Japanese Character and Culture: A Book of Selected Readings

Japanese Character and Culture: A Book of Selected Readings

Japanese Character and Culture: A Book of Selected Readings

Japanese Character and Culture: A Book of Selected Readings

Excerpt

The need of Westerners, and Americans in particular, to understand non-Western patterns of behaviour has become increasingly urgent since World War II. Without some understanding of the ways in which the "Asian personality" is formed, and of what patterns of behaviour emerge from a particular milieu, we will continue to make serious mistakes in our relations with a vast majority of human society. Since World War II, research workers and scholars, primarily in the fields of anthropology and sociology, have tried to define and attack the problem of national character or personality, in an attempt to fill this vacuum in our knowledge. To date, of all Asian societies, Japan has probably undergone the most extensive investigation with regard to cultural and personality patterns. Essentially, there have been two basic reasons for this interest in Japan. First, involvement in a war made it immediately evident that the West was abysmally ignorant of the nature of Japanese behaviour and its motivations. Awareness of such a gap in our knowledge showed the necessity for undertaking this type of investigation. Secondly, Japan has been, in the postwar period, the most accessible of Asian societies, as a result both of international position and the existence of a high degree of technical development that makes for ease of communication at all levels. The latter point indicates another cause for interest in Japan. The nation has long been a focus of attention for those interested in analysing the changes that occur in a society undergoing "Westernization." All of these reasons have contributed to the appearance of a relatively large number of works on Japanese society, culture, and personality. At the same time, this interest has contributed greatly to the development of techniques which can be used for determining national character and cultural configurations; techniques which are now being used in the examination of other non-Western societies.

This collection of readings, consequently, has three basic aims. First of all, to make more generally available to non-specialists interested in modern Japan, a picture of Japanese personality and the forces basic to its formation. The second major aim is related to the importance of such "behavioral" studies to an understanding of Japanese historical and political events. The use of sociological and anthropological methodology and findings in other areas of the social sciences has become increasingly widespread as the validity of such material becomes apparent. It is hoped, therefore, that . . .

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