You are on page 1of 22

By Kristen Tibbetts

TE 804 Dr. Neilsen

March 13, 2010

Japan is located in
northeastern Asia between
the North Pacific and the
Sea of Japan.
Japan is 377,873 square
kilometers in size, which is
nearly the size of Germany
and Switzerland combined
or slightly smaller than
Japan has four major
islands, but is surrounded by
more than 4,000 smaller
Japan is a country rich is
heritage and tradition. My
desire to research Japan is
two-fold: first, I lived in
Okinawa, Japan for three
years, so I feel a strong
connection to the culture;
second, I am working in a
school comprised of ~65%
Japanese students and
teachers. Therefore, I need
to understand more deeply
their beliefs and traditions
so I can better relate to the
children, their parents, and
my colleagues.
Useful Japanese Phrases:
Japanese English
Ohayou gozaimasu Good morning
Kon'nichiwa Good afternoon
Kon'banwa Good evening
Oyasumi nasai Good night
Sayounara Good-bye
Sumimasen Excuse me
Gomen nasa I am sorry
Wakarimasen I don't understand
Arigatou Thank you
Hai Yes
Iie No

Pictured is a typical
Asian Airline Meal
served in route to Japan
Japans population is 126
million people, and
approximately 12 million live in
the city of Tokyo.
Traditional cuisine is enjoyed
throughout the country, but
there are locally popular dishes.
Colors and shapes are very
important to the Japanese
culture. From physical
landmarks, to their dress, to the
elaborate gardens, to their style
of writing, design is an integral
part of Japanese symbolism.

The History of Japan
Dynasties controlled Japan for much of its ancient
In 1603, the Tokugawa shogunate brought political
stability and separation from outside control. For 200
years, Japans indigenous culture flourished.
After signing the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in
1854, Japan opened its ports and began to
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japans
military power defeated both China and Russia.
Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 - instigating
America's entry into World War II.
After World War II, Japan became an economic power
and an ally of the US.
Today elected politicians hold actual decision-making
Japan's economy experienced a slowdown in the
1990s, but it remains a major economic power.
In January 2009, Japan assumed a nonpermanent seat
on the UN Security Council for the 2009-10 term.
Pictured is
Hiroshima, Japan,
where the U.S.
dropped the
Atomic Bomb to
end WWII.

Japan: a
moment in
history & its
with the
Type of Government: a
parliamentary government with a
constitutional monarchy
Chief of State: Emperor
AKIHITO (since 1989pictured
on top)
Head of Government: Prime
Minister Yukio HATOYAMA
(since 2009--pictured on bottom)
and the Deputy Prime Minister
Naoto KAN.
Other Government: Cabinet
appointed by the prime minister
Supreme Court: The Chief
Justice is appointed by the monarch
after being selected by the Cabinet,
but all other justices are appointed
by the Cabinet alone.
Surface Culture
Ethic composition of Japan: Japanese
98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%,
other 0.6%
Large urban citiesTokyo, Osaka
mixed with plentiful rural farming areas
Colorful, eclectic artwork
Diverse cuisine, with a mixture of many
Asian influences
Well-educated population; stereotyped
as everyone is smart
Quiet, humble character traits
Friendly, gregarious, jolly

Deep Culture
Religious practice: Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%,
Christianity 2%, other 7.8%. (Note that percents exceed
100% because of the large number of Japanese that are
both Shinto and Buddist.)
Quiet reflection and listening in conversations. The act
of giving an opinion carries a lot of responsibility in
Particularist logic: instead of focusing on rules and
laws, they assume that fairness depends on the time,
place, and occasion of situations.

Deep Culture, continued
Practicing deference: For
good human relations, its better
if people of higher status are
honored publicly.
Preference for indirect,
mediated conflict resolution
versus debate.
Following a holistic view of
health instead of healing only
what is sick.
Living with extended family for
generations; a deep respect for
V alue of Ritualstea
ceremony, craftsmanship,

Traditions: Weddings
The Bonzai Toast
Guests shout the word
banzai three times
together, raising their hands
in the air each time.
It is customary to deliver two
separate banzai cheers at
weddings. 1) Shinro
shimpu, banzai! means long
life and happiness to the
bride and groom. 2) Raihin
no minasama, banzai! means
Long life and happiness to
all the guests!

Traditions: Birthdays
Shichi Go San (Seven-Five-Three)
Observed November 15th of every year.
Five-year-old boys and three- and
seven-year-old girls are dressed in
kimonos and blessed by a Shinto priest
for protection.
Yakudoshi Birthday-The Bad Luck Ages
Ages 24, 41 or 25, 42 if in Japan
Considered critical or dangerous
because these years are believed to
bring bad luck or disaster.
Kiju & Beiju Birthday s
The celebration of the77th and 88

birthdaysrespectivelybecause they
are the joyous years.
Traditions: Beliefs
Rites of Passage:
Ga no iwai (also known as toshiiwai) is
celebrated at various ages to pray for
long life. The tradition was brought to
Japan from China and is celebrated
once every ten years beginning at age
Second Monday of January is a
national holiday for the
Coming of Age (seijin no hi)
Day celebrated for 20 year old men
and women.
Religious Beliefs:
Hatsumode is the first temple or shrine
visit of the year.
It is one of the most important
traditions for the Japanese family.
At the Shinto shrines, visitors arrive
from midnight on through the morning to
express gratitude for blessings of the
past and to pray for guidance and
protections for the New Year.

Traditions: Holidays
January 1 (national holiday)--New Year (shogatsu):
This is the most important holiday in Japan. Only
January 1 is designated as a national holiday, but
many businesses stay closed through January 3.
March 3 Doll's Festival (hina matsuri) or Girls
May 5 Children's Day (kodomo no hi) or Boys
July/August 13-15 Obon--a festival to honor
deceased ancestors.
Third Monday of September (national holiday)--
Respect for the Aged Day (keiro no hi): Elderly
people and longevity are celebrated on this national
November 23 (national holiday) Labour
Thanksgiving Day (kinro kansha no hi): Day to
honor labor.
December 23 (national holiday) Emperor's
Birthday (tenno no tanjobi): The birthday of the
current emperor.
December 24-25 Christmascelebrated by more
Japanese today.
Classroom Modifications
To better facilitate a Japanese students assimilation to the
school and classroom, teachers should understand that
these students may:
Participate quietly in the classroom.
Divert their eyes when communicating to you as a sign of
Need correction to take place individually, away from
other students.
Wish to share about their culture, but should not be
pressured to do so.
Prefer to be seen like the other students rather than as
Celebrate different holidays or religious beliefs.
In addition, teachers should understand Japanese
students may
Bow as a sign of respect.
Need to learn English for both speaking and writing,
but will not want any public correction or modification
to be done.
Give gifts for holidays and for appreciation.
Take off their footwear in the classroom.
Eat with hashi (chopsticks).
Want to be understood, but not treated differently.

1. Take off your shoes whenever visiting a Japanese persons
home or classroom.
2. Remove footwear on polished wooden floors or 'tatami' (straw
3. Put on the provided slippers outside their restrooms while
going to the bathroom, but remove them before traveling
outside the restroom.
4. Wear formal attire in the evening for dinner.
5. Wash and rinse yourself before entering a Japanese
bathhouse or hot spring. Soap and shampoo should only be
used in the separate shower facilities.
6. Tuck your legs underneath you or sit cross-legged when
seated on the floor for dinner.
More Dos
7. Know bowing etiquette to
ensure the correct depth of bow
for each person and purpose.
8. Speak quietly and reverently to
9. Give a gift for holidays or for
10. Show respect and honor for co-
workers in public.
11. Eat or drink anything that is
12. Be prepared to use a Japanese
toilet when visiting: its often on
the ground which requires skill!

1. Blow your nose in public places.
2. Eat while walking or on public transportation.
3. Wear shoes in their homes, restaurants, shrines, or temples.
4. Wear overly revealing clothing, particularly when visiting shrines
& temples.
5. Wear a swimsuit in a Japanese bathhouse or hot spring.
6. Stretch out your legs when seated on the floor for dinner.
7. Talk about yourself in conversation.
8. Question, debate, or challenge a Japanese person in public.
9. Honk your horn at another car.
10. Stick chopsticks in your rice while (or when finished) eating.
11. Pick up food with hands.
12. Take photos of geisha unless she stands still for you.
13. Keep driving if school children are nearby.
14. Be afraid of the bullet trainstheyre great modes of

Intercultural Sensitivity &
Cultural Awareness
Japan is a combination of the modern and the
traditional. Its vast contrasts reflect their
incredible work ethic and education to dominate
the worlds technology and innovation, while at the
same time preserving the core beliefs of nature,
balance, and respect. Because of this ability to
exist well in these diverse worlds, I believe
Japanese families assimilate easily to America
and are often quickly in Stages 5 or 6 on the
Continuum of Cultural Awareness.

Photo Resource:
Many thanks to Mrs. Vickie Bisho, 2
Grade Teacher, Punahou School,
Honolulu, Hawaii, for sharing her photos taken in Japan, 2005. The authentic
views of Japanese culture are very appreciated!
Websites for Research Include: