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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, November 13, 2012


The Japanese Today

The Japanese Today by timtak
The Japanese Today, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The above may look like a bun, but in fact it is a bean bread bun, containing sweet bean paste.

There is considerable research to suggest that many East Asians, at least from Hong Kong (e.g. Morris and Peng, 1994 or Norasakkunkit and Uchida, 2011a for a review on Japan) are bi-cultural in that they retain Asian culture while having been influenced by Western culture.

To my mind the Westernisation of the Japanese remains fairly superficial, in that while Japanese, especially young Japanese, now have bleached hair, double eyelids and avow Western values, such as autonomy and choice, they are "eggs", or my neoligism bean-bread-men: white on the outside but still thoroughly Japanese underneath.

An "egg," is a "racial slur" referring to a while male that has Japanised his heart partly in order to date Japanese women. In that sense I am attempting to be an egg. I am definitely white on the outside. I am not sure if I have succeeded 'yellowing' my heart.

The bean bread is made of an outsider layer of bread (often associated with Western society) coating a heart of sweet brown bean paste - a Japanese delicacy that is rather alien, not to say disgusting, to many Westerners. I love it. Like the egg, it is white on the outside, but the centre is the meaning, the truth, and raison d'etre of the brean bread bun.

I think to an extent many Japanese have become superficially Westernised, like bean bread buns. I do not see this as being a slur. The ability to incorporate, innovate, and create a hybrid - such as the bean bread bun - is famed facet of Japanese cultural evolution.

I worry though. It seems to me that bread and sweet bean paste don't mix. Furthermore it seems that some Japanese are becoming melon bread, a sort of soggy sweet bread with none of the important Japanese filling, or gumption, underneath.

In some important research by Norasakkunkit and Uchida (2011b) it was found that while non-marginalised Japanese youth in higher education showed the Japanese pattern of persevering more under critical conditions than under praise (Heine et al., 2001), the marginalised (NEET) youths needed -- like young Americans but possibly not as successfully American as young Americans -- needed to be praised.

The ability to take criticism, be grateful, be motivated and see criticism as a path to self improvement is perhaps the strongest and best part of the Japanese heart.

Bean bread buns - and bean bread men - banzai!

Heine, Steven J., et al. "Divergent consequences of success and failure in japan and north america: an investigation of self-improving motivations and malleable selves." Journal of personality and social psychology 81.4 (2001): 599.
Morris, M. W., & Peng, K. (1994). Culture and cause: American and Chinese attributions for social and physical events. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 67(6), 949.
Norasakkunkit, V., & Uchida, Y. (2011) Marginalized Japanese Youth in Post-Industrial Japan: Motivational Patterns, Self-Perceptions, and the Structural Foundations of Shifting Values.
Norasakkunkit, V., & Uchida, Y. (2011b). Psychological consequences of postindustrial anomie on self and motivation among Japanese youth. Journal of Social Issues, 67(4), 774-786.

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