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The Japanese Way of Life

Overview of Japan

Japan is found on the North East Asia. It is an island in the Pacific Ocean bordering China, North and South Korea, and Russia to the East. Japan is a collection of islands with the largest being Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu and Hokkaido; covering approximately 97 per cent of the total area under Japan. Demographically, it has a population of about 127million, with most of the population concentrated in metropolitan areas such as Tokyo.

Japan is one of the leading economic powers. It boasts of the third largest economy in term of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its purchasing power. Typically, Japan can be said to be a developed country having relatively high living standards. According to the World Health Organization reports, Japan reports having the third lowest in terms of mortality rates of infants.

The Japanese Culture

The culture of the Japanese has advanced since the historical times, from the traditional Jomon arts to the present day contemporary Japanese culture, which has been influenced by other cultures such as the Asian culture, the European culture and the North American culture. Changes within the Japanese culture have been influenced by the increasing technological advancements that resulted to the increase in mass communication, and as a result, an assimilation of cultural concepts in the Japanese culture.


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In Japan, everyone has a social responsibility of conforming to the societal norms governed by the contemporary Japanese culture. However, there are reported exceptions notably among the young generations who attempt to mock conformity to the contemporary Japanese culture. Japan is typically a collectivist society, implying that the needs of a group are prioritized compared to the needs of an individual. The Japanese language plays a crucial role in determining the culture of the Japanese.

Political structure

The system of governance in Japan bases on constitutional monarchy, which has been in existence since the 1890. The Japanese constitution advocates for equality in terms of gender. It also places the emperor as the head of state. The parliament of Japan is known as the Diet, which comprises of the House of Councilors and the House of Representatives. Members under the Upper House are elected from the constituencies, both at the national and the local level. Members in the Lower House are usually elected from the local level. The Lower House has more political power compared to the upper house, with the prime minister and other cabinet positions being elected from the Lower House.

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Each prefecture has a governor who is elected at the local level. Prefectures serve as government agents and have limited authority in terms of taxation and other legal codes within the Japanese government structure. Municipalities too also have limited authority, and they serve to offer daily services to citizens of Japan. Some of the basic roles of the Municipalities are to provide education, policing and fire protection services according to the directives issued at the higher level.

Japan is divided into 47 prefectures with varying political structures. Specifically, the ordinary prefectures are 43 in number; metropolitan prefectures are three and a one administrative prefecture.

Gender Roles in the Japanese society

One of the most significant divisions is in terms of labor division. According to Japanese beliefs regarding ritual purity, most of the aspects of ritual life exclude the participation of women. For instance, women have no authority to gain access to some sacred places, some communities in Japan forbid women from fishing and economic activity. Many of these prohibitions are being ignored among most of the Japanese communities, with a few conservative communities still adhering to the beliefs. The societal context of the Japanese culture is based on Neo-Confucianism, whereby social roles are distributed according hierarchical relationships. With this consideration, the Japanese culture promotes husband domination over wife, and father domination over the children. During the late 19th century, the family norms were codified, putting women in the society as a subordinate of their male counterparts.

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The status of men and women under the Japanese culture

Traditionally, the women were confined handling matters of a domestic nature; this norm is still presented in the current Japanese culture. The husband is the head of the household and serves to signify the family in the outside world. Within the domestic set up, the wife has the authority and control of managing the daily happenings within the family. The family structure is one element of the Japanese culture that overrides the equality between men and women as adopted in the constitution of Japan. The participation of women in the society depicts gender divisions. The Japanese language incorporates different language styles for both women ad men, with the women required to use more polite speech compared to their male counterparts in order to denote deference and to show that they are observing the hierarchy.

Marriage, Family and inheritance

Since the historical times, the family has been the fundamental unit of the Japanese society.  In the societal level, the family is of more ultimate significance compared to the individual. This means, the traditional family laws are strictly followed both at the individual and the overall society level. The family norms are imperative in determining the overall Japanese contemporary culture. The Japanese culture represents a perfect example of gender affiliations. For instance, men in the Japanese society are viewed to be superior to their women counterparts. At the family context, there is a division of labor that is based on gender, whereby the husbands are viewed as the sole breadwinners and the wives responsibility is within the home. It is necessary to note that the family represents the most influential unit in determining the Japanese culture.

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The marriage norms under the Japanese culture are divided into two categories: love marriage and the arranged marriage. Love marriage is based on a mutual attraction existing between two individuals. The arranged marriage is common in traditional set up whereby marriage is a negotiated process based on the opinions of the parent. Under the arranged marriage, background checks on a spouse and his /her family is a significant requirement.

The domestic unit comprises of a nuclear set up, comprising parents and their off springs. In the present Japan, extended kin groups do not play a significant role in daily lives of the domestic unit.

The Japanese culture places ultimate importance on the significance of family surviving a number of generations. The head of the household, the husband has the responsibility of stewardship of the family lineage to the children. In order to administer this effectively, the head of the household has to ensure that the family honors the past ancestors who played a significant role in the existence of the family through passing on the family assets, traditions and the social status of the family to the next generation in an intact manner, without breaking the lineage.

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Traditionally, land was never divided. Land division would impair the survival of the family to the next generation. In most scenarios, inheritance was bestowed upon a single child; usually the eldest son in the family. Kinship models define the relationship between the children and their parents. The Japanese norms dictate that a male child should have ties with his father, and similarly, a female child should have ties with her mother. The traditional setting advocates for master-apprentice ties between the parents and their children.


Infant care is typically a responsibility for women, mostly in their twenties and thirties. Child rearing is a fundamental responsibility for the women under the Japanese norms and belief. In order for child rearing to be deemed appropriate, it requires emotional attachment between the parent and the child.

Social problems in the Japanese Society

Social problems are an integral part of any community, and Japan is no exception. The significant social problems that are evident in the Japanese culture are gender divisions, women who refuse the role of mother hood, increasing unemployment rates and the increasing ineffectiveness of the education system. The most significant social problem in the Japanese community is the problem of social withdrawal, which is known as Hikikomori, in Japanese. The following provides an outline of social withdrawal among the Japanese people and its impacts.

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Background of social withdrawal in Japan

Social withdrawal involves isolation and confinement due to diverse personal and social factors. The Japanese are known to suffer extreme degrees of social withdrawal. According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Defense, individuals who suffer from Hikikomori, also called social withdrawal whereby an individual isolates himself from the society for a period of at least six months. Social withdrawal starts with cases of school refusals.

The prevalence of social withdrawal in Japan

Social withdrawal is a common phenomenon in Japan. Approximately one million Japanese suffer from social withdrawal. The social withdrawal is prevalent among teenagers and young adults in aged between 30and 40. The trend of social withdrawal is bound to increase due to the increase in cases of school refusal accelerated with increasing societal pressure from the society towards the maturing youths.

Short-term impact of social withdrawal

Social withdrawal has short-term effects to both the individual and society as a whole. One of the impacts associated with social withdrawal between the Japanese is that most of the Japanese experiencing social withdrawals are the youths in college; such isolation implies that they will not be able to complete their education.

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The elimination personal relationship by the individuals suffering social withdrawal is another short-term effect. Increased antisocial behavior impairs the ways an individual associates with people around him, and in extreme cases, victims are reported to be in complete isolation.

Long-term effects of social withdrawal

One of the significant long-term impacts of social withdrawal is that the individual remains unproductive for longer periods. This implies that he/she is not involved in any development activity and as a result, impairs the process of societal development.

In addition, increased cases of social withdrawal are bound to have long-term effects in the social setting. Since most of the victims are young, they will grow with increased unproductiveness associated with social withdrawal and in the end, there will be economic problems if the situation is not addressed as early as possible.

Potential solutions to the social withdrawal problem in Japan

The basic cause of social seclusion in Japan among the Youth is social pressure. Social pressure is evident in various ways such as educational pressure, pressure from the family, pressure from the society possibly due different family backgrounds and other social divisions. One of the effective ways in helping control the problem of social seclusion is to facilitate changes in the education system and societal perceptions. Currently, the Japanese culture offers high social prestige, implying that those who do not fit to the social status associated with education have no other means but to seclude themselves therefore, causing social stigma. The education system requires reforms to be able to accommodate people from all social classes.

Providing an improved classification by the health experts as to whether social withdrawal is a health issue or a social stigma will provide better avenues for addressing the problems. The Japanese society needs to have an insight of the potential cause of social withdrawal among the youth in order to establish effective solutions basing on either social stigma or a medical condition.



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