21 April, 2014

Is the group still more important in Japan?

One big difference between Japan (and indeed many/most Asian countries and Western Countries is a different emphasis on group vs individual. In Japan the group is more important than the individual. 

This is hard to understand when talking in generalities, but I've grown in understanding as I've lived here that it generally means you consider the group and their rules before you consider your own needs and desires.

Needless to say we foreigners fail on this point often.

One example of this was in the phrases I wrote about last week, in apologising for leaving before someone else by using osakini, you are saying the group is more important than your need to leave and apologising that you really do need to go.

What confused me, and still confuses me a bit is that just because the group is more important doesn't mean that individuals can't make decisions for themselves, because they clearly do.

It's interesting, though, to read this story about a teacher-mum who had to make a choice between being present at her new students' entrance ceremony and present at her son's ceremony at a different school. She chose her son's ceremony and has been criticised by some, but supported by others in that decision. It seems that things are a changing, albeit very slowly.

Have you got other examples that you can share with us? Perhaps from other group-minded cultures?

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