Kata – Part 4 – Katafication

Jan 6, 2021Blog, Culture, Shinto

Kata – Part 4 – Katafication

Keep in mind the social harmony one see in Japan is based upon following proper kata etiquette in daily behaviour, and remains the guiding constitution in all Japanese relationships.

To understand this further one must look back into the indigenous belief system of the Japanese, known as Shintoism, and then one can see from whence this all came. 

Shintoism is an animistic believe system based upon cosmic oneness among god’s, spirits, people in the physical world, and nature. 

Small Shinto Shrine

Indirect, but culturally permeative, it is the genesis for the attitudes and customs that distinguish the Japanese from all other people.

It was under the influence of Shintoism that led the Japanese to refer to themselves as the people of Wa (harmony), substantiating the very early commitment by the Japanese to the principles of Wa as the foundation of Japanese society.

Early in Japan’s history the function of religious and secular leaders were combined, and these combined entities were equally concerned with both form and essence, with the overriding principle adopted from Confucianism, which is harmony between heaven and earth, and between those who ruled and the ruled.

heaven earth harmony

From this there evolved a highly controlled behaviour system prescribing subservience and respect towards superior beings, with stylized ceremonies associated with worship infused into the conduct of daily affairs of Japanese life.

From the dawn of Japanese history, stylized rituals were preformed dozens of times throughout each year, and made up an intricate part of routine Japanese life, even so now now unto this very day.

Even if one is simply but a casual observer of Japan, one can see the Japanese have a deep affinity for formalizing and institutionalizing procedure and processes. 

Perhaps one cannot say this stylized behaviour originated in Shintoism wholly, but surely these characteristic Japanese behaviours have been infused with these pervasive ceremonial practices, which were indeed prevalent from early on in Japanese life as related to the evolution of Shintoism.


In order to have a deeper understanding of Japanese society and the foundation of Wa, one can always consider Wa to be the central pillar of Japanese cultural, influencing Japan in its texture, essence, spirit, and in the continuing evolution of the Japanese Way.

An important point to note when examining kata is when wet rice farming was introduced to Japan from China sometimes between 1000 and 300 BCE. This lead to a profound effect on the country social system and subsequent character and behaviour of the Japanese.

rice fields in japan

The process of rice farming was prescribed down to the last detail, and the lifestyle accompanying wet rice farming instilled the Japanese with an extraordinary degree of patience, perseverance, diligence, cooperativeness, and group dependence.

The whole economy became based upon the way of rice and made group behaviour, cooperation, self-sacrifice and harmony obligatory.

Along with the introduction of wet rice farming and also having a profound influence on the evolution of the Japanese was the introductions of the kochikomin system. 

This means the land and the people belong to the emperor, with no right to private property, or to be independent. 

This was the catalyst for virtually absolute control over the people by the state and the evolution of many of the cultural traits that make up Japanese society.

With Wa firmly established as the essence of the Japanese social system, the ruling class of Japan fashion all of their social rules and institution as well as their language to contribute to the cultural goals of Wa.

See you again next week for Part 5 of Kata as we peel away the mystery of kata and the continuing influence on the Japanese.

Shintoism, the way of the Japanese