There are three principal factors formulating the psyche of the Japanese.
1. Japanese history of isolationism
2. Crowded conditions due to geography
3: Japanese language itself
Historically, Japan has a deep cultural connection with China—based upon shared Confucius values—the fundamental values of stable society shared by all Asian nations.
However, the Tokugawa rule, beginning in 1603 was the start of the isolationist protocol.
Imaging for more than 250 years Japan was totally cut off from almost all foreign stimulus.
It was during this period of isolation (Edo 1603 to 1867), where the Japanese developed many of its modern social and economic structures.
Furthermore, a distinct society and culture with no equal in terms of group cooperation blossomed under the watchful eyes and razor sharp blade of the Tokugawa Shogun.
For certain, the organisational features developed over the 250 years of isolation remain a distinct characteristic of Japanese society today, regardless of the profound changes experienced in the twentieth century.
Most of the Japanese are packed together in big cities where their highly complex social skills developed—this is a phenomenon of a society based upon mutual dependency.
A mutual dependent society is one where there is great interdependence between all members of a group, and an abundance of moral and social obligations both vertically and horizontally.
Naturally, this all begins at birth.
The separation of a child from the Western parent start in earnest from birth, as the babies are soon separated from their mothers and put in a separate room.
Here, the Westernized children quickly develops an initiative of their own and gain early experience in problem solving.
Perhaps this can also be considered an “isolationist policy.”
On the other hand, Japanese children are kept close to their parents’ side day and night for two or three years.
Therefore, Japanese children, by contrast, are encouraged to be completely dependent on the human beings close to them.
This is where they develop a sense of interdependence which stays with them for a lifetime.
This is also the beginning of one’s preordained place in the mutual dependent society of the Japanese.
The first group any child belongs to is the family, but later it becomes high school, then university, then the company.
Remember, loyalty to one’s group runs deep and strong.
For example, there is rarely job hopping, particularly in the world of large corporations, where changing companies in mid-stream is looked upon as treasonous.
Also, age and seniority have priorities in Japanese society, but also encompasses ominous obligations within these strict societal protocols, which are embedded into the Japanese language.
For instance, Japanese has separate words for elder brother and younger brother.
Why is this so?
Since the duties of one to the other are radically different according to one’s position in the family and society, conventions and protocol must be sharply defined and adhered to.
Coming to a practical understanding of these societal conventions took many years and many tears—being able to think like a Japanese has allowed for a remarkable perspective into the psyche of the Japanese, and how they view their place in the world.
Furthermore, Japanese behaviour protocol is strongly affected by the nature of the language itself, and for certain the language(s) we speak conceptually determines one’s way of thinking.
Japanese is often described as a vague or ambiguous language.
The vagueness of Japanese is frequently used on purpose when wishing to absolve anyone of possible blame and to demonstrate politeness.
The well-known honorific terminology in Japanese enhance this politeness, while often adding to the vagueness.
Everything must be placed in context in Japan, therefore, blunt language is much too brief and out of place as well as being considered boorish and rude.
No Japanese boss would bark out an order to “Clean up the office.”
They have an obligation to couch the request in a certain way such as:
“Some visitors are coming today—let’s give them the best impression of our company—perhaps we could improve the orderliness around here”—creating a layer of harmony.
In the mutual dependent society, the Japanese are conditioned by their exceptional historical and geographical constraints.
Even more so, the Japanese are held captive by their thought processes—rooted in the ancient esoteric language of Japanese—in which one could accurately say—is the polar opposite of the others.