Social Attitudes in Japan: Trends and Cross-National Perspectives

Social Attitudes in Japan: Trends and Cross-National Perspectives

Social Attitudes in Japan: Trends and Cross-National Perspectives

Social Attitudes in Japan: Trends and Cross-National Perspectives


Why is it important to study general social attitudes? To compare social attitudes across nations? To conduct such research longitudinally? The answers reveal the significance of such social research under unprecedented globalization, which creates imperatives for mutual international understanding.

Though principally focused on Japanese social attitudes, these attitudes must be compared across nations and time, one means being cross-national attitude surveys, encompassing special methodologies and data analytic techniques. In 1953, the Institute of Statistical Mathematics began nationwide, longitudinal surveys of the Japanese way of thinking. All of the work described in this book stems from this research.

This book is intended as a learning tool for those engaged in or contemplating social scientific research. At both national and international levels, survey and analytic methodologies are explored, explicated and applied to real world data.


In 1953, and every five years thereafter, a team of researchers under the leadership of Professor Chikio Hayashi at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo conducted a continuing series of innovative investigations of the attitudes and values of a representative national sample of the Japanese population. a special feature of this exploration of “the Japanese way of thinking” was the team's resolve that each periodic survey, however otherwise amplified with the passage of time, would still always include the same basic set of core questions. This decision, which some thought to show a lack of imagination, was actually a fundamentally creative one. By repeating these key questions every five years the Institute team created the basis for judging what has remained constant in the Japanese national character as against what has changed. and for those attitudes and values which did change, they could specify in what direction they changed, at what speed, and in response to which elements in the massive transformation of Japan's economic, social, and political organization over a span of more than 45 years.

As successive waves of the research enlarged the basis of comparison over time, the team came to realize that an understanding of continuity and change in Japanese patterns of thinking and feeling would be greatly enhanced if the data for the population in Japan could be compared with that of others experiencing the same historical era in different national settings. Their first foray in this direction was to put their standard questions to people of Japanese origin who had emigrated to Hawaii and to their Japanese offspring born and raised on those islands. in later stages other industrialized nations such as the United States, France, and Germany were sampled using the same questions which were presented to the Japanese.

Operating as it has for almost half a century with many successive surveys of the Japanese population, and increasingly other nations as well, the project has accumulated a vast amount of data specific to Japan over time and relevant to viewing Japanese development in comparison with other industrialized and economically advanced countries.

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