youth are increasingly westernised, however the older generation may still adhere to cultural traditions. Here are some general cultural norms:
- The traditional form of greeting is the bow, although foreigners are expected to shake hands
- It can be seen as impolite to introduce yourself, if possible wait to be introduced
- It is considered respectful to add the suffix "san" to someone's name, and especially respectful to add "sama"
- Remove shoes before entering a home in Japan and put on the slippers left at the doorway
- Non-verbal communication is very important and complex. Be aware of your facial expression, tone of voice and posture when talking
- The oldest person in a group is always revered and honoured. In a social situation, they are served first and their drinks are poured for them
- There is no tipping, in any context, in Japan. It can be considered insulting
- Sterilised masks are often worn in public to avoid spreading infections