Are Japanese Humble? Superior? Peaceful? Violent?

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The environment that shaped the Japanese people.

There are many contradictory views on Japanese people. Many see us as Kind and peaceful while some see us as violent and cruel. Some see us as humble; some see us as arrogant. I think we are all of these things at the same time. I will try to explain why.

Japan is isolated from the mainland yet unlike other Asian islands, Japan is temperate, not tropical so that there is heavy snow in winter. Being volcanic in nature, Japanese soil is not very fertile so its hard to grow crops. Add to that the cold winters when nothing can be grown, Japan was a harsh place to live in ancient times. There was even a practice(it’s debated) when food cache is not enough to support the whole family, the grandparents would be taken up a mountain to be left to die. True or not, it still gives a picture of how hard it was to live in Japan. If winter wasn’t enough, Japan is also battered by Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanic Eruptions, Typhoons, landslides, flooding, and droughts. This makes Japanese people very humble in terms of how powerless they are in the face of mother nature, but it also makes the Japanese very reliant on each other to get past these hardships. The land is all mountains so that usable land is mostly in the valleys and highlands(flat places up a mountain). This means that people are all clusters in small areas and indeed even today 70% of Japan is still mountain forests. What this means is not only do you have to work together but you have to get along with everyone. This is why the Japanese developed into polite and helpful people they are today. And that is why monsters like Godzilla – giant unstoppable forces of nature that rampage randomly.

Another aspect of living on a distant island is no one threatens you. Only the Mongols attack Japan in ancient times and were beaten back twice, no one else ever tried, so although Japan feared natural disasters, Japan did not fear a human enemy. This is where the superior concept is born but it’s not the same as in other places. Truly feeling superior to someone means you fought them and you beat them decisively. Japan didn’t fight anyone so its beyond compare. Japanese don’t think they are better than anyone else on the planet, they think they are the only people on the planet. Japan is the world and everywhere else is Disneyland. This is why Japan doesn’t have any monsters that are modeled after human enemies.

Government is another force that shaped Japanese people. The ancient Kings and lords made Japan into the law-abiding conformist society it is today. They made simple laws that applied to everyone but themselves and gave very harsh penalties for breaking the law, usually death. The rulers controlled the people not by using a lot of security but instead heavy penalties. for example, Japanese jails were rather low security compared to western ones at the time. Just big wooden beams, no rocks or metal nor many guards watching. Why no one escapes? Because the penalty for escaping or trying to escape is immediate death. Over the centuries this shaped society to act as one and never break the law, yet the ruling class was above the law. They do/did whatever they want. They shaped the peasant population to behave so it is easier for them to rule over the masses, none of these rules apply to them. That is why Japanese people are so law-abiding yet the government is corrupt – it always been that way. This leads to two other phenomenons in Japan, scammers, and bullies.

Because the Japanese are so law-abiding, people do not worry about crime, they assume everyone is good and honest. That is why girls would walk late at night carefree and people don’t lock their doors. But this opens the door for scammers who take advantage of the peoples trusting ways. For example, one scam a few years back was a text message to an elderly person that read, ” It’s me, I need your help. I ran into a problem and I need money. Send $5000 to this address quickly. Please.” This scam simply would not work in America but it did in Japan because the recipient assumes “It’s me” to be a son or grandson and sending money is rather common in Japan. The other phenomenon is bullying. The old harsh punishment for breaking the law became a pattern for society to keep everyone in check. In place of the Lord, society itself would ‘punish’ people who did not behave correctly – who did not conform to what society expects. This is still the norm in Japan today; people are given the green light to not be polite to someone who is not conforming and even be mean to someone who repeatedly does not conform. This goes out of context and out of control when kids imitate this behavior. You see, in real adult society, this bullying works because there are built-in checks and balances. for one, only a real and serious case would trigger such bullying – something that would affect the community in a big way. Also, the person can move away if he simply didn’t want to confirm. In school bullying, the reason is arbitrary like the kid is poor, weak, lakes social skills or the reason is jealousy over a boy. once started everyone follows without knowing why they should bully the person which is in stark contrast to the real world where each person knows what’s going on and chooses what they will do. Also, the bullied child has no option to confirm and make things stop since usually, he is not doing anything to cause his bullying.



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