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The number of foreigners learning Japanese continuously increases each year. This therefore leads me to believe that these people must have an interest in Japan. However, it does make one wonder what images they have of Japan. Do these people really have a good and right image of Japan? I am acquainted with a few of these people and they claim their love of Japan is due to its fascinated with their own culture and heritage? The Japanese are amongst the easiest people to get along with, even if one does not understand them completely. Understanding the Japanese is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, however this should not deter anyone from trying to comprehend Japan and her people. The purpose of my essay then is to increase my readers understanding of Japan and its people, especially give their rather complex characteristics.
Being part of a group is very important to the Japanese. As a starting point for my analysis of the Japanese I would like to discuss the balance between the individual and group within the Japanese culture. The human race is made up of individuals, but each is born and lives, for most part of his or her life within a group or community.
Various societies differ greatly especially with respect to the emphasis placed on being an individual or being part of a community. This difference is obvious when comparing the Japanese to the Western culture as the Japanese would sacrifice the individual for the good of the group. This ideology extends beyond the group of the people's sacrifice for the common benefit of the country as this is seen as something to be proud of.
As compared to the Westerners, the Japanese prefer to exist as a group. While Westerners put on a show of independence and individuality, most Japanese will be quit content to conform to their community in dress, conduct, lifestyle and even thoughts. This is all part of maintaining "face"- originally a Chinese term but is of most importance to the community.
The Japanese are constantly being reminded of how unique their culture, beliefs, customs and lifestyles are. The constant reminder is perpetuated by the government through references in government publication and hammered home by publication of literature devoted exclusively to the subject.
Take for example Japanese that are banded together, this group is ranked according to its social position and disparity of age. Japanese have placed a high priority on rank even during the initial period. The notion of a ranking has strongly affected Japanese social life. Also we know that the honorific expressions are of the great importance to the Japanese language.
The head of the household, regardless of age, occupies the highest se at; his retired father then retreats to a lower seat. Nowadays, age becomes a deciding factor only amongst individuals of similar status. In Japan, status also precedes gender. It is commonly known that Japanese women are nearly always ranked as inferiors. This is not because their gender is considered inferior, but because women seldom hold higher social status.
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