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Cultural Identity

pierre

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Hello everyone,

As part of my studies I have been looking at identity particularly as it relates to Japan and the nation's identity. There are two different ways to look at identity--both perceived and actual. As someone who has never been to Japan, I have a sense of what I believe to be Japan's identity. This perception is influenced by how much access I have to Japan's culture from Canada and my own identity.

Let's get to the point of this thread--for those of you who have/are living in Japan, what cultural aspects do you think represent Japan the best? And if you've never been to Japan, how do you think your own culture represents Japan the best?

From a Canadian perspective:

Japan is animé.
Japan is chopsticks.
Japan is tradition.
Japan is conformity.
Japan is high technology.
Japan is green tea.
Japan is rice.
Japan is pokemon.
Japan is spiritual.
Japan is sexually deviant.
Japan is culturally rich.

So from a Japanese or non-Japanese perspective, what is Japan?
 

yukio_michael

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I don't think there are any cultural elements that make it out of Japan besides raw popular culture.
 

pierre

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You both have a good point. Any culture in the world will be misrepresented by another culture. The simple fact that you live far away from a country and cannot experience it firsthand means that all of your information will be skewed. I'm just curious about the differences between how Japan is perceived by the world and how it actually is. For example, from the point of view of a North American with no other resources, Japan is obsessed with animation and manga. Dig a little, and you'll find out this is only true MOST of the time. ;)

What are the cultural elements that run through Japan's veins that most of the world doesn't see?
 

Tollen

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lol in the uk;
japan is underpublicised ^_^
the animie market is approx 2000 times smaller thaan north america's and there's basically NO japanese music overhere lol
the only information that isnt online is amazingly outdated 80's styley lol

so i guess i dont really have a viewof what japan is aside from mysterious/fascinating ^_^
 

infinito2345

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I think japanese are heavily misunderstood people

I agree the "high technology" was the yardstick with which i always use to measure japan ..but i think that most people form opinions about japan after seeing a few japanese movies or some anime.Unfortunately i think the only persons who can completely understand japanese culture are persons who have truly resided there and experienced the culture first hand.

i think the same applies to chinese and south korean cultures.
 

Mike Cash

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nice gaijin said:
Japan is misunderstood.

And a damned good thing it is, too. Otherwise nobody would ever come here.
 

anjusan

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pierre said:
From a Canadian perspective:
Japan is animé.
Japan is chopsticks.
Japan is tradition.
Japan is conformity.
Japan is high technology.
Japan is green tea.
Japan is rice.
Japan is pokemon.
Japan is spiritual.
Japan is sexually deviant.
Japan is culturally rich.
So from a Japanese or non-Japanese perspective, what is Japan?

From my viewpoint (US) you leftout the cleanliness stereotype and the automotive industry...
 

gaijinalways

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Hmm, how about

group minded conformity, unimaginative, expensive, brand conscious, obsessed with a kind of immature cuteness, has great technology, xenophobic
 

Nuala

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I've read about Japan being very xenophobic. Gaijin get questioned alot more then a japanese citizen would. The whole chibi/kawaii factor in Japan is really getting old in my books too. Like in North America, they are also brand conscious. I like the way gaijinalways described his opinion on cultural identity. There is group comformity to the point where it gets very disgusting. If one person does something unfavorable, or odd then he is going to be ridiculed. Like in the thread Maciamo posted a few months ago. They think their language, and culture are so unique, it'll be hard for a foreigner to understand. Those are all the things about Japan that turn me off. I have really started to question my interest in the country. Many of things that annoy me in the US are amplified in Japan. Why would I want to live somewhere where people are going to treat me like a twelve year old child?

I like the culture, food, history, and exported goods that Japan brings to the US(Like anime, or manga). That's really about it. I'd rather live somewhere like Sweden, France, or Germany.
 

gaijinalways

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I apologize as I forgot some of the more favorable thoughts I had due to hayfever mixed with jetlag.

On time trains, relative safety regardless of the hour on the streets, generally high health standards in restaurants, slim looking women (well, most of the men too, but I notice them less:p ) wide variety of food, most of it not spicy, cold housing (I mean the temperature), high labor costs (that's all for now)
 

anjusan

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Thor said:
I have really started to question my interest in the country. Many of things that annoy me in the US are amplified in Japan. Why would I want to live somewhere where people are going to treat me like a twelve year old child?
I like the culture, food, history, and exported goods that Japan brings to the US(Like anime, or manga). That's really about it. I'd rather live somewhere like Sweden, France, or Germany.
Thor, if you've never been to Japan you cannot know... I suggest a short 'tourist' visit to any country you are thinking about moving to. Personally, I like to make-up my own mind about things. I have found that what I am told actually differs (positive and negative) from what actually is. Sometimes people rant to get things off their chest not realizing how deeply others are affected by this. Japan like anywhere has postive and negative things going for it, but I think it is up to the individual to decide what those things are. You might enjoy a situation I would find uncomfortable and visa versa. ☝ Sorry if I sound like a schoolmarm there...

Darn those sneeky typos...:eek:
 

yukio_michael

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Thor said:
I've read about Japan being very xenophobic.
I think perhaps the institution of government is quite so--- I hope with the challenges of labour that this changes in the next ten years--- I've had good experiences in Japan, (mostly), others I've known found many Japanese to be elitest and rude--- its a generalization though...

Thor said:
Gaijin get questioned alot more then a japanese citizen would.
Maybe, but this is hearsay nonetheless...

Thor said:
The whole chibi/kawaii factor in Japan is really getting old in my books too.
I have bigger problem with the emphasis of 'cute' over 'beauty'...

Thor said:
Like in North America, they are also brand conscious.
Actually, Id be hard pressed to find stronger brand conciousness than exists in Japan--- North America pales in comparison to the rampant manufacture of desire that exists in Japan....

Thor said:
There is group comformity to the point where it gets very disgusting.
The fact that they are forcing deaf and mentally handicapped children in school to sing Kimigayo is pretty good proof of this... But it exists even in the counter culture--- The counter culture is just a big conformity to whatever is in the style guides. I've found Japan knows what cool and not cool is, but not what overkill is....

....That said....

I really don't think you should base your opinion on Japan based on what people write on the internet--- you can I think get a good idea... Just because one person didn't have any difficulties, doens't mean the ten other people who did rae invalidated.

Furthermore, visiting the country, which I recomend, is not going to open your eyes as to exactly what Japan is--- I don't even know myself after 6 months there... I do know that despite its troubles, I love it enough to return and I find the language beautiful in its levels of meaning worth the time and effort to continue learning...

You're not going to get a "Lost in Translation" epiffany at the end of a week---- That's just a movie--- It does mean that yes, in Japan, things are strange and different to us--- but neither is Japan ever all that we expect it or want it to be, and to that point, I think when we find that Japan is not exactly the cultural idea we think it should be, as outsiders it disapoints us needelssly so.

Japan is a fascinating place, and an amazing language and culture, even a modern culture--- sometimes people can be rude, mostly not, deal, you cant go through life negating something before you've even experienced it.

I hope that you do.

ps.editing jumbles all your text together lately (not just lately but for a while---) if there are any typos left in there, cest la vie...
 
M

~Mugen~

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Here in Australia, there is nothing on the news about Japan. Just occasional shows on japan. To someone who has no interest in japan and doesn't know it well would see Japan as anime and manga.
For me, Japan, is Japan:)
Iv never written japan so many times in one post:p
 

Davey

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~Mugen~ said:
Iv never written japan so many times in one post:p

It's only your 5th post, no worries you will write Japan heaps more in here!🙂
 

pierre

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Forming an opinion on a culture based purely one second-hand information is called what, kids? For a lot of Japanophiles I think it is the fact that Japan seems so different from the rest of Western society that keeps their interest.

If you're looking at what kinds of things get translated over to other countries from Japan, it is easy to see how stereotypes can be formed. I can't help but have an opinion of what I think Japan must be like, but I won't go around claiming that opinion to be true of Japan. Everyone's experience in a new culture will be different.

Anjusan makes a good point that applies to any culture that you're not familiar with. You're never going to begin to understand it unless you live there and try to experience the culture directly. I've never been to Japan myself, but I respect the fact that I could live there for the rest of my life and not quite understand the culture and people completely.
 
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