Japanese CultureJapanese Culture
A look into Japanese weddings,A look into Japanese weddings,
religion, dining, holidays, andreligion, dining, holidays, and
childhood education to betterchildhood education to better
understand communicating moreunderstand communicating more
efficiently with members of theefficiently with members of the
Japanese culture.Japanese culture.
Spencer Graves, Jessica Hartenstine, Jory Carnahan, Veronica Feist, & Jade Herring
Dining in JapanDining in Japan
A look at the nonverbalA look at the nonverbal
experience of eating in Japaneseexperience of eating in Japanese
Japanese culture is one of high context, where nonverbalJapanese culture is one of high context, where nonverbal
messages are expressed and received with high meaning. Itmessages are expressed and received with high meaning. It
is important to be aware of general expected nonverbalis important to be aware of general expected nonverbal
Jade HerringJade Herring
In home dining vs. restaurantIn home dining vs. restaurant
dining- Entering and being seateddining- Entering and being seated
Dining in someone's home-Dining in someone's home-
• It is polite and customary to take off yourIt is polite and customary to take off your
shoes when entering someone's home.shoes when entering someone's home.
There are usually slippers available forThere are usually slippers available for
guest to wear at the entrance of the homeguest to wear at the entrance of the home
(Hays, 2010).(Hays, 2010).
• If invited to a Japanese home, consider it aIf invited to a Japanese home, consider it a
great honor, Japanese do not tend to invitegreat honor, Japanese do not tend to invite
just anyone to their homes (Hays, 2010).just anyone to their homes (Hays, 2010).
• If you receive a bow, bow at least as low asIf you receive a bow, bow at least as low as
the bow given. This bow represents thethe bow given. This bow represents the
status and respect given and expected. Ifstatus and respect given and expected. If
bowing to someone of great status, yourbowing to someone of great status, your
bow must be lower. The bow is an emblembow must be lower. The bow is an emblem
for honor and respect (McBennett, 2010).for honor and respect (McBennett, 2010).
Dining out-Dining out-
• It is not considered rude to wear shoesIt is not considered rude to wear shoes
at a restaurant if there are tables.at a restaurant if there are tables.
However, if there are only traditionalHowever, if there are only traditional
tatami mat floors, than you will changetatami mat floors, than you will change
into slippers provided. Tatami mats areinto slippers provided. Tatami mats are
hard to clean and Japanese culturehard to clean and Japanese culture
highly values cleanliness (Dining Out,highly values cleanliness (Dining Out,
• Traditional table settings are a bowl ofTraditional table settings are a bowl of
rice to your left, bowl of miso soup torice to your left, bowl of miso soup to
your right , other dishes placed behindyour right , other dishes placed behind
these bowls, and chopsticks arethese bowls, and chopsticks are
placed in front of your rice pointing leftplaced in front of your rice pointing left
on a chopstick holder (Mishima, 2010).on a chopstick holder (Mishima, 2010).
• Many meals are ordered to shareMany meals are ordered to share
among the group.among the group.
• Tea is served with most meal and in restaurantsTea is served with most meal and in restaurants
is served as part of your meal (Dining Out,is served as part of your meal (Dining Out,
• If you want a refill of your sake or tea you firstIf you want a refill of your sake or tea you first
want to drink all that is in your cup and letwant to drink all that is in your cup and let
someone else in your party fill your glass. It issomeone else in your party fill your glass. It is
also custom for you to fill others cups if you seealso custom for you to fill others cups if you see
they are empty. If the cup is not empty it is athey are empty. If the cup is not empty it is a
signal that they may no longer want anymore tosignal that they may no longer want anymore to
drink. Another way to avoid refill of sake anddrink. Another way to avoid refill of sake and
express you are done drinking is to hold yourexpress you are done drinking is to hold your
hand over the top of the cup when someonehand over the top of the cup when someone
tries to refill your cup (Table Manners, 2008).tries to refill your cup (Table Manners, 2008).
• Japanese culture relies quite a bit on gestures,Japanese culture relies quite a bit on gestures,
it is important to learn some of them unless youit is important to learn some of them unless you
want to end up very drunk after a night of notwant to end up very drunk after a night of not
knowing how to keep your glass empty withoutknowing how to keep your glass empty without
offending your host!offending your host!
Picture of Saki.Retreived November 5,2010,
• Rice is a staple of the Japanese diet, served at mostRice is a staple of the Japanese diet, served at most
meals (Food and Culture Resources, 2010). There aremeals (Food and Culture Resources, 2010). There are
several things to know when eating your rice, don’tseveral things to know when eating your rice, don’t
leave your chopstick standing straight out of the riceleave your chopstick standing straight out of the rice
(this is too similar to an incense ritual at funerals) and(this is too similar to an incense ritual at funerals) and
it is okay to pick up the bowl and hold it towards yourit is okay to pick up the bowl and hold it towards your
face to make it closer to your mouth during eatingface to make it closer to your mouth during eating
(Hays, 2010).(Hays, 2010).
• It is okay to slurp and make noise while eating and isIt is okay to slurp and make noise while eating and is
a signal to your host or chef that the meal is good.a signal to your host or chef that the meal is good.
Many also believe it makes the soup and/or noodlesMany also believe it makes the soup and/or noodles
better (Hays, 2010).better (Hays, 2010).
• It is not okay to burp at the table like in some otherIt is not okay to burp at the table like in some other
Asian countries.Asian countries.
• It is frowned upon to blow you nose in the presence ofIt is frowned upon to blow you nose in the presence of
others, especially the table (Mishima, 2010).others, especially the table (Mishima, 2010).
Picture of rice and child eating noodles. Retrieved
Things said and unsaidThings said and unsaid
““Itadakimasu" at the beginning of dinner, and "gochisou-sama-deshita" at the end. It is polite useItadakimasu" at the beginning of dinner, and "gochisou-sama-deshita" at the end. It is polite use
these phrase and it will show you host that you have enjoyed the meal (Williams, 2008).these phrase and it will show you host that you have enjoyed the meal (Williams, 2008).
If you would like more rice in you bowl during a meal, leave about a teaspoon of rice left in the bottomIf you would like more rice in you bowl during a meal, leave about a teaspoon of rice left in the bottom
to indicate this to your host, if you do not want more rice, eat every last grain.to indicate this to your host, if you do not want more rice, eat every last grain.
It is considered rude to point or use your chopsticks for anything other than eating (Food and CultureIt is considered rude to point or use your chopsticks for anything other than eating (Food and Culture
Resources, 2010).Resources, 2010).
The Japanese toast is 'The Japanese toast is 'KampaiKampai' (literally 'dry glass') (McBennett, 2010).' (literally 'dry glass') (McBennett, 2010).
Never use our American gesture for “okay” with your hands, this is a Japanese emblem for money,Never use our American gesture for “okay” with your hands, this is a Japanese emblem for money,
Japanese do not talk openly about money or flash it about (Wiiliams, 2008).Japanese do not talk openly about money or flash it about (Wiiliams, 2008).
Remember, the Japanese consider food an ‘art’ so take a moment to enjoy the presentation of theRemember, the Japanese consider food an ‘art’ so take a moment to enjoy the presentation of the
food you have been served.food you have been served.
Childhood EducationChildhood Education
A closer look at the nonverbal communication, culturalA closer look at the nonverbal communication, cultural
values, and group communication used in Japanese schools.values, and group communication used in Japanese schools.
By: Jory CarnahanBy: Jory Carnahan
“communication other than written or spoken language that creates“communication other than written or spoken language that creates
meaning for someone”meaning for someone”
(Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2010).
• In Japan the most prevalent form of communication is nonverbal. (Condon, John C.)
• Japanese classrooms usually have more students per classroom than American classrooms, though the
children are better behaved. This is due in part to the high level of organization and discipline by the
teacher. There is a great amount of pressure for each student to constantly be aware of all nonverbal
signs that the teacher gives them. (Wood, Monika D.)
• Starting on the first day of school children are taught to follow these extensive routines and rituals. The
children are expected to follow cues from the teacher. (Japanese Education System)
• Unlike American students, children in Japan are rarely reprimanded individually. Instead the teacher may
use a techniques similar to peer pressure to encourage a misbehaving child to correct their undesired
behavior by themselves. Each child is expected to interpret nonverbal messages through observation of
others actions. (Wood, Monika D.)
• Each student is responsible for their own behavior.
• In Japanese culture learning to become a good citizen with strong morals is equally important as
academic success. (Japanese Education System)
Tips for Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
•Speaking too much is associated with immaturity or a kind of empty headedness.
(Be direct and to the point when you speak, and be conscious of what message your body language is sending)
• Show respect when communicating.
(Be attentive when listening, and do not interrupt. Not paying attention is very disrespectful.)
Cultural ValuesCultural Values
(whatever a given group of people value or appreciates)(whatever a given group of people value or appreciates)
Japanese schools are designed to work in a
“collectivistic culture”. A culture that places
a high value on collaboration, teamwork, and
group achievement. (Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2010. )
• Examples of these cultural values in school
include; (40 fun facts)
– Students in both public and private
schools must wear uniforms, also known
– Students must remove their shoes and
wear special slippers in their classroom.
– Students take turns serving lunch to
their classmates. The children also use
ceramic ware having to be responsible
and not break the dishes.
– You must eat everything on your plate.
– After lunch a moment of silence is given
to show their gratitude.
– Children eat with chopsticks. Rice and
green tea is served with every meal.
– Boys must keep their hair cut short.
Neither boys or girls are allowed to
change their hair color, only natural hair
color is allowed.
– Girls can not wear make up, nail polish, or
– Japanese schools practice great
teamwork. Everyday after lunch 15
minutes are dedicated to cleaning. Every
student is responsible for doing some
kind of cleaning. Typical jobs include
sweeping/mopping floors, wiping down
windows, dusting shelves, emptying
garbage bins etc. Not only do the
children clean their own classroom they
also take turns cleaning the library, music
room, gym, and playground.
Understanding the purpose of Cultural Values in school.
•These values are meant to instills Focus, Structure,
Morals, and Ethics which ultimately influences how
the Japanese communicate.
(Team: A coordinated group of people organized to work together and
achieve a specific common goal.)
• Japanese Schools
The majority of the school day children work together in
small groups and teams.
• It is expected that children work harmoniously, are
cooperative and polite. Harmony is considered to be the
most crucial ingredient for working productively.
• Included in the course of study are weekly ceremonies to
emphasize character development and the importance of
group effort and cooperation. (Elementary schools)
• Japanese students are placed into “han”. Han is similar to
a platoon, a squad, or a working group and it operates with
little to no hierarchy. Each han is comprised of 5-8 children
depending on the class size with a total of 6-8 han groups
per classroom. (All about life)
• In a han no individual person is ever praised or
reprimanded (Japanese Education System)
• Again, the students must wear uniforms in school, creating
an even greater sense team pride.
• Japanese children sit close together in their class room,
and even eat lunch in groups.
• (picture below taken from Peterson)
• American Schools
Unlike the children in Japan, American students strive to
be unique, individuals, who have their own personal
identity. Most American children in public schools are not
forced to wear uniforms and are able to express their
unique personalities though clothing and hair styles of
their choice. Children in American schools, learn
‘stereotyping’ at a very young age. American students
are expected to sit at their own desk. It is most
common for children to complete their school work
independently. Except for group activities such as
P.E. (physical education) or music class, American
children do not usually participate in structured group
activities. According to oppapers.com, American
classrooms are smaller (about 30 students per
classroom) than Japanese classrooms (about 50
students per class room). With fewer students per
classroom in the US it is easier to build interpersonal
relationships with peers (Differences).
Understanding the differences between Japanese
and American schooling is one way to better
understand the difference in how we communicate.
Japanese are more nonverbal , where as Americans
tend to be primarily verbal.
Adapting to Others Who Are
Different from You
Coming from one specific culture, many times we are
unaware that people from other cultures do not celebrate
the same holidays we are raised with, or that they may have
similar holidays on different days or with different meanings.
For instance, Christmas in Japan is merely a commercial event, with Christmas
Eve being a romantic night out as opposed to the more Christian views of a holy
remembrance. (Japan Tourist Info, 2000) The Japanese have their own version
of Thanksgiving, Labor Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on November 23rd
Traditionally a celebration by the Emperor giving thanks for the rice harvest, it is
now a day to thank laborers for their hard work. (Elementary School Japanese
Major Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations
Shogatsu, the new year celebration
from January 1st
, is the most
important holiday in Japan. Families
gather together, eat traditional foods,
play games, and celebrate the fresh
start of a brand new year.
Golden Week is usually when most
Japanese take their longest vacation.
Four national holidays take place
during this time-
•Showa Day – April 29
– The birthday of Emperor Hirohito’s
•Constitution Day – May 3
– The celebration of the National
•Green Day – May 4
– A celebration of nature
•Children’s Day – May 5
– A day for children, mainly boys,
celebrated with the flying of carp
streamers, known as koinobori
The Japanese generally have festivals or rituals that go along with their holidays. Many
holidays are to celebrate historic events, seasonal changes or Emperor’s birthdays.
O-Bon is a widely celebrated Buddhist
festival to pay respect to ancestors in
August. Graves are cleaned and offerings
are left as the spirits of the ancestors
return. At the end of the celebrations,
there is a dance called Bon Odori held in
many neighborhoods. (Japan Tourist Info,
Though we can look to written
sources to learn little bits about a
culture’s holidays, the best way
to understand the holidays that
are important to a person is to
ask questions. Japan is divided
into many different regions, and
they have their own festivals and
celebrations that another region
may not take part in.
Becoming mindful of others is
essential. We should not assume
that someone celebrates a holiday
just because we do. Instead of
asking, for instance, “What are you
doing for Easter?” asking someone
if they have any Spring festivities
they take part in is a way to expand
your intercultural communication
competence. (Beebe, Beebe, and
A LOOK AT BOTH THE SYMBOLISM AND
TRADITIONS EXPRESSED IN JAPANESSE
• Traditionally brides had their faces painted white and wore an all
white silk wedding Kimono. This tradition dates back to the Edo era
from 1700 till 1900.
• Some Japanese brides have chosen to wear more modern gowns
but many still choose to wear kimonos that have been passed
down from generation to generation.
• “White symbolizes both a new beginning and an end, because the
bride “dies” as her father’s daughter and is reborn a member of
her husband's family.”(Shu, 2010)
• In the Japanese American Wedding Traditions article the
author states that, “Most Japanese Americans include the “san-
san-kudo” sake sharing tradition, which translates to “three sets
of three sips equal nine.” Using three flat sake cups stacked
atop on another, the bride and groom take three sips each from
the cups. Next their parents also take sips, for a total of nine,
cementing the bond between the families.” (Japanese American
Wedding Traditions, 2010)
• At the ceremony many Japanese brides have 1,001 folded gold
origami cranes. This represents : Good luck, good fortune,
longevity, fidelity, and peace to the marriage.
UNDERSTANDING JAPANESE WEDDINGS
• To understand Japanese weddings we must understand
the symbolism that is expressed in traditional weddings.
• In Communication: Principles for a Life time, Beebe, Beebe
and Ivy explain that, “Symbols are words, sounds, gestures,
or visual images that represent thoughts, concepts, objects,
or experiences.” (2010)
• Japanese Brides use the symbolism of white on their
wedding day to symbolize the new beginning to their
husbands family and the ending as their fathers daughter.
They also use san-san –kudo to represent the bond between
the two families.
• To better communicate with members of the Japanese
culture it is important to understand and take into
consideration what would other wise be unknown facts
about Japanese culture. Understanding non-verbal symbols
is necessary to understanding Japanese culture and
efficiently communicating with a member of the culture.
Japanese ReligionJapanese Religion
A look at the major religions in JapanA look at the major religions in Japan
as they relate to communicating with aas they relate to communicating with a
member of the Japanese culture.member of the Japanese culture.
Religion in Japan
• Japan’s population is comprised
largely of followers of two different
• 107 million Japanese people
identify themselves as Shinto, while
89 million identify themselves as
Buddhist (Bureau of Democracy,
•Only 13 million Japanese people
identify themselves to be followers
of religions other than Buddhism or
Shinto (Bureau of Democracy,
Figure 1. Japan Map and Flag, an outline of the country
being discussed and an example of the nation’s flag.
Figure 2. Buddha_big, a Japanese Buddhist shrine
• Buddhist belief revolves around a desire to
attain personal enlightenment and free one’s self
from suffering through many cycles of
reincarnation (Robinson, 2009)
• To attain enlightenment one must gain control
over their mind through practices like meditation,
which is believed to lead to wisdom (Robinson,
• The Buddhist path to wisdom involves basic
principles that resemble those of mainstream
Christian religions, with a focus on awareness
•This Buddhist path is eightfold and is known as
Buddha’s eightfold path (Robinson, 2009)
Buddha’s Eightfold Path
• 1) Samma ditthi Right Understanding of the Four Noble
• 2) Samma sankappa: Right thinking; following the right path
•3) Samma vaca: Right speech: no lying, criticism,
condemning, gossip, or harsh language
•4) Samma kammanta Right conduct by following the Five
•5) Samma ajiva: Right livelihood; support
yourself without harming others
•6) Samma vayama Right Effort: promote good
thoughts; conquer evil thoughts
•7) Samma sati Right Mindfulness: Become aware
of your body, mind and feelings
•8) Samma samadhi Right Concentration:
Meditate to achieve a higher state of
consciousness (Robinson, 2009)
Figure 3. Shrine, A Shinto temple in Kyoto Japan
• Followers of Shinto believe in many
deities known as “Kami”
• “Among them [is] a divine couple,
Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-
mikoto, who gave birth to the Japanese
islands.” (Robinson, 1995)
• Some of the other Shinto Kami are;
• Natural objects and creatures
such as animals, bodies of
water, and rocks
• Guardian spirits of regions of
Japan and individual Shinto
• Exceptional members of
Japanese society, including
•“Believers revere "musuhi", the Kamis' creative
and harmonizing powers. They aspire to have
"makoto", sincerity or true heart. This is regarded
as the way or will of Kami.” (Robinson, 1995)
• Followers of Shinto are guided to;
“1) To be grateful for the blessings of Kami and the
benefits of the ancestors, and to be diligent in the
observance of the Shinto rites, applying oneself to
them with sincerity, brightness, and purity of heart.
(2) To be helpful to others and in the world at large
through deeds of service without thought of
rewards, and to seek the advancement of the world
as one whose life mediates the will of Kami.
(3) To bind oneself with others in harmonious
acknowledgment of the will of the emperor, praying
that the country may flourish and that other peoples
too may live in peace and prosperity.” (Shinto
Online Netwrok Association, 2005 )
•Beebe, Beebe, and Ivy state that “Interpersonal
conflict is a struggle that occurs when two people
cannot agree on a way to meet their needs.”
• When communicating with a member of the
Japanese culture it is imperative to understand
the religious background from which they come
•Because of the focus on awareness, sincerity,
and mindfulness of both of Japan’s major
religions interpersonal conflict with a member of
the Japanese culture could be very different from
interpersonal conflict between two Americans.
• If conflict arises with a Japanese person it
would be safe to assume that the Japanese
participant in the conflict would strive to
participate only in constructive conflict.
• Beebe, Beebe, and Ivy define constructive
conflict as “Conflict characterized by cooperation
in dealing with differences; [it] helps build new
insights and patterns in a relationship.” (2010)
• Within Beebe, Beebe, and Ivy’s text they
discuss Wilmot and Hocker’s hallmarks of
constructive conflict. One of these
hallmarks is that “constructive conflict
provides each partner with a more
honest, complete picture of himself or
• With this knowledge, one involved in a
conflict with a Japanese person should
avoid destructive conflict and strive to
communicate only within the guidelines of
constructive conflict to aid more effective
Figure 3. Two people arguing, an example of conflict
When participating in any form ofWhen participating in any form of
communication with a member of thecommunication with a member of the
Japanese culture it is important to rememberJapanese culture it is important to remember
some of the things learned here regardingsome of the things learned here regarding
large aspects of this high context culturallarge aspects of this high context cultural
group’s way of life. In particular, be aware ofgroup’s way of life. In particular, be aware of
any nonverbal cues you may be giving thatany nonverbal cues you may be giving that
could be misinterpreted or that you are beingcould be misinterpreted or that you are being
given, be understanding of Japanese dininggiven, be understanding of Japanese dining
customs, both verbal and nonverbal whilecustoms, both verbal and nonverbal while
eating with a Japanese person, be mindful ofeating with a Japanese person, be mindful of
the tendency a member of this culture maythe tendency a member of this culture may
have to aim to handle conflict constructively.have to aim to handle conflict constructively.
Open-ended questionsOpen-ended questions
•What are some examples of good conversationWhat are some examples of good conversation
starters to learn more about the holidays a person whostarters to learn more about the holidays a person who
may have a different cultural background celebrates?may have a different cultural background celebrates?
•How do you think traditions in Japanese weddings areHow do you think traditions in Japanese weddings are
similar to traditions in American weddings and why dosimilar to traditions in American weddings and why do
you think this is?you think this is?
•What core values do the Japanese obtain from theirWhat core values do the Japanese obtain from their
childhood education that influences how theychildhood education that influences how they
•What differences in communication tendencies wouldWhat differences in communication tendencies would
you expect when communicating with a member of theyou expect when communicating with a member of the
Japanese culture in contrast to dealing with membersJapanese culture in contrast to dealing with members
of cultures which you encounter everyday?of cultures which you encounter everyday?
•What would be your best adivise to someone fromWhat would be your best adivise to someone from
Japan about our western eating customs?Japan about our western eating customs?
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