Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Japan and the current economy.

Hi everyone,

Today I'd like to discuss Japan and the current economic conditions as of February 23rd, 2010. There is a wide-range of subjects I could discuss here, but I would like to express my thoughts on the society here and how everyone has been reacting to all of this.

As in the words of my uncle, "No news is good news right now." Japan's suicide-rate has risen considerably over the past year due to the bad economy. Seeing the characters "人身事故" on the television screen inside the train (or "Human Casuality") has become quite frequent, occurring up to 5 times a day. In the year 2008, a national statistic showed that over 20,000 people died from jumping into trains. Suicide is very infrequent in America, so it is a bit peculiar as to why it is so common here.

Japanese society is very strict, not just with mannerism's and respect, but also with a person's worth. This type of value could range from one's level of education, career, clothes, age, looks, or what company they work for. Being a homogenous society that promotes "group-thought" rather than "individual thought," it can be rather difficult to survive when people around you judge you based on these attributes and more. If you do happen to have all the right factors in place, your life here will be a lot more fortunate, following a rather stable and linear-path. On the other hand, not having these factors could work against you. In such circumstances, it could inevitably push people over to such extremes.

As an American, I find the suicide rate here horrifying. As a child, we have all been taught that we can do anything if we put our minds to it. Of course, everyone needs the money to be able to do so; however, Americans have more opportunity to change the course of their lives. We have the option of going to school whenever we can, we can start up our own businesses if we wanted, and we can try new things without as much fear of rejection from others. Americans can also be equally (if not more) judgmental about your looks, clothes, age and career, but "group thought" is not enforced like it is in Japan. As an individual, you can pursue a goal and achieve it with fewer barriers. It is for these reasons that I believe suicide occurs far less frequently in the US.

Despite how Japanese and American mentalities may be different, everyone is suffering in the same way around the world. I feel, however, that how we perceive this hardship is viewed far differently. Knowing that this situation is completely out of anyone's control is the hardest thing to come to grips with. Since time does not stop when one is depressed, everyone has to keep doing their best, believe in themselves and keep moving forward.

Your mind and heart can be your savior, or your worst enemy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Addendum to Communication in Japan.

Hi everyone,

Today I wanted to make an addition to my very first entry I discussed before about 'communication in Japan.'

As discussed before, Japan is a place where your personal opinion is shunned. This does not mean your opinion cannot be expressed to others at all, but mainly just in the face of the general public. The words "Honne"(True Intentions) and "Tatemae" (Public Stance) are what describe this type of practice in Japan.

American education typically stresses how to individually discuss, argue or debate our stances on issues. Whether it is writing an essay or discussing opinions, Americans are more adapted to accepting these differences in thought. When making an argument, reasons and opinions are typically attached as to why you may feel a certain way.

The Japanese educational system, on the other hand, does not support this type of expression. Japan stresses more "group-thought." They believe that by removing these differences in opinions, there is more peaceful communication. Differences are thought to be an opposition to moving forward; therefore, reading one's thoughts (or "Kuuki wo yomu") are essential to the Japanese. If there is any slight opposition to one's feelings or thoughts, they use this as a way to express their concerns or disagreement (i.e. Pausing a few seconds before saying "Yes" or slightly changing your tone of voice). Since they are also not well adapted to expressing their opinions, a majority of Japanese also encounter problems articulating their feelings into words. Attaching reasons as to why they feel a certain way may be more difficult.

I feel that independent American thought has its advantanges and disadvantages. Although it helps people enforce their opinions and articulate their feelings, it also has potential to breed unnecessary pride, selfishness, lack of modesty and inconsideration of others. While difference in thought is accepted, it can be seen as being 'difficult.'

While the Japanese way of thought enforces group harmony, modesty, and selflessness, it certainly makes understanding people's thoughts much more difficult, and can create a lot of internal stress (which inevitably will create disharmony). This also causes people to use up their energy (or "Ki wo tsukau") for others, just to maintain stability and peacefulness. The idea that 'silence is golden' does not help open communication and understanding of others' true feelings.

It is subjective to say which country has the better outlook and which does not, because both come with their good and bad sides. Ideally, a person who is able to read another person's thoughts and feelings, while expressing their own thoughts and feelings, can strike a perfect balance.