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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 15:02 03/09/2007
June 2000

Japan's Culture and Globalization - Importance of Real Human Contacts

Takenori INOKI (Prefessor, Osaka University)

The role of economic exchange
In this article, I will discuss some problems about "Japan's culture and globalization." Here by "culture," I do not mean such traditional culture as the tea ceremony or Kabuki, but I mean our lifestyle or our way of life in today's Japanese society.

It is needless to say that Japan's culture in this sense is bound to be strongly influenced by the current trend of globalization, which means greater speed and scope of movement of goods, services, people, information, etc. across national boundaries.

First of all, I wish to emphasize the role of commercial exchange of goods and services as a basis for an active interaction and mutual understanding between two groups (nations, races, etc.) with difference cultures. Since economic exchange by market rules tends to make people richer economically and gentler psychologically so that they may be able to accept cultural differences more easily.

In this context, we need to adapt to the so-called "global standard" in economic terms, and even to the American standard, if necessary. But that does not mean that we should abandon our cultural uniqueness or local values. Instead we ought to participate more actively in international movements and organizations and contribute to the creation of a better global standard, which would be more consistent with our own culture.

Resemblance to the Konoe-Yoshino controversy
It is troublesome to see a reactionary movement against any American standard within Japan these days. Such "anti-American standard" movements are clearly misguided and socially harmful. The difference in opinion on this point has some resemblance to a well-known controversy between Fumimaro Konoe and Sakuzo Yoshino in the post World War I era about 80 years ago, where Konoe rejected any American or European standard and Yoshino emphasized Japan's adaptation and adjustment to a better standard, such as democracy, while preserving Japan's own cultural identity.

Also there seems to be a misconception that globalization would lead to excessive homogenization and elimination of local values. This kind of view is often expressed in mass media by those who do not know what is rally happening in local towns and villages. There is a wide discrepancy between perception in the mass media level and reality in local communities. The situation does not seem to change much even now, especially in Japan.

In this kind of situation, we need to keep our human contacts in the Internet age. Even with different cultural backgrounds, we can understand each other through face-to-face contacts. It is important to think of virtual contacts through the Internet not as a substitute for human relations but rather a complement with real contacts.

In the Internet age, more localized and individualized information can be disseminated, but that is only possible if we keep our human contacts as closely as possible. Through face-to-face communications, we can make sure of our own beliefs and cultural values in the age of globalization.

Japan's younger generation
In a sense, it is a Japanese tendency as a part of Japan's culture, to be realistic rather than idealistic, and community-minded rather than globally-minded. Therefore, we only need to go back to our cultural roots to preserve and promote our cultural traits while adapting to the global standard, especially in the market place, for economic prosperity and cultural permissiveness.

Japan's young generation seems to be not only better equipped for globalization, but also more independent-minded and bias-free in reevaluating Japanese culture including traditional practices, contrary to some mass media reporting. If young people are better educated in school and better trained in their community and society, Japan will be able to co-exist with neighbors and prosper in the age of information and globalization.

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