Over the course of history, Japan has been isolated from the rest of the world. Due to the absence of influence of globalization, this country had its unique norms, rules, customs, and traditions unaffected by factors of the external world. “There is not the slightest doubt that culture has a deep and persuasive influence on the Japanese” as well as on the Japanese economy and other crucial domains of life in the country (Woronoff, 2001, p. 39).
However, “after the bursting of Japan’s speculative bubble, it has become increasingly clear that the country must transform itself once again to remain internationally competitive and to sustain its high level of prosperity” (Kushida, 2001, p. 87). Profound changes taking place in society soon after the burst of the bubble, updated rules and regulations, “and entrenched business practices have removed many disincentives” from the course of country’s development (Kushida, 2001, p. 87).
The Japanese culture can be examined by means of Hofstede’s system of value dimensions, how help understand how basic cultural values underlie organizational behavior of individuals.
In conformity with Hofstede’s system, Japan scores high on the collectivism. In a highly collectivistic culture, an individual is likely to actively interact with other members of a particular group. “It is almost impossible to perceive a person as an individual rather than one whose identity comes from groups with which that individual is associated” (Treven, Mulej, & Lynn, 2008, p. 29). In other words, Japanese people tend to perceive themselves as an integral part of a group rather than distinguished and independent individuals. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for the Japanese to work together for the benefit of the entire group in order to achieve their common goal rather than to pursue personal goals.
Another fundamental dimension of the Japanese culture is the power distance. Japan is characterized by the high level of power distance, which means that the Japanese “accept high differences in power and authority between members of different social classes or occupational levels” (Treven, Mulej, & Lynn, 2008, p. 29). In other words, the Japanese people recognize and accept the authority of their chiefs and seldom never ignore the chain of command.
Speaking from the perspective of uncertainty avoidance dimension, Japan can be defined as a society with high degree of uncertainty avoidance. It means that the Japanese feel much more comfortable in predictable situations and, therefore, “prefer stable jobs, a secure life, avoidance of conflict, and have lower tolerance for deviant persons and ideas” (Treven, Mulej, & Lynn, 2008, p. 30).
The fourth cultural dimension, which is the masculinity-femininity dimension, “refers to the degree to which values associated with stereotypes of masculinity (such as aggressiveness and dominance) and femininity (such as compassion, empathy, and emotional openness) is emphasized” (Treven, Mulej, & Lynn, 2008, p. 30). High masculinity societies, including Japan, typically have more sex-differentiated structure of occupation. In other words, in Japan there are particular jobs completely assigned to female employees and jobs entirely assigned to male employees.
The last cultural dimension, which should be taken into consideration, is the country’s orientation. Asian countries, including Japan, are typically characterized as having long-term orientation toward the future, belief in thriftiness and savings, patience, and persistence. “In countries with a long-term orientation, planning has a longer time horizon” (Treven, Mulej, & Lynn, 2008, p. 30).
Consequently, the majority of Japanese companies are ready and willing “to make substantial investments in employee training and development, there will be longer-term job security, and promotions will come slowly” (Treven, Mulej, & Lynn , 2008, p. 30). One of the practical manifestations of this cultural value is the practice of “lifetime employment”, which is “the practice of allowing workers to remain with the company throughout their work life” (Firkola, 2006, p. 118). The Japanese employees value their job as well as their bosses, and, therefore, “dismissal only occurs in exceptional circumstances and for grievous behavior” (Woronoff, 2001, p. 40).
All in all, among a wide range of interpersonal as well as business relations values associated with the Japanese culture, some of the most crucial can be determined as the following: “showing respect, putting people at ease, and showing appreciation” (Kumayama, 1991, p. 61).
Firkola, P. (2006). Japanese Management Practices: Past and Present. Economic Journal of Hokkaido University, 35, 115-130.
Kumayama, A. (1991). Japanese / American Cross-Cultural Business Negotiations. Intercultural Communication Studies, 1(1), 51-67.
Kushida, K. (2001). Japanese Entrepreneurship: Changing Incentives in the Context of Developing a New Economic Model. Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, 1, 86-95. Retrieved February 5, 2016, from Stanford
Treven, S., Mulej, M., & Lynn, M. (2008). The Impact of Culture on Organizational Behavior. Management, 13(2), 27-39.
Woronoff, J. (2001). Business-Related Culture. In The "no nonsense" guide to doing business in Japan (pp. 39-50). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: PALGRAVE.