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