miércoles, 18 de junio de 2008

Japanese Society

On Some Characteristics of Contemporary Japanese Society
(prof. de Psicología social en la Univ. Hosei) [en Anselm STRAUSS y Juliet CORBIN (Eds.), _Grounded Theory in Practice_, Thousand Oaks (Calif) & London, Sage, 1997, págs. 251-266]

Commentary Part of this chapter, although it was later published in an English version, was given as a talk to a Japanese audience. Setsuo Mizuno, whose major research and writing are in the areas of biography and the analysis of qualitative data, is a social scientist at Hosei University in Tokyo. We have chosen, however, to reprint this chapter, which we find fascinating both in content and form, because it illustrates several points likely to be instructive for our readers. We will address those shortly.

Professor Mizuno was the principal translator (with two other people) of the Japanese version of Discovery of Grounded Theory (1996). He had already begun this task when visiting the United States several years ago, where he became increasingly intrigued with grounded theory methodology and some of its procedures. Since then, he has given seminars on grounded theory, and has also developed a version of it suitable to his own research interests.

An earlier version of this chapter appeared in Society and Labour 37, 143-175, used by permission.

What we find especially interesting about this chapter about features of Japanese society is that although Professor Mizuno did not explicitly employ our condition al-consequential matrix (he did not actually know of it yet), nevertheless his analysis turns around systematically linking (a) macro conditions ("themes in Japanese ideology, both pre and post WWII) with (b) collective identity. He traces, in fair detail, many probable connections between the two. But, note that his interest is more than this. He is concerned centrally with the changes of ideology and identity, as each has affected the other, but also in concert with emerging events and trends (demographic, political, economic, and so forth). Note also how he has implicit conditional arrows running reciprocally between identity changes and ideological changes: the former influencing the latter, but also vice versa. If this were a monograph rather than a chapter, presumably his tracing of connections would he more detailed, additionally specific, and presented with more evidence. Overall, the chapter orders a great number of large-scale societal impacts and changes, and moves skillfully between macro sociological and social psychological emphases.

The chapter should also be interesting to you because its data are, aside from personal observations and experiences, drawn from commentaries and analyses of other Japanese scholars; and, too, because its author uses extensively various economic data, including tables, taken from technical literature and government sources. (We have omitted almost all of those data because they refer to well-known features of Japanese economic life in the last decades.)

One especially striking feature of the chapter is how Setsuo Mizuno presents his very complicated analysis-of great masses of data, and about features of entire society. Primarily he orders these through sets of analytic points, in a type of analysis that is a version of what, in our book, we have called "conceptual ordering." He gives order to the data, partly by his systematic treatment of sets of data, but also because of the equally careful conceptualization of these materials.


Goto, T., Ohode, W & Mizuno, S., trans. 1996. Deetataiwagata riron no hakken. Tokyo: Shinyousha.

1. Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to elucidate some of what 1 think are major characteristics of contemporary Japanese society. Here I'd like to approach this problem by making use of the twin notions of backgrounding and foregrounding. Backgrounding here refers to putting something in place as a background perspective in order to understand the foreground in question. The foreground in our case is ... contemporary Japanese society. Foregrounding means the thematization of the foreground itself on condition that the task(s) of backgrounding is (are) finished.

1 have prepared three background perspectives for deciphering contemporary Japanese society. They are (1) the identification of several mentalities which had supported, or had been affiliated with, Japanese modernization since the Meiji Restoration, (2) the examination of the consequences of Japan's defeat in the War, and (3) the description of characteristics of Japanese society in the era following its defeat until its emergence as an "economic power."

From the first perspective an attempt is made to thematize some of the mentalities which the Japanese people tended to internalize in the process of Japanese modernization following the Meiji Restoration, or which fitted well with Japanese modernization. The second perspective raises two questions. First, what did the defeat mean to the Japanese people? Second, what was the plausible impact of the defeat upon the prewar mentalities? That is, as a result of the defeat, what kind of mental transformations did the Japanese people have to undergo? My assumption is that these transformed mentalities must have set the stage for the basic orientations of the Japanese people after the War. The third perspective is a historical one. Focusing on the periods since Japan's defeat in World War 11 until now, 1 divide the postwar years into two major eras: one is the era before 1980 and the other that after 1980 (incidentally, when 1 talk about contemporary Japanese society, 1 am referring to Japanese society in the era after 1980). So the third perspective's focus is on the era before 1980, which 1 subdivide into three periods and touch briefly on some features of each period. These are what I regard as the works of backgrounding.

Finally, using the above information as three interrelated backgrounds, 1 will discuss some of the features of Japanese society after 1980.

2. Several Mentalities Which Had Supported, or Had Been Affiliated With, Japanese Modernization Following the Meiji Restoration

Here I'd like to point out the following eight mentalities which 1 suspect had been dominant among the Japanese people of the prewar era.

First, the mentality of "Fukoku-kyouhei" (enrich the country, strengthen the military). This mentality could be said to be the basic economic and military strategy which the Japanese leaders of the Meiji era found it necessary to adopt in order to survive and, if possible, rise in the severe world situation where it was the rule that the stronger preyed upon the weaker.

Second, the mentality of "Datsua-nyuuou" (out of Asia, into the West). Although Japan could have identified with Asia, what the Meiji Japan actually did was the mental division of the world into Asia and the West, and the assimilation of, and the identification with, the "superior" and strong West. This way of thinking might have had a very good fit with the basic strategy of "Fukoku-kyouhei," but it was a very unfortunate and unfair mental choice, the legacy of which can still be found even today in some Japanese's way of getting along with the outside world.

Third, the mentality of "Wakon-yousai" (Japanese spirit, Western techniques). The Meiji Japan, like every newly modernizing country, had to face the basic tension between the way of thinking which embodied its traditional values and the way of thinking required for the acquisition of technology. They needed some idea to resolve this tension and found their answer in the phrase "Wakon-yousai," obviously a kind of compromise formation.

Fourth, the mentality of "Risshin-Shusse" (make one's way in the world). This idea is said to have "derived, somewhat inaccurately, from Herbert Spencer and Samuel Smiles" (Beasley, 1990:129). This career-oriented advice was a basic command to the promising young Japanese to commit themselves to their work and move up the social ladder.

Fifth, the mentality of "Messhi-houkou" (suppress the private self and serve the public). This phrase could also be translated as "self-annihilation for the sake of one's country" or "sacrificing one's personal interest to the public good." This mentality, together with the last one, helped to channel the energy of the Japanese people into the work in the public sphere even at the sacrifice of private or personal interest.

Sixth, the mentality of the emperor as the spiritual core of the Japanese. This notion is closely related to the problem of national identity. By putting the emperor at the very center of Kokutai (national essence), the Meiji leaders attempted and successfully accomplished a high degree of national integration.

Seventh, the mentality of "Otoko-wa-shigoto, Onna-wa-katei" (the man's place is outside [work] and the woman's place is inside [home]). Each society has its own traditional stance toward gender relations. At least ideologically speaking, this was the typical stance found in the Meiji Japan concerning the sexual division of labour.

Eighth, the mentality of "Danson-johi" (respect the men, despise the women). This deep-rooted prejudice must have something to do with a very strong patriarchal character of the Meiji Japan.

Why these eight mentalities, and not others, you might ask. We could have chosen different ones (in that sense, I admit there's some arbitrariness about the selection) but, given my perception about the present-day Japan, these eight seem to have some relevance to the task of grasping contemporary Japanese society. In terms of the familiarity of the phrasing, except for the sixth formulation concerning the emperor, most Japanese can easily recognize the catchwords 1 have chosen and, even if they might add something else, they must at least agree that the importance of these mentalities for the majority of the Japanese people of the prewar era cannot be denied.

3. Consequences of Japan's Defeat in the War

1. What the Defeat Meant to the Japanese People

As far as the Japanese people's perception of the defeat in World War 11 is concerned, there seem to have been two major points. One is the fact that the defeat in the War generated economic and psychological catastrophes. The other is that the Japanese people perceived the defeat, naturally enough, as a traumatic experience.

Here I'd like to focus on some of the consequences which 1 believe were generated on a wide scale among the Japanese people by such perception. First, there emerged an overwhelmingly real feeling of "we-don't-want-to-gointothe-war-again." This feeling, which was based upon the war-related experiences, such as the ordeals they had to endure because of the misery of the war itself and the economic catastrophe generated by the defeat, became the basis of a strong desire of the Japanese people to seek the peace of the nation and of the world, and this is still alive in today's Japanese people's consciousness.

Second, the Japanese people preferred (and adopted) the wording of "Shuusen" (the end of the War) to that of "Haisen" (the defeat in the War). This is, 1 believe, partly related to their perception of the defeat as traumatic experience. When we use the expression "the defeat in the War," then we expose ourselves, logically speaking, to the situation in which we could raise questions, such as "Who was defeated by whom?" "Who is responsible for the defeat?" etc. If we use the wording "the end of the War," however, there's no need to raise such questions, especially those concerned with the responsibility of the War. My impression is that to give an elusive or ambiguous wording to the situation in which the identification of the agent of responsibility is called for might be a typical Japanese way of response. Let me cite two recent examples. The first one is a gap in wording between the Japanese version and the American version of what is called "Japanese-American Structural Impediment Initiative Talk," which started in July 1989 between both governments to come to grips with trade frictions between the two countries. The Japanese version of this talk is "Nichibei Kouzoukyougi," which, if literally translated into English, means "Japanese-American Structural Consultation." The second example is from the way of apology made by Showa Emperor (i.e., Emperor Hirohito) concerning the period between 19 10 and 1945, when Japan invaded and occupied Korea, to the then-South Korean President who visited Japan in 1984: "It is indeed regrettable that there was an unfortunate past between our two nations for a period in this century, and 1 believe that it must not be repeated" ("Japan Should Make Apology," 1990; emphasis mine).

Third, there occurred the virtual demolition and "denial" of what had been taken for granted in the prewar value system. This is, of course, a necessary consequence of psychological catastrophe brought about by the defeat.

2. Impact of the Defeat Upon the Prewar Mentalities

What could we say about the plausible impact of the defeat upon the prewar mentalities we examined in Section 2?

First, the mentality of "Fukoku-kyouhei" (enrich the country, strengthen the military) comes to be transformed into the mentalities of "Fuyuuka" (toward becoming rich) or "Fukokuka" (toward becoming a rich nation) and pacifism. The defeat in the War forced the Japanese people into the situation of near starvation. So it was quite natural that they did their best to get out of this poverty-stricken state, with the goal of becoming rich themselves (individually) or becoming a rich nation (collectively). As for the "Kyouhei" part of the prewar mentality, because it was quite obvious that the militarism had ruined the country, this orientation was totally denied and its opposite, pacifism, came to take root deeply in the minds of the Japanese people. There's a passage that says that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation" in the ninth clause of the Japanese Constitution, which was established under the leadership of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) (cf. Beasley, 1990:220). The content of this passage, regardless of the intention of SCAP, seems to have resonated with the dominant feeling of the majority of the Japanese people at that time.

Second, during the War, to legitimate the invasion of other countries, Japan advocated the ideology of "Greater East Asia Coprosperity," which was a kind of reaction formation against the mentality of "Datsua-nyuuou" (out of Asia, into the West). So the defeat meant the denial of this formal ideology, leading to the substantial reinforcement of the mentality of "Datsua-nyuuou."

Third, as for the mentality of "Wakon-yausai" (Japanese spirit, Western techniques), the defeat naturally brought about the suppression of Wakon (Japanese spirit) and the reconfirmation and positive evaluation of the superiority of Yousai (Western techniques).

Fourth, the mentality of "Risshin-shusse" (make one's way in the world), although the phrase itself was dropped because of its antiquated connotation, became what might be called the "Joushou-shikou" (upward orientation), or the orientation toward upward mobility.

Fifth, taking into account the mentalities of Fukokuka (becoming a rich nation) and Datsua-nyuuou (out of Asia, into the West) as well as the upward orientation, plus the positive evaluation of Yousai (Western techniques), it is little wonder that there emerged the mentality of "catching up" in the sense of catching up and, if possible, surpassing the economic and technological levels of the U. S.

Sixth, the mentality of "Messhi-houkou" (suppress the private self and serve the public) was denied by the defeat, bringing about a temporal reversal of the power relation between the public and the private. That is, instead of "Messhi-houkou," the mentality of "Mekkou-houshi" (suppress the public and serve the private self), or what is called the "desire naturalism" prevailed during the chaotic period after the War. This "desire naturalism" itself was to be transformed again, during the period of rapid economic growth, into what might be called the mentality of "Messhihousha" (suppress the private self and serve the company), producing a great mass of "Kaisha-ningen" (company men). Incidentally, the three mentalities-the mentality of "catching up," the "upward orientation," and "desire naturalism" -became a big psychological reservoir to guarantee that tremendous subjective energy necessary for the postwar economic reconstruction and the following "economic miracle."

The mentality of the emperor as the spiritual core of the Japanese also had to undergo a drastic transformation. First, the divinity of the emperor was negated by the declaration of the emperor as a human being, which greatly damaged the emperor system. Second, the symbolic emperor system was newly established as a product of compromise between the interest of the then dominant strata in Japan, who were deeply committed to maintaining the emperor system at any cost on the one hand, and the interest of the occupation army, which judged that the existence of the emperor was vital for the successful occupation of postwar Japan on the other hand.

What happened to the mentality of "Otoko-wa-shigoto, Orma-wa-katei" (the man's place is outside [work] and the woman's place is inside [home])? In the chaotic situation after the defeat, no one could afford to talk such nonsense. It is highly probable that this mentality disappeared during this chaotic period, but that this situation was regarded as only temporary. At any rate, at least the mentality itself seems to have remained intact as an under current.

In the social atmosphere of the "denial" of prewar values, it is quite probable that the mentality of "Danson-johi" (respect the men, despise the women) began to come apart. The chaotic situation and the abolition of Ie (family) system in particular must have contributed to the partial demise of this mentality, providing the psychological base for the idea of "sexual equality," which was to be introduced afterwards under the influence of the occupation army.

4. Characteristics of Japanese Society in the Era Following Its Defeat Until Its Emergence as an "Economic Power"

1. The Period of Postwar Reconstruction (from 1945 to 1954)

This was the period when the Japanese people as a whole had to live on a subsistence level, which can be inferred from economic indicators. These clearly show that the level of economic performance during this period is below that of 1944. In addition to this devastated economic situation, one can cite three features of this period: (a) de-militarization and democratization of Japan by SCAR (b) proliferation of the idea of "peace and democracy" as dominant values of the newly born Japan, and (c) beginnings of favourable acceptance and imitation of things American.

When we think of the institutional nature of the postwar Japanese society, the feature (a) was a crucial one, because it meant drastic changes to the prewar system. Major changes included: the establishment of a new Constitution with the sovereignty of the people (not of emperor), the so-called "peace clause," and the symbolic emperor system: economic reforms such as the attempt at the dissolution of "zaibatu (financial combines)," the introduction of an antimonopoly law, and land reform: the establishment of a new legal system including the revision of the Civil Code, the labour laws, and the strengthening of local governments; and educational reform (cf. Beasley, 1990:213-226).

As a consequence of the feature (a), the feature (b) came into being on the plane of societal consciousness.

One might regard the feature (c) as rather surprising, but it was, in a way, a reflection of an overall evaluation by the Japanese people of the occupation practice, if not its policy conducted by SCAR

2. The Period of Rapid Economic Growth (from 1955 to 1973)

This period, commonly known as "koudo-keizaiseichou-ki" (the period of rapid economic growth) in Japan, could be symbolized by the expression ,,economic miracle.". . .

3. The Period of the Transition Toward

Becoming an "Economic Power" (from 1974 to 1980)

As is well known, the first oil shock was triggered in October 1973 by the strategy of Arab countries to quadruple the crude oil prices and to cut back on the supply of the petroleum during the fourth war in the Middle East. This had an enormous influence upon the economies of the oil-consuming countries with Japan being no exception. The first feature of this period is the first oil shock being a symbolic turning point between the period of rapid economic growth and the following transitional period and its consequences....

The repercussion could also be felt on the plane of societal consciousness. This is the phenomenon of what Mr. Kato Tetsuro calls "the drastic transformations in the Japanese people's national consciousness in the mid-1970s" (Kato, 1988:38). Among the transformations were three conspicuous trends. First, the political consciousness of the Japanese people became more conservative. This trend is revealed in the turnaround of the support ratio of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP support ratio had been dwindling for some time, but after 1974 this trend was reversed and it came to increase (38% of the people supported the LDP in 1960, 25% in 1974, 33% in 1980), while the support ratio of the major opposition party, the Japan Socialist Party, continued to decline (21 % in 1960, 13% in 1974, and 9% in 198 1) (Kato, 1988: 40). The same tendency can be detected in the issue of the choice of societal system. Although before 1974 there was a rather strong voice to support a reformed system or even a socialist system, there was a turnaround in 1974 and after this year more and more people came to express the support for the maintenance of the current system.

Second, the Japanese people's perception of the U.S. became more favourable....

The third trend is, that the evaluation of the Japanese people of themselves and of Japan itself became more favourable....

Japan's relatively low and stable unemployment rates during this period.

Japan's rather successful accommodation to the difficult economic situation triggered by the first oil crisis. The stabilization of the Japanese economy was carried out in great measure by Japanese companies' efforts to export goods to other countries, leading to the trade conflicts exemplified by the continuing trade friction between Japan and the U.S. This export offensive as a survival strategy of Japanese companies could be seen as the second feature of this period.

The third feature of this period is the beginning of the transformation of the Japanese style of management. This is, in a way, a cumulative result of the streamlining efforts of Japanese companies mentioned above. From among the three main components in the Japanese style of management (lifetime employment, seniority system, and the company-based labour union), two of them, lifetime employment and seniority system, began to partially deteriorate during this period -a tendency which is becoming more prevalent these days, as we can see from a newspaper article titled "Recruiters Gain as Lifelong Jobs Wane" (1990).

5. An Attempt to Understand Contemporary Japanese Society-Focusing on the Periods After 1980

It's always difficult to grasp the contemporary situation, especially when you live within it. So what follows is an attempt to understand what I think are some of the major characteristics of contemporary Japanese society.

First, a demarcation of the era after 1980 is in order. We seem to have three periods so far; the first period (from 1980 to 1985) is Japan's first phase as an ,,economic power"; the second period (from 1985 to 1990) is Japan's second phase as an "economic power"; the third period started with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Here the analysis is largely limited to the first two periods.

I'd like to point out four features of contemporary Japanese society: (1) emergence of Japan as an "economic power" and widening economic disparities among the Japanese people, (2) the coming of a full-fledged "internationalized" society and neo-nationalistic repercussions, (3) the increase in social participation by women and the development of a consumer-oriented society, and (4) the continued development of an information -oriented society.

1. Emergence of Japan as an "Economic Power" and Widening Economic Disparities Among the Japanese People

Let me start with what I regard as two turning points for the Japanese economy, which are related to the first part of the feature (1), that is, the emergence of Japan as an "economic power." The second oil crisis happened in December 1978, when civil war broke out in Iran and the oil supply was cut back, resulting in soaring oil prices. Although it is difficult to determine exactly when it happened, it became obvious that the Japanese economy successfully overcame the second oil crisis around 1980. This perception marks the first turning point, which ended the period of Japan's transition toward becoming an "economic power" and ushered in Japan's first phase as an "economic power." Because of this perception, Japanese economic leaders and opinion leaders became quite confident about both the resilience of the Japanese economy and Japanese economic capabilities.

The second turning point was the G5 Plaza Accord in September 1985. On September 22, 1985, finance ministers and the governors of central banks of five industrialized countries (the U.S., West Germany, the U.K., France, and Japan) got together secretly at New York Plaza Hotel to discuss, and tried to regulate, the current international financial situation. As a result of this Plaza Accord, the high-yen era was brought about in Japan, marking Japan's second phase as an economic power.

Two other characteristics of this second phase are (a) the emergence of Japan as the world's largest creditor nation, which incidentally came into being at the same time that the U.S. fell into the position of the world's largest debtor nation, and (b) the soaring prices of land and stocks....

As we have seen, in the 1980s Japan gradually became an "economic power," but this very process brought about growing economic disparities among the Japanese people....

2. The Coming of a Full-Fledged "Internationalized" Society and Neo-Nationalistic Repercussions

When we say "internationalization," we are referring, first of all, to the progress of economic globalization itself. But it also means the related phenomena, such as the inflow as well as the outflow of people, goods, and information. Internationalization itself, of course, could already be observed at the beginning of the 1970s or even before that period, but this trend is becoming more and more conspicuous recently. Some of the recent phenomena of internationalization include the inflow of the foreign workers into Japan, the Japanese language boom, the resurgence of interest in learning English conversation, and the reverse culture shock experienced by Japanese returning from life abroad.

What we are interested in here when we talk about the coming of an "internationalized" society is its domestic consequences, especially those consequences on the Japanese people's behaviour and way of thinking generated by the inflow and outflow of people, goods, and information. In this connection, I'd like to refer to the dual possibilities being opened to the Japanese people as they come to be exposed to what might be called "the encounter with the international." They are the evolution of denationalization and the thematization of the problem of national identity.

Denationalization here refers to the inclination to go beyond the national boundary, that is, those behaviours and ways of thinking, including those of a cosmopolitan or a global citizen, which have the tendency to contradict and break through the logic of nationalism rather than to remain constrained by it. An example of denationalization is the economic activities of a multinational enterprise which chooses to act solely in the interest of the company. Another example can be found in the following passage: "A recent survey in Japan by the Nihon Keizai Shinbun,... indicated that many Japanese support the American demands (meaning the demands made in the Structural Impediment Initiative [SII talk) for changes in the Japanese economy" (Doi, 1990).

The thematization of the problem of national identity refers to the fact that "the encounter with the international" has created a collective mental situation in which the Japanese people are obliged to think about and deliberate upon such interrelated questions as "What is Japan?" "What does it mean to be a Japanese?" "What is, and should be, Japan's position in the world?" "How should Japan be in the international community?" This thematizing tendency itself is quite natural and will continue to progress. What is worthy of attention in this context is the following: As a consequence of this kind of thematization, we seem to be witnessing the early phase of the revival of neonationalisrn as an ideology, which, because of its contribution to the disastrous involvement in the "Pacific War," had been very unpopular among the Japanese public until recently. Here neo-nationalisrn refers to such arguments which present rather provocatively, or sometimes even fanatically, positive evaluations of Japan and things Japanese. Mr. Ishihara's argument in his controversial book titled Japan That Can Say "No" (Morita and Ishihara, 1989) is a good example.

The thematization of national identity, however, is not the only circumstance which gives rise to the appearance of neo-nationalisrn as an ideology. Another circumstance is the historical situation in which a psychological mechanism of what might be called "the return of the suppressed" (if we make a pun on Freud's famous expression) tends to work. The suppressed here means the prewar values exemplified by the expression "the Japanese soul or spirit," which had to be suppressed after the defeat in the War. So when 1 talk about "the return of the suppressed," 1 am referring to the fact that these prewar values, which were once strongly "denied," are being reevaluated more positively lately among some Japanese (fortunately not many yet).

Three factors seem to have contributed to this "return." The first is the impact of the aforementioned growing selfconfidence in Japan as an "economic power" upon the mentality of the Japanese people. The second is the fact that more than one generation has passed since the defeat in the War. It seems that this time period is long enough to let some of the people think twice about their previous value judgments. These are the people who now think that they had been forced to discard whatever they had held as positive because of the defeat in the War. My impression is that, being helped by the first factor, they begin to think again that the prewar values, at least some of them, might not have been that bad after all. The third factor is the illness of Emperor Showa in 1988 and his subsequent death in 1989. This was itself an accidental event, but it has made it necessary as well as compelling for the Japanese people to thematize the very topic concerning the emperor and the emperor system, which had been a major taboo even during the postwar years.

3. The Increase in Social Participation by Women and the Development of a Consumer- Oriented Society

As for the increase in social participation by women, three simultaneous developments are occurring: (a) the participation in the field of wage labour in the form of entering the workplace and becoming part-time workers and dispatched workers (incidentally, the law of the equalization of employment opportunity between men and women became effective in April 1986), (b) the participation in a variety of social movements and cooperative movements, and (c) the participation in the field of education and learning exemplified by the phenomenon of the increase in women's learning at so-called "culture centers."

Making use of the public image of women as being scandal-free and promising politicians (which was and still remains persuasive in comparison with the image of those incorrigible male politicians implicated in the Recruit scandal), quite a number of women candidates took part and actually won in the House of Councilors elections held in July 1989. This was the success of the so-called "Madonna" strategy, behind which seem to lie the cumulative experiences of women's steady efforts and everyday activities in social movements. Today we might be witnessing the second chance (the first chance came right after the War, when we had 39 female Diet representatives in the first postwar elections for the House of Representatives) to test the capabilities of women as a new political force to change the mechanism of male-dominated Japanese society.

Those women who attend classes at so-called "culture centers," which are similar to adult educational centers in the U.S., tend to have higher educational backgrounds, the eagerness to learn more as well as plenty of time for leisure, a reflection of economic affluence.

This affluence is also shown in the development of a consumer-oriented society, reinforced by various messages coming from mass media. This progress seems to be giving a very interesting twist to the meaning of the sexual division of labour. The traditional sexual division of labour in Japan has been, as mentioned in Section 2, a circumstance where "the man's place is outside (work) and the woman's place is inside (home)." This is still working for some couples, but it is taking on an intriguing additional meaning for those social sectors, where the husband can afford to let his wife attend classes at the "culture center": "You (meaning the man) make the money and 1 (meaning the woman) spend it."

Another indication of the progress of a consumer-oriented society is the emergency of the young people as Shinjinrui (a new breed). Their behaviour as consumer is quite different from that of the older generation: their thinking determined more by feeling than by logic, they are more careful about their appearances, much more sensitive to the new trends in clothing, music, food, etc., and very eager to acquire, at least, information about high-quality goods, if not high-quality goods themselves.

4. The Continued Development of an Information-Oriented Society

Concerning the feature (4), let me refer only to the contemporaneity being generated by the satellite broadcasting and its consequence. In Japan, NHK (Nihon Housou Kyoukai) or the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation has been the agent of the satellite broadcasting so far. NHK started its experimental broadcasting in 1984, shifting to the regular broadcasting in June 1989, and began to charge in August 1989. One consequence of the start of the satellite broadcasting for the Japanese audience is that they come to share with the people in the rest of the world the access to the news of the contemporaneous events almost simultaneously, as is evident from instantaneous spread to the whole world of such news as the Tiananmen incident in June 1989, the progress of Eastern Europe's prodemocracy movement in the same year and after, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. One implication of this development is that an event in some country or in some area is not going to be just a small event in that country or in that particular area, but, according to circumstances, could transform itself into a major world event. In terms of information, we are already global citizens, meaning that it's becoming almost impossible for the sender to intentionally limit or compartmentalize the potential audience. This fact has given rise to quite an interesting situation for the Japanese people, who have a traditional mentality to sharply distinguish Uchi (in, inside) from Soto (out, outside). In this connection, although it was not itself the event caused by the satellite broadcasting, repercussions against Mr. Ishihara's statement in Japan That Can Say "No, " (Morita and Ishihara, 1989) including the uproar and infuriation found among some American politicians, could be a good example of a consequence of contemporaneity. It is said that his statement was originally made to a very limited domestic group. In other words, he didn't seem to expect to have his text translated and his messages spread outside the country so quickly and to face such a strong backlash by publishing such a small book.

6. Epilogue

Let me wind up my discussion by referring to two points. In this chapter I tried to focus on those aspects of Japanese society, including several mentalities having to do with Japanese modernization, which seem to have contributed to the emergence of Japan as an "economic power." In other words, such important topics as the impact of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki upon the mentality of the Japanese public, the issues of discrimination and antidiscrimination involving ethnic or other kinds of minorities (Korean and Chinese residents, the Ainu, Burakumin, Okinawans, etc.), were left out, reflecting a limited scope of this chapter. These topics should have been discussed if more philosophical or existential meanings of contemporary Japanese society were to have been the focus.

One point I didn't point out explicitly above, but which deserves some comment, is the significance of the period of rapid economic growth to contemporary Japanese society. Whereas the institutional framework of the postwar Japanese society was established during the period of postwar reconstruction, the fact that the Japanese people underwent the transformative period of rapid economic growth seems to have been crucial for the formation of the basic mental framework of the postwar Japanese society.


Beasley, W G., The rise of modern Japan, Charles E. Tuttle, 1990. Doi, A., SII talks-New hope for the skeptical, The Japan Times, 8 April 1990, p. 17.

Japan should make apology clearer, advisor to Roh says, The Japan Times, 16 May 1990, p. 3. Kato, T., Japamerika No Jidaini (In the age of Japamerica), Kadensha, 1988.

Morita, A_ and Ishihara, S_ "No" to Ieru Nippon (Japan that can say "No"), Koubunsha, 1989. Tergesen, A., Recruiters gain as lifelong jobs wane, The Japan Times, 6 April 1990, p. 3.