Difference between other Asian countries and Japan (1) – Japan is somewhere between Asia and the Pacific islands –

Posted on 2007/08/15. Filed under: Asia, Japan | Tags: , |

In response to my comment “I am not Asian but Japanese,” I often encounter Asian people who say, “If Japan does not belong to Asia, then does Japan belong to Europe or America?” After all my experiences with other Asian people and their cultures, I really feel that Japan is somewhere between Asia and the Pacific islands.

What I think are the differences between continental Asian countries and Japan are as follows:

a) Japan has become westernized in many ways as a result of two reformations. One is Japanese political reformation “Meijiishin” in 1868, which changed Japanese society dynamically to be westernized to some extent. Another is the U.S. government’s policy after Japan lost the Second World War, which made Japan more westernized. It was aided by the fact that there were few obstacles against westernization because Japan had never been colonized by a western country and its people did not harbor hostile feelings toward western culture. As a positive result of westernization, Japanese now respects the western ideal of “human rights.”

b) Japanese do not consider Asian identity as important as other Asian people do.

c) Japanese do not celebrate “Chinese New Year” as Chinese and Korean people do.

d) Traditionally Japanese do not care as much about blood relationships as Chinese and Korean people do. Japanese have thousands of family names unlike Chinese and Korean people. For example, many Chinese share the family name “Chen”, and many Koreans share the family name “Kim” and those people might tend to think that they share the same blood. Japanese commoners created their own surnames after modern times began.*

e) The Japanese media often use Confucianism to explain Korean sexism. Confucianism is not supported in Japan as much as it is in Korea and some Chinese regions.

f) Historically Japan has traded with China since long ago but Japan has never been invaded or controlled by China because China is far away from Japan geographically, not like the distance between England and France (go check out a world map now!) I think that this is why I feel that Chinese culture is so different from mine while Western culture is a part of my culture.

g) Of course Japanese traditional culture shares a lot with Chinese traditional culture such as Chinese characters, chopsticks, religion and more but traditional culture is not considered as much important in Japan as it is in China and Korea.

Nonetheless, our behavior is common to other Asian people in many ways. I can easily guess why people behave in a way when I communicate with Asians but my imagination often fails when I attempt to communicate with westerners. Furthermore individualism is often considered selfish while interdependent human relationships are welcomed in Japan like in many other Asian societies.



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6 Responses to “Difference between other Asian countries and Japan (1) – Japan is somewhere between Asia and the Pacific islands –”

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I… have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Your knowledge of Asia is so skeletal that it’s appalling. You have lumped every single part of Asia together, including the parts with curry and the parts with oil, into China.

Please answer my questions.
1. What is an ‘Asian’ identity? Do Afghans hold onto their Asian identity as strongly as the Chinese do (as you claim)? Do Chinese people even hold a strong Asian identity? Have you heard Mainland Chinese say, “We Asians…” It is common for people in America and Europe to say “Asia is…” because like you, many(not all!) people do not understand much about the region tend to see the WHOLOE of Asia as China, which it is not.

2. Indian people do not celebrate Chinese New Year. Neither do Indonesians and Siberians. They’re still Asian. Because Asia is not just China.

3. Traditionally Japanese do not care as much about blood relationships as Chinese and Korean people do. Confucianism is not supported in Japan as much as it is in Korea and some Chinese regions.
So Asia = China and Korea. Hmmm. I didn’t know Iran was exactly the same as China and Korea. And the last I checked, Iran was still on the mainland.
And as far blood relationships being important, name me a culture that doesn’t value family.

4. traditional culture is not considered as much important in Japan as it is in China and Korea.
Once again, how do you know this? Please don’t tell me you’ve ‘travelled extensively across Asia’ and hence you’re ‘justified in making this comment’. If you went to Shanghai as a tourist for a week they’ll show you all that traditional artsy stuff like opera, acrobatics, Chines medicine, etc. If you lived in Shanghai for a year it’ll be VERY different.

Asia = the land mass and the islands around it. There is NO such thing as an Asian identity or traits common to Asians (except universal values like thou shalt not kill) because the region is too diverse. Unless Japan gets ripped apart by another earthquake and slowly drifts towards Hawaii, it will always be considered Asian.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

I discovered your blog last night. I agree with some of it, that’s natural. I love how you write freely about your opinions and how you’re open to debate.
I disagree with parts of it, but people have different opinions and I can accept that. You argued your points logically and I can see where you’re coming from and even though I don’t endorse that viewpoint, I’ll accept it.

But for the most part, I keep thinking, where is the logic in her assumptions? What does she base her statements on? Your ability to stereotype based on so little is amazing. You see a one armed man in India and no handicapped people in Czech and you’ll conclude that all people in India are handicapped or no people in Czech are handicapped. Like I said earlier, your knowledge of Asia is skeletal at best. I would really recommend reading up on the area before you make any of your far fetched assumptions and stereotypes.

Hi Lucy Diamond,

I should say that I am talking about “East Asia” in this blog post. I did not think about India at all when I wrote this. And Iran is located in Middle East and it is not in Asia according to Japanese geography. So, I have never thought that Iran is a part of Asia.

I had many Chinese friends (Taiwanese) in the U.S. and I have learnt about the real Chinese mindset from them. The façade of Shanghai is changing time after time but the mindset has stayed the same, I think.

How can you say that I write based on assumptions? I am Japanese and I understand Japanese culture and its language. There is a lot of information given only in Japanese and information translated into English is limited. Do you understand Japanese language at a native level like me?

All ethnic groups have various people but I see that people from the same ethnicity tend to follow the same values. I think that is why sometimes I can recognize if a person is westerner or non-westerner from what the person write without seeing or knowing the person’s cultural background.

Ohhh cool I’m never getting all of them mixed
up again. Thank-you. ^__^

hey I’m dark skinned,indian heritage but born and brought up in London, after I graduate I want to work in Japan and I am currently learning Japanese, I travelled in South-East Asia before and experienced blatant and quite upsetting racism, how do you think I would be treated in Japan?Would I be viewed as an ‘Asian’ or a westerner?

Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

Robert Shumake Paul Nicoletti

Don’t all (East) Asian nationalities say they are fundamentally different from their neighbours. Since the Tang hasn’t Japanese culture been dominated by their Chinese counterparts? There’s no shame in it, French culture dominated Europe up until the 19th century and perhaps even the 20th and American culture dominates the world. Not only are the character based writing systems in Chinese and Japanese very similar (much more than China and Korea), but also the pronunciation of words is sinic. I know there are historic structural differences in politics and society; Japan has historically been a feudal military dictatorship with a rigid class structure whereas the Chinese empire relied on a civil bureaucracy and has not been so class based, but I think aren’t these superficial and really the crux of it is that the intellectual, cultural, religious and technological history of the East has mostly been based in and dominated by China?

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