Cultural Differences

The kimonos in this photo are made from live mums. This is the Japanese national flower. These were taken at a castle that was preparing for a festival.
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I rarely write about cultural issues. There are two reasons for this. First, I never want to give the impression that I think the American way is right and the Japanese way is wrong. We are just different. Second, it is not my desire to offend any of my Japanese friends. There are many people here that I love dearly. We are different from one another in many ways and it is okay. Having said that, I will continue with the title of the post.
There are many cultural differences between the USA and Japan. Within the USA, there are cultural differences depending on what part of the country you are in and what nationality your ancestors are. My college years and most of my married life have been spent in a Southern state that is often called the buckle of the Bible belt. I went to a Christian college where men treat women like ladies. It was not uncommon to approach a door and have a gentleman hold it open for you. Even in town, the men are gentlemen. Many men stand when a woman enters a room, hold the door for her or open a car door. I never find this demeaning in anyway. I like it!
Japan is a male-dominant society. I’m not sure how to explain this in a way that an American can understand. One example is that a woman will never be an empress unless a law is changed. Only a male can inherit the throne. There was a big celebration when the second son in line for the throne produced a male heir. The first son, who will inherit first, has a daughter.
There are many ways that this plays out in everyday life. Today, I saw a perfectly charming example of it on the city bus. That is not meant to be a sarcastic statement. My daughter and I took the city busy home today. When we got on the bus, there were 5 young elementary students riding alone. My guess is they were 7-9 years old. Can you imagine this in the USA!?! They were wearing uniforms and I saw the badge. They are students at a prestigious, private school. They were very mannerly. I was impressed. Two little boys were sitting together in front of two little girls. The third girl was standing. At one of the stops, an elderly couple boarded the bus. The two girls stood and gave the couple their seats while the boys continued to sit. The couple smiled, bowed their thanks and sat. I know I am adjusting to the culture here because I smiled too!
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2 thoughts on “Cultural Differences

  1. Sue

    I also grew up in the south (mostly Georgia), so I understand where you are coming from!Of course, many of the attitudes toward women that you see here are cultural, but some are generational. My Japanese husband would never think of sitting down while an elderly woman (or man for that matter) stood near him on the train or bus. We definitely are shaped by the habits of the people around us, though. My husband always makes sure to walk on the outside of the sidewalk whenever we walk together, because his father always did that for his mother. Door opening, on the other hand doesn’t occur to him as often. Let’s face it. I hardly ever even have other women hold the door open for me when entering a building, even with a stroller and three other kids in toe– except at church! I am training my boys, though, so it’s not a problem;).I appreciate how respectful you are of the Japanese people when you share cultural things. I haven’t always been so gracious. Thankfully, the Lord is patient, and always teaching me!

  2. Ken and Vicki in Japan

    I’ve been to a ‘kiku’ event down in southern Hokkaido…amazing displays. But that’s the first time I have seen a ‘kimono’ made of them. Most interesting. You and your husband have the same attitude we always have had: nothing is wrong or right (except by biblical standards) in comparison as you say, between USA and Japan, but it is most definitely different. We would never let our children call something yucky either. Now they understand as adults that all cultures have many differences but that doesn’t make them wrong. I think it is important at times to help our supporters try and understand as much as they can that we can’t do our work here just as we would do it in America. And Japan isn’t a “McDonald’s drive-thru” ministry. When you talked about the differences in men in the States and here I was reminded how hard it was at first for me to keep quiet amongst a group of adults (because women are to be seen and not heard) but I did learn ;-). Lord bless you in the work there.(by the way, we have a blog too-www.mansellmusings.blogspot.com)I will look forward to checking back here again.

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