In the book The Japanese Mind, there are many aspects of Japanese culture that are discussed. After reading about and discussing many of these topics, I can see how they either promote or discourage sustainable development in different ways.
The aspects of Japanese culture that we have discussed that I believe could promote sustainable development are the concepts of Gambari, Giri, and possibly Bushido. Gambari is the Japanese concept of patience and determinism. It is often used to promote a culture of working hard and taking the future into your own hands. Although it can sometimes put pressure on students and workers to succeed, it can also reinforce the idea that every member of society should work hard and earn their part. This can help sustainable development because it drives people to do all they can for their society and country, which makes Japan a very productive nation.
Giri is the concept of social obligation. In Japan, when someone does something for you or gives you a gift, you are expected to return the favor with an equal action or gift because of Giri. Giri reinforces Japan’s collectivist culture and promotes the ideal that people should work together and help each other out equally in order to be successful in life. This is beneficial to sustainable development because a country cannot develop if only some of its members are succeeding. If someone uses the help of someone else to make gains in their education or work, they are expected to return this favor, rather than just take advantage of that help like I often see in the US. This concept of helping others who will, in turn, help you reinforces sustainable development because it ensures that no one takes advantage of another person in order to make personal gains, but rather encourages people to help others so that they, too, can be helped. Below is a photo of rice farms in Japan. The concept of Giri and Japan's collectivist, give-and-take culture came from the collectivist nature of rice farming.
Finally, Bushido has to do with the concept of the way of the warrior. It refers to the Japanese tradition of samurai being loyal to their masters, to the point where if their master was dishonored or killed, they would commit suicide in his honor. Some aspects of Bushido can help promote sustainable development. Boshido encourages people to identify with their country or workplace and have pride in the work they do. Due to Boshido, as kids, Japanese students develop a sense of loyalty to their teachers. Also, in Japan, manners are highly valued. These are characteristics that foster growth in society, because they promote collectivist values and respect for one another and for the societal structure.
However, Boshido can also hinder sustainable development. Because of Boshido, some workers overwork themselves because they try to prove their loyalty. Also, some students, when they don’t get good enough scores on the entrance exams to top-tier universities, decide to take their lives because of the concept of Boshido, which enforces “die rather than disgrace yourself.” So, Boshido can in some ways enforce and in other ways hinder sustainable development. Below is a photo of Japanese samurai, from which the concept of Boshido originated.
Other aspects of Japanese culture that we have discussed seem to hinder sustainable development, as well. In my opinion, Amakudari, Chinmoku, and Danjyo Kankei seem to be barriers to sustainable development. Amakudari means descent from heaven, which the Japanese use to refer to when bureaucrats enter top-tier positions in private companies after they retire from the government. This practice causes much corruption in the government in the form of the government favoring companies that save positions for bureaucrats to fill when they retire. This allows these larger companies to control their industry and hurts market competition. Also, bureaucrats often don’t have much experience with business when they fill these top-tier positions, so it’s common for them to make poor choices for the company because of inexperience. This whole system hurts sustainable development because it favors corruption from the government in order to keep the people in power at the top of the economy.
Chinmoku is the Japanese concept of silence. Often, people in Japan will say nothing when they are contemplating an idea, when thinking of a response to a question, when they are upset but don’t want to cause an issue or be disrespectful, or when they disagree but don’t want to say so. This silence occurs out of respect for others, but often leads to confusion among people when they communicate. From talking with my classmates from Kobe, I learned that in group meetings, there will often be long periods of silence where no one says anything because no one wants to disagree with an idea, even if they think it is wrong. Chinmoku acts as a barrier to sustainable development because it prevents the free flow of ideas among people and creates a lot of confusion as well as slows down or prevents progress in group work.
Finally, Danjyo Kankei is the concept of male and female relationships. In Japan’s societal structure, men are above women. Men are expected to be the ones who go to work and make money, while women are expected to stay home and raise children. In Japan, it’s very difficult for a woman to get her job back after she takes maternity leave. This concept is a large barrier to sustainable development because it is not sustainable to treat some members of society differently from others. Japan is currently experiencing a declining birthrate in part because women are being forced to choose between marrying and keeping their jobs, which is one example of how Danjyo Kankei is hurting Japan’s development. In order to get the most out of a society, the members within it must be given equal opportunity to contribute in any way they see fit. Below is a picture of the sustainable development goals. Goal number 5 has to do with achieving gender equality.
Overall, from discussing many aspects of Japan’s culture, I have learned a lot about how cultural values can help or hurt sustainable development. Either way, I have seen that the values of a culture has an enormous influence on everyday life and development of a nation, whether good or bad.