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Japan: Tradition and Culture

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Trista Britton


        Japan is a very complex culture that derives from ancient civilizations and practices, with continuous learning and progressions being intertwined into everyday life.  The Japanese can be seen as very traditional about customs they follow, yet their main cultural propositions are centered around a holistic nature.  When we think about languages from other countries, it can be scary or intimidating, but we must understand that language is just one piece that connects people to their culture.

        A big part of the Japanese culture is the two main religions you can find in Japan: Shinto and Buddhism. (Bettis & Porcaro) Shinto originated from more ancient times while Buddhism was brought over from China.  The Japanese are very precise on their religious practices, but it doesn’t seem to crossover, or interfere, with everyday life like you might see in the United States with Christianity.  Both practices in Japan, however, seem to ingulf the universal connectedness we see amongst the Asian-centric themes and customs; meditation, listening, cohesiveness, and selflessness.  (Samovar)

        When we mention language, we usually think of it as a specific set of words.  The language in Japan is primarily Japanese, but just with any country there are different dialects, immergence of multilingual people, and obvious pronunciation differences between areas of the country (think of a Southern US accent vs. a New England accent). Language, however, is not just a set of words in Japan.  Language and communication in Japan relies heavily, if not more, on non-verbal cues. There is most definitely an ‘unspoken etiquette’ one might encounter when travelling to Japan if you are not familiar with it.  There is a sense of politeness and courtesy that is practiced by everyone you come across.  This is just a small example of the Asian-centric propositions we came across earlier in our studies.  (Samovar)

        There is so much cultural dissection we must have as Americans to really be able to communicate with the Japanese people.  There is such a language barrier due primarily to the intensive culture-language relation the Japanese possess.  Referring to the sense of politeness that is followed in Japan, there is a distinct difference between levels of politeness and formality ranging from age to social status. (Japan) Although we see that practice in the United States, too, this practice has remained firm over time.  Unlike some of the crude and blunt conversations you might have with an American, the Japanese follow a level of harmony and cohesiveness in their everyday communication.  You might say there is a sense of avoidance, or indirect speech, when is comes to arguments or confrontation.  Yet, following the theme of non-verbal cues, a Japanese person might say they still get the same content from the conversation despite unclear messages. (Samovar)

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