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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Things that foreigners find annoying about life in Japan

The Japan Today article, Things that foreigners find annoying about life in Japan ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion has received a lot of comments which reflect Western, Anglophone attitude towards language. Westerners identify with their self narrative and the monologue they have with themselves, hence,
1) Loud noises (Nakashima, 1999), especially linguistic noises (announcements, "welcome" etc) are very difficult for Westerners to cope with since it disturbs their self speech, or"selfing" (McAdams, 2006). Japanese do not think in language (Kim, 2002).
2) Not giving reasons (, i.e. some words) for things, or doing or not doing things without a (linguistic) reason pisses Westerners off since they live by their reasons. God forbid that anyone should attempt to point out the obvious fact that something is done simply because a tradition because this does not give a reason for the merit of something, even though so many things (such as driving on the right) are justifiable only only the basis of tradition. Demanding reasons is also fundamentalism.
3) Non semantic utterances ("eee," "nnn" high pitched voices) and facial expressions (e.g. the boxes showing the faces on TV) upset Westerners who can't or don't want to read these communications because they want meaning to be in a linguistic form.
4) Lack of a certain linguistic focused attitude towards individual problem solving (aka "critical thinking"), group problem solving (i.e. debate see Nakashima, 1997), politics (speeches are politics), and wit (god forbid that anything but repartee be funny). 5) Lies, are of course beyond the Cretan pale. How could lies be good? It would be paradoxical!

Western annoyance with second hand smoke is also not independent of a different attitude towards language. Humans are aware of the harm of smoking from statistical, linguistic facts since the harm is largely unseen. On the other hand, smoking keeps people thin, and Japanese people reflect upon their lives visually judging their health by appearances, which is something that obese Westerners often fail to do.

Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/labs/kim/Site/Publicationsfiles/Kim2002.pdf
McAdams, D. P. (2006). The role of narrative in personality psychology today. Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 11–18. Retrieved from http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/docs/publications/1049432884490a09930cdc3.pdf
Nakashima, Y. 中島義道. (1997). 「対話」のない社会―思いやりと優しさが圧殺するもの [A society without dialogue: The things that sensitivity and kindness obliterate. my trans]. PHP研究所.
Nakashima, Y. 中島義道. (1999). うるさい日本の私[Urusai Nihon no Watashi, Loud Japanese that I am]. 新潮社.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.