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Thread: How much of (modern) Japanese culture comes from Western countries ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post How much of (modern) Japanese culture comes from Western countries ?

    It is often difficult to say exactly from what particular Western country something originated, so this thread will be about all the cultural influences in Japan from the West. I decided to start this thread as people were starting going off-topic about the West in the thread How much of Japan's traditional culture comes from China ?


    Food

    The dishes listed here are only those completely integrated in modern Japanese culture, not all those found in Japan. It means that the Japanese have developed their own version (e.g. nori-tarako pasta) or it has become part of normal "home-cooking".

    Tempura
    Pasta
    Pizza
    Crepes
    Gratin
    Pot-au-feu
    Ratatouille
    Potage, consome, minestrone
    Chocolate, pralines
    Dairy products (including pudding, cheese, cheese cakes, etc.)
    Western cakes (Castella, brownie, apple pie, sponge cake...)
    Bakery and pastries (bread, croissant, chou a la creme, eclair, turnover...)
    ...

    Festivals & traditions

    Valentine's Day
    Mother's Day
    Father's Day
    Halloween
    Christmas
    New Year on 1 January (Japan used to follow the Chinese calendar and New Year until Meiji)

    Technologies

    It would be impossible to list everything here, so I limited myself to those that had a great effect on modern Japanese culture (for example, a lot of electronic goods were not invented in Japan, but were improved and mass-manufactured by the Japanese).

    Automobiles
    Airplanes
    Computers
    Video games
    TV
    Radio
    CD
    Camera
    Watches
    Phone & mobile phone
    Concrete
    Glass/plastic windows (as opposed to the traditional paper ones)
    Hinged doors (as opposed to sliding doors)
    ...

    Sports

    Rather than listing all Western sports practised in Japan, I limited myself to those playing a major role in modern culture (e.g. those played in schools or in which the Japanese excel in international competitions).

    Baseball
    Football
    Volleyball
    Badminton
    Tennis
    Table Tennis
    Marathon
    Athletics
    ...

    Other cultural elements

    Westerns-style clothes (—m•ž)
    Western hairstyles
    Western-style toilets (which the Japanese improved with some gadgets)
    Western music (from classical to pop and rock)
    Western movies (not just Hollywood)
    Western-style tables, chairs, forks, spoon, knives, glasses...
    Card games (poker, bridge...)
    ...

    Interestingly, there are Western things that never really became popular in Japan. For example :

    - board games (like Monopoly, Stratego or Trivial Pursuit)

    - hinged windows (all Japanese houses seem to have sliding windows, although most modern houses now have hinged doors).

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  2. #2
    Hullu RockLee's Avatar
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    Seems the West brought them everything ^^
    ~ Parempi hullu kuin tylsä - Better crazy than boring ~
    http://www.fin-style.be/blog -> My Blog about Finland and other random thingies.

  3. #3
    Junior Member SlipperyFrog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Sports

    Rather than listing all Western sports practised in Japan, I limited myself to those playing a major role in modern culture (e.g. those played in schools or in which the Japanese excel in international competitions).

    Baseball
    Football
    Volleyball
    Badminton
    Tennis
    Table Tennis
    Marathon
    Athletics
    ...
    I'm no expert, but I think you left off swimming and Kendo which (to my knowledge) are both very popular in Japan and present in most schools!

  4. #4
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlipperyFrog
    I'm no expert, but I think you left off swimming and Kendo which (to my knowledge) are both very popular in Japan and present in most schools!
    Are you saying that Kendo and swimming come from Western culture ?

  5. #5
    •Ï‚ȘT kokusu's Avatar
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    Well, first off . . . and I don't mention this to be a pervert, but simply because it is a Western influence . . . Japan's contemporary views on sexuality are derived from the West.

    Donald Roden in "Taishō Culture and the Problems of Gender Ambivalence" talks of sexual and gender influences that permeated world views, including Japan, that came out of Germany (pp. 37-38).
    Unfortunately, many of my research sources and notes are presently in disarray, but I can tell you with certainty (just not with citations ), that medical and psychological views regarding sex and gender also come from the West, specifically Germany and the U.S. Consider, for example, that Japan was culturally very open regarding homosexuality until the middle of the Meiji period. During this time, Japan sought to emulate Western countries in a hope to become modernized, part of which was to adopt Western views regarding medicine, psychology, and sexuality. Thus, Japan developed a . . . 'homophobia', if you will, from the influences of Western thought. (If someone really would like citations for this information, PM me and I will find them ).

    Moving on, I would say that perhaps the most influential Western influence upon/import to Japan in the 20th century is Japan's very own consitution. Think about it: the Emperor loses his divinity, women gain the right to vote, Article 9 turns Japan into a pacifist state, democracy is institutionalized, and so on. For more information on how S.C.A.P. (headed by Gen. MacArthur and the governing body of the U.S. in Japan post WWII and during the occupation) provided Japan with its modern constitution, I suggest reading John W. Dower's "Embracing Defeat", specifically, pp. 360-373.

    I hope this information is interesting or useful to this discussion.
    –ˆuŠÔ‚ªV‚µ‚¢

  6. #6
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kokusu
    Consider, for example, that Japan was culturally very open regarding homosexuality until the middle of the Meiji period. During this time, Japan sought to emulate Western countries in a hope to become modernized, part of which was to adopt Western views regarding medicine, psychology, and sexuality. Thus, Japan developed a . . . 'homophobia', if you will, from the influences of Western thought. (If someone really would like citations for this information, PM me and I will find them ).
    I believe this is correct. Unfortunately, Japan has kept the same "western" views about psychology as 100 years ago.

    As for homosexuality I would say that this is a mostly a Judeo-Christiano-Islamic taboo, not a "Western" one. Ancient Greeks and Romans had no taboo about it. Many great leaders (Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar...) were homo- or bisexuals. The recent acceptation of gayness has happened mostly in places where Christianity has become much weaker. In the US (the most Christian Western nation), we are not near to see a legalisation of gay marriage.

    The Japnese also kept their approach to sex to levels unseen since the 1970's in Western countries. It's like AIDS had never existed for most present-day Japanese. However, I don't think it's a Western influence. The Japanese were already very "promiscuous" before the Westernisation. Thanks to fake beliefs that all Westerners are promiscuous (which couldn't be falser if "West" is associated with Christianity), they justified their own traditional attitude.

    Moving on, I would say that perhaps the most influential Western influence upon/import to Japan in the 20th century is Japan's very own consitution. Think about it: the Emperor loses his divinity, women gain the right to vote, Article 9 turns Japan into a pacifist state, democracy is institutionalized, and so on.
    Here I completely disagree. The constitution was imposed by the US, but it is not at all representative of "Western" systems. In fact, the divine status of monarchs is very European. Muslim or Hindu leaders didn't claim to get their power directly from god, or to be near gods. Roman emperors thought of themselves as gods in a very similar way to Japanese emperors, but centuries before Japan even had a state or a writing system. Medieval European monarchs were crowned by the Pope in the name of god. Even Napoleon, during the atheistic years of the French Revolution, got his imperial crown from the Pope (well, he took it from him as the Pope hesitated, but the intention was there). The Japanese only institutionalised that system frmom Meiji, copying the West. Parliamentary monarchy was copied on the British system in the late 1800's. It's not the Americans who introduced it in 1945.

    Women's voting rights were a Western influence, but some Western countries only got it years after Japan (e.g. Switzerland in 1971, Portugal in 1976 and Liechtenstein as late as 1984). However, women still suffer more discrimination in Japan than in almost any Western country. Only 7% of Japanese MP's are women, as opposed to 15% in the USA, 20% in China or Canada, and between 27 and 45% in Europe.

    As for democracy, Japan introduced a parliament with democratically elected members in the lower house since 1875 and had its first Prime Minister in 1885. The system was so well copied on the British one that Japan also had a House of Lords, and the government created nobility titles copied on the British ones : Koushaku (Duke), Koushaku (Marquess), Hakushaku (Earl), Shishaku (Viscount), Danshaku (Baron) and Naitoshaku (Knight). These titles did not exist before Meiji and differ from teh traditional Japanese nobility or samurai class. This system was abolished by the US. So the Japanese system became more similar to the American one, and less similar to the British one. So the 1945 constitution was not "Westernisation"; it was purely "Americanisation".

    Finally, regarding Article 9 and Japan's pacifism, this can certainly not be regarded as Westernisation. No other country has such a clause - not even Germany. So it was imposed by the US so that Japan would be more easily controllable politically and militarily, but that is just a special case that has never been applied to a Western country. You could call it discrimination (although it does have clear economic advantages).

    What did you have in mind in the "and so on" part ?

  7. #7
    •Ï‚ȘT kokusu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    As for homosexuality I would say that this is a mostly a Judeo-Christiano-Islamic taboo, not a "Western" one. Ancient Greeks and Romans had no taboo about it. Many great leaders (Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar...) were homo- or bisexuals. The recent acceptation of gayness has happened mostly in places where Christianity has become much weaker. In the US (the most Christian Western nation), we are not near to see a legalisation of gay marriage.
    While Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions find their origin in the Middle East, I would argue that wide dissemination and cultural enforcement of Chrisitian views towards homosexuality originate in Eurpoean Christianity. Note, I am not saying the belief that homosexuality is wrong didn't exist in the original religious foundations of Christianity back in the Middle East, I am simply saying the widespread dissemination and enforcement of that belief was purpotrated by the Western adherants of Christianity where Christianity itself has become culturally embedded.
    Furthermore, views towards homosexuality differ from culture to culture and from era to era. Certainly even within 'Western' cultures views regarding homosexuality vary (take for example the 'homophobia' of the U.S. versus the right to 'gay' marriage in Canada). I am not saying that a single view of homosexuality is representative of all Western cultures nor that Japan's views regarding sexuality over the last century necessarily make it a Western culture. I am simply saying that much of Japan's views regarding were received from the 'West' in the early part of the 20th century, Christianity, IMO being a Western influence upon Japan. This I think answers the question that this thread asks: "How much of (modern) Japanese culture comes from Western countries?" I am pretty certain that Christianity and its taboos were not a Chinese influence upon Japan.
    As to how intertwined "a mostly a Judeo-Christiano-Islamic taboo" affected Western culture and thought which in turn had an influence on Japanese culture:

    "Even as Meiji medical authorities emphasized the phsyical and social dangers resulting from male-male sexual behavior, they sought a basis for such behavior in the laws of biology . . . Here, Meiji sexologists relied heavily on the research of their Western colleagues, who were busily redefining the construct of "homosexuality."" (Pflugfelder, Gregory M., Cartographies of Desire, p. 248, University of California Press (2000))

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Here I completely disagree. The constitution was imposed by the US, but it is not at all representative of "Western" systems.
    I am not saying that the Japanese constitution is representative of "Western" systems, only that the Japanese constitution came from a Western country, namely the U.S. Again, isn't the question, "How much of (modern) Japanese culture comes from Western countries?", not how much does Japanese culture mimic Western culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Parliamentary monarchy was copied on the British system in the late 1800's. It's not the Americans who introduced it in 1945.
    Again, what I am saying the U.S. brought to Japan post-WWII was the Japanese consitution. I already stated (in my original post) that there were other influences, such as from Germany.
    As to the influence of the modern Japanese constitution as prepared by SCAP:

    "On February 10, the sixth day after he had convened his constitutional convention, General Whitney transmitted the draft of a completely new constitution to the supreme commander. He pointed out that this draft embodied the considered and collective view of the members of Government Section, "representing nearly every form of American political thought," and that it had been written after taking the historical development of the Japanese constitution into consideration and giving studious attention to American and European constitutional principles." (Dower, John W., Embracing Defeat, pp. 372-373, W.W. Norton & Company / The New Press (1999).

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    So the 1945 constitution was not "Westernisation"; it was purely "Americanisation".

    Finally, regarding Article 9 and Japan's pacifism, this can certainly not be regarded as Westernisation.
    Once more, I am, in line to what this thread inquires about, talking about influences from the West and Western cultures, not necessarily a complete Westernization or absolutely mimcry of Western cultures. That no Western country includes a pacifist clause in its consitution does not negate the fact that Japan received its pacifist clause from the West.
    Also, I would note that the SCAP produced constitution for Japan took into consideration American and European consitutional models. So to say that the 1945 consitution was simply a form of exclusive "Americanisation" I think is not wholly accurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    What did you have in mind in the "and so on" part ?
    *rests his head wearily against his monitor* I probably meant . . . forks? Heh. Sorry! I really have enjoyed our little debate here, but I had to get up early to dig through my research notes, lecture notes, articles, and books to make sure I had documentation for what I was writing . . . I love this kind of dialogue, but I'm wiped out right now! I think the 'so on' part was mainly in reference to the rest of the constitution in general, as a document. While not every Japanese may know all of their constitution by heart, as a document, I think it has had considerable impact upon their contemporary culture.
    One question that would arise from this: If Japan did not have the pacifist clause in its constitution, would military spending have been greater leading to less overall economic development and prosperity? This is an important question when you consider the impact of Japan's spectacular economic recovery and growth on its culture in the latter half of the 20th century.

    Pheh . . . I think I'm just rambling now, so time to go . . .


  8. #8
    Junior Member tripo's Avatar
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    about the Valentin's day even if it is not a japanese tradition, they gave it annother tast, i mean as it is know the boy should give his GF a gift, but japanese do the opposite girls give chocolates to their beloved ones and on March the 14th the boys give their GF a thank you gift for the chocolates, and i like how they celebrate it better than the others

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    Japan took what America had and made it better - this has made America better also

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