Right-Brain Left-Brain – Part 3

Aug 4, 2021Blog, Culture

Right Brain Left Brain – Part 3

The profound influence of right-brain dominance in Japanese culture reaches into their deepest values, motivation, and behaviour while encompasses all aspect of Japanese life.

One can see the influence of the right-brain thinking in Japanese arts and crafts, in the meticulous attention to detail when creating new and innovative products, and in the general aura throughout the nation of Japan.

Circular Rainbow Sun Halo

Truly, this even includes the way the Japanese go about doing some of the most mundane tasks, such as arranging food into a well thought-out presentation.

Indeed, anyone having experienced a Japanese banquet with the meticulously prepared and arranged food, of which can only be considered a form of high art, can bear witness to this reality.

washoku example

Fundamentally, the influence of the physical manifestations of the right brain dominance in Japanese culture are positive, and account for virtually all things both Japanese and non-Japanese find so emotionally and spiritually satisfying about Japan and the Japanese Way.

Interestingly enough, when the Japanese interact with each other, they exist in the same cultural realm, and the aspects of the right brain orientation that conflicts with the left brain attitudes and behaviour are controlled by established communication, tolerance, and cooperation protocols.

By the same token, when the Japanese are dealing with people whose left-brains are dominant and not culturally program to accommodate right brain thinking and behaviour, misunderstandings and friction are inevitable.

This is particularly prevalent when the left brain people concerned are not sensitive to cultural differences or choose to ignore them, which is often the case, and at one’s own peril when dealing with the Japanese.

Commander Perry Black Ship - ペリーの黒船

Let’s examine one of the earliest Japan pioneer, William Elliot Griffis, who first arrived in Japan on December 29, 1870.

After living and teaching in the hinterlands of Japan (Fukui), he began to question the ways he’d been taught from an early age.

Here he wrote the following in 1871:

“Why is it that we do things contrariwise to the Japanese?

Are we upside down, or they?

The Japanese say that we are reversed.

They call our penmanship “crab-writing,” because, say they, “it goes backward.”

The lines in our books cross the page like a craw-fish, instead of going downward “properly.”

In a Japanese stable we find the horse’s flank where we look for his head.

Japanese screws screw the opposite way.

Their locks turn to the left, ours to the right…

An occidental, to injure his enemy, kills him; A Japanese kills himself to spite his foe.

Which race is left-handed?

Which has the negative, which the positive of truth?

What is truth?”

William Elliot Griffis

Shortly after Japan opened up to the world after 250 years of peaceful isolation, Mr. Griffis, the puritanical occidental was fully exposed to the right-side-of-the-brain thinking Japanese.

One can also see similar observations reflected in the writing of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), in particular, in the very important book entitled, Japan, an attempt at interpretation, which was published in 1904.

Patrick Lafcadio H - 小泉八雲

One can read this important historical interpretation of Japan during the Meiji Restoration for free here.

Japan, an attempt at interpretation

Based upon the above historical passage by William Elliot Griffis, reading Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, and first-hand experience from over 3 decades of living in the countryside of Japan, one can confirm the validity of the right-brain left-brain thesis.

As one journeys along and when interacting with, and living among the Japanese, it is always a very good idea to keep in mind what side of the brain one is dealing with.

Stay tuned next week for a deep dive into the right-brain left-brain contrasting in the way of thinking, and the way of life.