The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture (英語) ペーパーバック – 2002/4/30
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In The Japanese Mind, Roger Davies offers Westerners an invaluable key to the unique aspects of Japanese culture.
Readers of this book will gain a clear understanding of what really makes the Japanese, and their society, tick. Among the topics explored: aimai (ambiguity), amae (dependence upon others' benevolence), amakudari (the nation's descent from heaven), chinmoku (silence in communication), gambari (perseverence), giri (social obligation), haragei (literally, "belly art"; implicit, unspoken communication), kenkyo (the appearance of modesty), sempai-kohai (seniority), wabi-sabi (simplicity and elegance), and zoto (gift giving), as well as discussions of child-rearing, personal space, and the roles of women in Japanese society. Includes discussion topics and questions after each chapter.
All in all, this book is an easy-to-use introduction to the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese society; an invaluable resource for anyone—business people, travelers, or students—perfect for course adoption, but also for anyone interested in Japanese culture.
Next in this series:
Now available separately, Japanese Culture: The Religious and Philosophical Foundations is a fascinating journey through Japan's rich cultural history.
"When I first saw The Japanese Mind, I assumed it would be similar to Takeo Doi's The Anatomy of Dependence. They're actually quite different. Doi's book focuses on the Japanese concept of emotional dependence, but The Japanese Mind gives an on-the-ground view of a wide range of topics in a way that would be more useful to newcomers who are getting established. Doi's book should be on the reading list too, but a little later. All of the essays in The Japanese Mind are excellent. The authors do a great job of representing their country and what they want for it domestically and globally. Students of Japanese studies, as well as casual readers, will learn a lot." — Japan Reference商品の説明をすべて表示する
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This wonderful little book is clearly written by Japanese college students, and edited by the professors who guided them, in a style that makes even opaque concepts accessible. Ritualistic behavior is deconstructed in plain and precise language, in a conciseness that is also equally typical of the Japanese. It is organized into twenty-eight mostly interconnected chapters, though you can read them in any order you prefer. Some are perhaps too brief and would require explorations elsewhere for those serious inquisitors, still, like pieces to a puzzle, if you accurately connect them, they do render a thorough image in their totality. The editors, however, are careful to remind us that many of these topics continue to be debated and controversial even within Japanese society today. Nevertheless, the keen observer should, for example, be able to meld chapters like Uchi to Soto (literally translated as inside and outside), Honne to Tatemae (actual intentions and superficial words/actions, in a chapter I wished was more developed), Haragei (the implicit way of communication), Aimai (ambiguity), and Nemawashi (laying the groundwork) to better understand the Japanese "ways" in intercultural dealings and discern why they have often been regarded as remaining isolated inside their own country and outside of the responsibilities in world affairs that many would like to attribute to one of the world's strongest economic powers.
This book is filled with informative and insightful essays and should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in the Japanese mentality, for those who study the language, and for even those Japanese who have a good enough command of English and wish to understand and communicate more about their culture than the trite aspects that are so often regurgitated in films and popular pulp. At the end of each chapter there are discussion activities that not only probe further into the respective topic and often attempt to relate it to contemporary Japan, but should also help facilitate one of the main purposes of this project, intercultural dialogue leading to mutual understanding. Even if you are lucky enough to engage in these conversations with some Japanese be forewarned, like the many Americans who have a hard time explaining our traditions of Halloween or saying "(God) bless you" after a sneeze for instance, much in this book is so entrenched in and forms the undercurrent of normal everyday life in Japan that many Japanese have trouble recognizing and explaining it themselves. Kudos to both the Ehime University students and teachers for producing such a well-written, thought provoking, and helpful analysis--its value far exceeds its cost.
The book is conceived as a primer. Contributions are organised in brief chapters, each one focusing on one important aspect of Japanese culture. One learns about rituals, aesthethic categories, myths, principles of social organisation, role models, etc. Each chapter concludes with a series of assignments for discussion activities in classes.
With short chapters, a glossary and a fairly extensive bibliography, the book is obviously conceived as a broad brush introduction to Japanese culture and a stepping stone towards further study.
For those unitiated to this complex and sometimes baffling culture, the modest price of this book is money well spent. But for an in depth treatment one definitely needs to look elsewhere.
At 270 pages, this is a slim collection of essays on "key concepts in Japanese culture" (p. 1). Intended as a text, each of the 28 essays is followed by discussion questions which are separated into two groups: one for Japanese students of EFL and the other for foreign students of Japanese Studies. Furthermore, the co-editors intended that through clarity, well-documented research, and demonstrated field-testing, the text would also appeal to the general reader.
Unfortunately, this text fails on almost all accounts. Written by Japanese undergraduate seniors, the explanations are simplistic, superficial, and inconsistent. The first essay on the purportedly unique-to-Japan chinmoku (silence) is an illustration. It is used during times of thoughtfulness, hesitation, restraint, conflict avoidance, defiance. and indifference, in public and in private (pp. 53-55). This "unique" Japanese cultural trait has been defined so broadly as to become meaningless, since it covers almost every moment of silence one could experience anywhere.
The superficiality of the research is reflected in the use of E. Reischauer's (1990) comments originally made in 1977 on the contemporary status of marriage in Japan: "Japanese women are often said to have difficulty in socializing freely... However, women seem willing to play their own roles in maintaining the household as good wives and mothers" (p. 67). One wonders how "freely" socializing women or "good wives and mothers" who are unhappy with their roles and divorce their husbands fit into these nearly thirty-year-old arguments. There is also the incorrect statement that White Day is only found in Japan (p. 98). It is also found in South Korea. Furthermore, there is an inconsistent level of analysis. Honne and tatemae (private versus public persona) receive only two pages of text, but soshiki (funerals) receives 14 pages, even though the latter is high on detail and low on analysis.
However, this text's greatest weakness lies in the editing, for, as the editors admit, the essays are patchworks of many papers on the same or similar topics, which is why no single essay is credited to any one author. The results are frequent jumps in argumentation and awkward or altogether puzzling insertions within the essays, as well as much overlap and repetition among the essays. For example, the concept of amae is defined twice and explained multiple times (pp. 17-19, 67, 103-104). The concept of vertical society is defined three times (pp. 10-11, 144, 187-188). Both honne and tatemae (pp. 104-105, 115-116, 195) as well as ie (pp. 61-62, 119-124, 217-218) are defined three times. Many other concepts are similarly over-defined. There are also basic grammatical and sentence structure errors, including run-on sentences, capitalization, and verb-agreement problems. It is surprising that this book was edited by two professors and has gone through Tuttle's editing process.
The book's basic premise is to explain and create discussion on contemporary Japanese culture. However, it is centered on a historical Japan that not only has changed, but also is changing in many of the areas covered. Not to be found are discussions on contemporary Japanese cultural traits exemplified by enjokosai (teenage prostitution), furiita (young, part-time workers with little hope or belief in the future), or tomodachi-oyako (an unhealthy parent-child friendship deficient in minimal socialising functions that are usually derived from parental hierarchy). From these (admittedly negative) contemporary Japanese cultural traits there is much to be mined, such as the fixation on youth, with the inherent fetishising of school girls and pressure on older women and mothers to be young and girlish, and the effects of 10 years of economic decline on a disenfranchised youth.
This text presents concepts that fit in with the tea garden and mossy stone view of Japan, while in reality, Japanese culture is a vibrant and dense culture in flux, equally as modern as any other. Unfortunately, poor research, writing, and editing misrepresent traditional cultural traits while neglecting contemporary ones. For sociological analyses of Japan, the reader should stick to monographs put out by trained sociologists. Perhaps the flip side of that is linguists should tread carefully in areas that are not their expertise.
Reischauer, E. (1990). The Japanese today: Change and continuity. (M. Fukushima, trans.). Tokyo: Bungei Shunju. (Original work published 1977.)
We also liked the fact that at the end of each brief chapter, the editors have written a number of thought-provoking questions. These questions ask the reader to expand one's thinking and make clear cross-cultural distinctions. Besides making the book even more useful to persons like us, these questions also make this book a sure winner in any advanced high school or college class on Japan.
Also, if another reviewer's assertion that the book has a `lack of depth in the analysis, frequent non-sequiturs' (and who even goes so far as to recommend that you `use at your peril') is a truly fair assessment of the standard of work produced by Roger Davies and Osamu Ikeno, then I doubt if those two gentlemen would occupy the prestigious positions they do.
As a European and `general reader' I found the book gave a fascinating insight into what can at first appear to the layman to be a baffling and unfathomable culture, given extra credence by the fact that, as the introduction states, the information presented is from the perspective of the Japanese people themselves. The format allows for casual study as the chapters can be read in any order you wish.
I would consider this an invaluable guide for anyone visiting Japan and/or who wishes to better understand the complexities of Japanese customs and behaviour. No book could possibly explain all the intricate facets of Japanese society, and certainly not to everyone's satisfaction, but `The Japanese Mind' goes a long way toward doing so.
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