Japan Home

On this page, one can find an overview of Japanese culture, which includes:

Worldview           Typologies          History

Worldview

A culture's worldview is an essential tool in understanding that culture.  Worldview affects our perceptions, values, and beliefs.  Religion, traditions, and typologies also influence a persons worldview.

Here are a few interesting looks into Japanese beliefs: 

·        Their culture pays close attention to detail and uses fate as a guiding force in life.

·        They value politeness, especially in unspoken greetings; for example, they bow formally in silence instead of shaking hands.  More on bowing

·        This culture values the elderly as an essential part of society and as a source of wisdom and knowledge. 

·        Japanese characteristics for credibility are valued as gravely important.  These characteristics include social status, silence, sympathy, prudence, flexibility, and humility. 

·        Those who talk a lot are not considered credible in Japanese culture. 

·        The Japanese people are beginning to see western influences and capitalism move into their culture every day, especially among their teenage generation.

 

Although the Japanese culture is slowly becoming more westernized, they have many typologies specific to Japanese culture.  The following information has been summarized from Communication Between Cultures by Samovar and Porter.

Typologies

·        They are a collectivist culture because they do not live life for individual advancement, although they are not completely group oriented either.  They fall into the middle of the statistics. 

·        This culture has a rather low uncertainty avoidance. This means that they are not very comfortable with new ideas, changes, or technologies.  Because of this knowledge, it is not surprising that they find written rules, regulations, rituals, and ceremonies to be a principal part of life in order to add structure to their lives. 

·        The Japanese are ranked in the middle on the power distance continuum.  Power distance deals with the members of a culture and their relationship to power.  Countries who rely on hierarchies are considered to have a high power distance while countries who share equal responsibilities and an equal amount of power have a low power distance.  Japan is a low power distance culture who believe that inequality should be minimized.

·        The Japanese are a masculine culture, meaning that masculine or “dominant” traits are valued in society rather than feminine or “nurturing” societal traits.  They are ranked number 1 for masculinity among other dominant cultures.  This trait can be seen directly through the political system where women hold only 5% of political offices. 

·        Japanese believe that human nature is inherently good.   

·        The Japanese people are a past-oriented culture, which can be partially accredited to their Shinto beliefs.  They also place high importance on interpersonal harmony. 

·        They are a high context culture signified by their beliefs on age, sex, stature, education, titles, backgrounds, and affiliations. 

History

      Japanese worldview and typologies have been influenced by their historical background, such as wars, leaders, religion, and natural disasters.  The history of Japan is very long and complex.  It is categorized into several historical periods.  The information summarized here comes from David Turkington's "Chronology of Japanese History," at http://home.owc.net/~dturk/japanhistory/japanhistory.html as well as from Schawecker's "Guide to Japan," at http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2126.html 

Jomon period = ancient times - 300 B.C.

  • Early Japanese were gatherers, hunters and fishers.

Yayoi period = 300 B.C. - 250

  • Rice is introduced to Japanese.  Because of rice introduction to their culture, a social hierarchy is developed.

  • Hundreds of small countries start to unify into larger countries.

Yamato period = 300 - 550 

  • 300 - Japan is for the first time unified.

  • 270-310 - Large groups migrate form western Kyushu to go Northeast and settle Yamato plain.  Also, the "imperial" uji (tribes/clans) take over other uji with through military usage.

  • 391 - Chinese writing system is given to the Japanese from the King of Paekche for sparing his people during a Japanese dispute with (present-day) Korea.

  • 532 - Korea takes their land back.

Asuka period = 550 - 710

  • 552 - King of Paekche introduces Buddhism to Japan.

  • 604 - Prince Shotoku's Constitution of 17 Articles is promulgated.  (moral and political principles)

  • 645 - Taika reform is introduced.  The Fujiwara era begins.

  • 652 - First land distribution is created.

  • 671 - Civil war between the members of Emperor Tenchi's family.  (aka Jinshin disturbance)

  • 682 - Imperial Edict issued.  (tells how they selected men for political offices)

  • 685 - Order issued that tells all official houses must contain small Buddhist shrines.

  • 701 - Possession of weapons by private persons is prohibited.

  • 708 - Construction of capital city, Nara, begins.

Nara period = 710 - 794

  • 710 - Nara becomes the first permanent capital city.

  • 712 - Kojiki scrolls are completed.  (three different mythological and genealogical records)

  • 718 - Taiho Code is completed which adjusts legislation codes.

  • 720 - 30 Nihonshoki scrolls completed.  (adjust laws and legislations)

  • 736 - Kegon sect of Buddhism is introduced from China.

  • 738 - Todaiji is founded and serves as the family temple for the imperial family.

  • 741 - Government builds one temple and one nunnery in each province.

  • 760 - Manyoshu is completed; it is a compilation of 4000 poems the early times.

  • 766 - Emperor Shotuku installs Confucian foundations on the state.

  • 774 - Famine and a pox epidemic spread throughout the country.

  • 784 - Capital moves to Nagaoka.

  • 793 - Construction of a new capital city, Heian, (Kyoto) is started.

Heian period = 794 - 1185

  • 794 - Capital moves to Heian (Kyoto).

  • 1016 - Fujiwara Michinaga becomes regent.

  • 1159 - Taira clan takes over after Heiji war under the rule of Taira Kiyomori.

  • 1175 - Jodo sect of Buddhism begins.  

  • 1180-85 - Minamoto clan ends to Taira clan during Gempei war.

Kamakura period = 1185 - 1333

  • 1191 - Zen sect of Buddhism starts.

  • 1192 - Minamoto Yoritomo becomes shogun and begins Kamakura government.

  • 1221 - Struggle between Kamakura and Kyoto end due to the Jokyu Disturbance.  This also ends the reign of Hojo regents in Kamakura.

  • 1232 - Joei Shikimoku, a legal code is founded.

  • 1274 and 1281 - Mongols try to invade Japanese ground two times, but tries do not work due to weather problems.

  • 1333 - Kamakura bakufu falls.

Muromachi period = 1338 - 1573

  • 1334 - Kemmu restoration:  emperor is restored to Japan.

  • 1336 - Ashikaga Takauji captures Kyoto.

  • 1337 - Emperor leaves area and establishes himself in Yoshino.

  • 1338 - Takauji starts Muromachi government and becomes the second emperor in Kyoto.

  • 1392 - Southern and Northern courts unite.

  • 1467-1477 - Onin war.

  • 1542 - Portuguese introduce firearms and christianity to the Japanese.

  • 1568 - Nobunaga comes to Kyoto.

  • 1573 - Muromachi Bakufu falls.

Azuchi Momoyama period = 1573 - 1603

  • 1575 - Takeda clan gets defeated in the during Nagashino battle.

  • 1582 - Nobunaga is murdered.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi takes over.

  • 1588 - During "Sword Hunt," Hideyoshi confiscates all weapons from farmers and religious institutions.

  • 1590 - Japan reunites at end of Odawara (Hoji) reign.

  • 1592-98 - Japan unsuccessfully tries to invade Korea.

  • 1598 - Hideyoshi dies.

  • 1600 - Tokugawa Ieyasu beats his rivals during the battle of Sekigahara.

Edo period = 1603 - 1867

  • 1603 - Ieyasu becomes shogun and begins Tokugawa government in Edo (Tokyo).

  • 1614 - Ieyasu persecutes christians.

  • 1615 - Toyotomi clan ends after Ieyasu takes over Osaka castle.

  • 1639 - Much isolation in Japan.

  • 1688-1703 - Genroku era begins.  Popular culture starts to establish itself.

  • 1792 - Russians try without success to start trading with Japan.

  • 1854 - Commodore Matthew Perry makes Japanese goverment open some of its trade ports.

Meiji period = 1868 - 1912

  • 1868 - Meiji restoration.

  • 1872 - Japanese build first railway line between Tokyo and Yokohama.

  • 1889 - Meiji constitution begins.

  • 1894-95 - Sino-Japanese war.

  • 1904-05 - Russo-Japanese war.

  • 1910 - Korea is annexed.

  • 1912 - Emperor Meiji dies.

Taisho period = 1912 - 1926

  • 1914-18 - Japan joins allied forces during World War I.

  • 1923 - Great Kanto Earthquake destroys Tokyo and Yokohama.

Showa period = 1926 - 1989

  • 1931 - Manchurian incident.

  • 1937 - 2nd Sino-Japanese War begins.

  • 1941 - Pacific War begins.

  • 1945 - Japanese troops surrender after 2 atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • 1946 - A new constitution is established.

  • 1952 - Allied forces end occupation of Japan.

  • 1956 - Japan joins UN.

  • 1972 - Normalization of Chinese relations.

  • 1973 - Oil crisis hit Japan.

Heisei period = 1989 - present

  • 1993 - LDP loses its majority in the National diet.

  • 1995 - Great Hanshin Earthquake destroys Kobe.  

 


Bibliography & Other Resources

Project Team


E-mail questions or comments to mkfinney@depauw.edu
  January 26, 2001