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Thread: Japanese morals

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Arrow Japanese morals

    I would like to hear other people's opinion about the way Japanese morals works, as it seems radically different from anything in the West.

    1) Watching Japanese movies, drama (jidai geji) or anime, it seems that Japanese believe that the winner (of a battle or war) is always right. This is very probably why they accepted so easily changes brought by the American occupation after WWII, while becoming so Americanised without being forced to for such things as sports (baseball...), cinema (Hollywood movies and US TV series), fashion, food and above all language (katakana words).

    It seems that the moral that the winner is right has always existed in China since ancient times as well. In wars, the deflection rate was extremely high, with troops from the losing party suddenly switching side with the winner. No later than the post WWII civil war opposing Communist and Nationalists did this happen. Most people accept the winner as the "good one" whatever their previous thoughts/convictions.

    2) Japanese morals do not have a concept of right and wrong like in the West or Muslim countries. Nothing can be right or wrong by itself. It always depends on the situation and how other people see it. Kenneth Henshall also pointed this out in his book "A History of Japan" when he said that Japanese have avoided judging what is good or evil since ancient times, prefering to equate "wrong" with disrupting the social order or disobeying formal authority.

    This explains why samurai could give their lives to their lord without having to think how morally defendable their actions were.

    In modern times, it seems that Japanese politicians do not see corruptions as wrong/evil in itself. The problem is to be caught and lose face in front of the public. Apologizing sincerely with a deep and humiliating bow is often enough to be forgiven. The same happens for company presidents responsible for the death of innocent people due to defective products (eg. Mitsubishi cars in recent years), or such cases as the Green Cross knowing infecting thousands of people with AIDS by transferring untreated blood.

    In everyday life, I have been told by Japanese friends (of both sexes and all ages) that cheating on one's partner is not wrong as long as they don't know it. This was the decisive blow in my understanding of Japanese morals. After comparing this with what happened among business leaders or politicians, I came to the conclusion that for Japanese "wrong/evil" only exist as long as it causes bad feelings or damages to other people. Hiding reproachable bahaviour from the people it could disturb is seen as a necessary way to avoid evil (which means they believe it isn't evil before that). Japanese have indeed a very practical and down-to-earth approach to life.

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  2. #2
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    1) it does make the aftermath of a war alot easier, neh?

    2) most stuff tends to be "gray" in the grownup world in most civilizations, right?
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  3. #3
    Regular Member persian893's Avatar
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    i can identify easily with this point of view. there is no
    good or evil but only good and bad. what prevails is good. what perishs is bad.

    the ancient persian philosopher Zarathustra (Zoroaster) said: the same
    thing viewed from two different perspectives may appear white once, and
    black the other time. what i see white, you may see black.

    so there is no objective, absolute good and evil.

  4. #4
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    I totally agree with what this topic suggests. It ties in with a lot of the Japanese history and culture. I think that this theory of "Hear no Evil, See no Evil" gives them a better peace of mind and a way of never second guessing there actions. Although growing up in the U.S. I could never think that just because I won meant I was right.


    Another cultural gap between Japan and the U.S. it seems.

  5. #5
    Recall Arch's Avatar
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    umm i certainly see where you are coming from. I used to keep in a touch with a j-girl called Alice, she was a really nice girl. However she got into a conversation about relationships, and she said she had slepted with 12+ guys, while dating other guys. She was surprised that i had not slepted with 12+ girls, she seemed it was acceptable. I know its indvidual but it does say something about cultural gap, as in many other countires this would be seen as a bad thing. She siad she dint see what the problem was if know one got hurt.
    But really it is down to your own morals and what you believe in. Thx very much for the post Maciamo very interesting and valid points.

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    (EDITED by Maciamo) Replies to this post and the following discussing have been moved to
    In what kind of relationship do people get HIV/AIDS more easily ?
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    Public opinion shaper and universal concept.

    Japanese movies, drama, animation, and so on seems to be not the appropriate way to judge Japanese opinions, especially their morals.

    Considering the fact that the entertainment industry seems to be part of the shaper of public opinion instead of the other way around. The normal Japanese themself wouldn't like to be associated with anime, what make you so sure that the Japanese adopted the believe represented by this medium and others?

    As for serving under the winning side. Well... When you're in a house, it's better to follow the rules of the host. A change of host, a change of rules.



    As for "'wrong/evil' only exist as long as it causes bad feelings or damages to other people."

    Universal concept, good concept, but the Japanese don't hold a monopoly on this one, most of the world practice this concept, even those who stayed in 'western' and 'muslim' countries.

    Unfortunately, the Japanese or at least those who are afffected will no longer hold or practiced this universal concept,due to public opinion shaper, including the one above.


    As for the girl who slept with 12+ guys.

    Either she is really frank (almost to the bordering of psycho) or she is just a figment of someone's imagination. Of course that depends, did she said 12+ guys after she was asked or did she said it on her own?

    Girl in general don't disclose their sexual nature openly. Society rules? Could be, but the other thing is that, the secret or the disclosure of a girl's sexual nature can be exploited for the girl's own advantage, and a girl can be quite good at this sort of thing.

    Imagine a girl is like a car. While you might a capable car that perharps that had been driven for quite some distance to prove that the car is quite capable, you don't necessary want to see the odometer to see on how much the car have travelled, unless of course you're the safety concious type of person that need to know everything.

    Anyway. If she said that it's okay for her to slept with many different men because she's always tell them the truth, she's right on not hurting anyone.

    On the other hand, there's the issue with her parents, do they approve of her doing this sort of thing? Wouldn't be kinda degrading and hurting to the parents if the parents were hurted by her actions and she said that she didn't hurt 'anyone'?

  7. #7
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by persian893
    i can identify easily with this point of view. there is no
    good or evil but only good and bad. what prevails is good. what perishs is bad.

    the ancient persian philosopher Zarathustra (Zoroaster) said: the same
    thing viewed from two different perspectives may appear white once, and
    black the other time. what i see white, you may see black.

    so there is no objective, absolute good and evil.
    Although it seems almost inevitable in a society where status and position count for so much of a person's worth that the judgment of an act as immoral or not is going to depend on the relative standing of the people involved. A Japanese man having a string of off and on dalliances with Westerner girls isn't going to require the apology it would with his company superior's wife, which hurts his wife, his social leverage, humiliates his boss and stains the reputation of everyone around him. What other standard is there after all besides the degree of harm to these various people and entities ?

  8. #8
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    The japanese notion that certain actions do not corrupt the individual is probably the cause for such a high suicide rate, the weakness of marriage in the country, and the view that women are objects. One of the main problems I have seen is the prevalence and tolerance of pornography, or the gratification of lust.

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    japanese is not dualism ppl like Dark and light, god and Satan ..
    buddism...no god.
    shinto ....many kami.
    as the Japanese religion, japanese culture did not became it like dualism

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    while becoming so Americanised without being forced to for such things as sports (baseball...),
    do you know Japanese history of baseball?
    have been told by Japanese friends (of both sexes and all ages) that cheating on one's partner is not wrong as long as they don't know it.

  11. #11
    puzzled gaijin
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    Japan is very much the land of situational ethics, where many things are case by case and how they affect others if they know about it. The problem with this is often it is not considered if it will be better to tell someone the bad news now versus stringing them along and breaking it over his or her head in the future.

    Considering ones' status as compared to others is a constant dance, yet we sometimes play the same game in other cultures, perhaps not as well.

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    Horizon Rider Kinsao's Avatar
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    Very interesting, and I don't like to comment very much because I don't know anything about "Japanese morals".

    I came to the conclusion that for Japanese "wrong/evil" only exist as long as it causes bad feelings or damages to other people.
    Not to try and contradict your point, but merely to add to it perhaps, I seem to see that attitude quite a lot in English society too. People often say things like, "I can do what I like as long as I'm not hurting anyone else", or "... as long as it only affects me..."

    I guess people sometimes lose the sight of the way the choices/decisions they make, help to shape the kind of person they become, which in turn, has its impact on all the people they come into contact with.

    Well yeah, not an exclusively Japanese trait, then; but perhaps more common in Japan?

  13. #13
    Techno Nudger Rich303's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Japanese morals do not have a concept of right and wrong like in the West or Muslim countries. Nothing can be right or wrong by itself. It always depends on the situation and how other people see it. Kenneth Henshall also pointed this out in his book "A History of Japan" when he said that Japanese have avoided judging what is good or evil since ancient times, prefering to equate "wrong" with disrupting the social order or disobeying formal authority.

    ...In everyday life, I have been told by Japanese friends (of both sexes and all ages) that cheating on one's partner is not wrong as long as they don't know it...Japanese have indeed a very practical and down-to-earth approach to life.

    What an interesting post!

    One of the things that I find interesting about japanese (particularly horror) films is the moral ambiguity.
    Conventions of right and wrong sometimes go out the window. There is not the sense of 'justice' you have in a western film. An innocent person may perish for instance, or a 'good' character may do a questionable thing. This is more realistic to me. Bad things can happen to or be committed by good people so there is no 'safety net' in japanese horror - so it's more scary !
    The guy in Audition was not really a bad man, but maybe his method of meeting a new wife was somewhat wrong-headed. His fate could be viewed as a 'cautionary tale'. Or maybe that is in a sense moralistic(?)

    other E.Gs;

    The heart-breaking ending of 'Dark Water'

    The torment of Sadako in Ringu

    The fate of the characters in Ju-on, such as Rika
    (she was a care assistant)

    The questionable behaviour of the characters in Korei
    (although this was loosely based on an old English film)


    Regarding the issue of fidelity, I have heard similar things about cheating being OK if the partner doesn't find out - which to be honest has fuelled my paranoia about my ladyfriend in Japan.
    She did ask me to tell her if I meet a 'good girl' back home. Maybe that is a hint that she is being a 'bad girl'. Who knows.
    I don't resent her for it, I just regret that I've never been able to be more of a player ! I do not like lying a woman (or anyone) I care about.
    I don't think people in 'the west' are any generally more loyal to each other, but maybe don't deal with it in the same way.
    Last edited by Rich303; Jun 23, 2006 at 18:42.
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  14. #14
    puzzled gaijin
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    Kinsao posted
    I seem to see that attitude quite a lot in English society too. People often say things like, "I can do what I like as long as I'm not hurting anyone else", or "... as long as it only affects me..."
    I guess people sometimes lose the sight of the way the choices/decisions they make, help to shape the kind of person they become, which in turn, has its impact on all the people they come into contact with.

    Well yeah, not an exclusively Japanese trait, then; but perhaps more common in Japan?
    Interesting to hear that Kinsao, I think Japanese and English people are more alike than I had previously thought (i.e. reserved, use indirect comments).

    As to his or her actions affecting others, very true, things are a lot more interrelated than people tend to realize. Unfortunately, it only really is driven home when people reap profits or disaster from what they have been doing over some time. Generally, if you're doing something that is 'good', you don't mind if other people know about it or not. That's not to say everyone needs to know your business, but rather that people who are secretative about everything are generally up to something or simply overly paranoid.

  15. #15
    Horizon Rider Kinsao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gaijinalways
    I think Japanese and English people are more alike than I had previously thought (i.e. reserved, use indirect comments).
    Kate Fox draws several parallels between Japanese and English people in her book 'Watching the English'. She puts it down (partly!) to living on quite a small, crowded island - and when you think about it, Japan and the UK do have some geographical similarities. While I think her book is way too simplistic, there do seem to be some points shared by Japanese and English 'social character' (for want of a better way of putting it) - particularly the 'politeness thing', which although manifested quite differently in the UK is still fairly noticeable once you start to think about it. It's maybe wrong to call it 'politeness', but really more like 'unspoken social rules' or code. e_e

  16. #16
    puzzled gaijin
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    This unspoken code exists in all societies, though some seem to have more rules than others. I assumed both of them being island nations was a given for most people.


    As to being crowded, I would say that Japan is much more crowded than the UK, looking at population densities

    (19 for Japan, 33 for the UK), but if you look at Tokyo compared to London, it's no contest. London at 11,000 per sq. mile, Tokyo at 3x that!

  17. #17
    Banned Onigiri Chan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich303
    I don't think people in 'the west' are any generally more loyal to each other, but maybe don't deal with it in the same way.
    As an American I'm always shocked by the different perspectives of fidelity, world over. In my American opinion, cheating is cheating is cheating. I can safely say that here the unfaithful are a key source of drama for anyone - whether they're serious about their relationship or no.

    It's common to hear stereotypes about Americans having few morals when talking to someone uneducated - but after considering these things, it seems that Americans have an even more strict set of social rules set in place on an individual level than many cultures.

    My friend recently spent a year in Taiwan. When he first arrived all he could talk about was the nature of personal value there and the way people deal with everyday things as a result. There is a huge difference and undoubtedly social structure is what creates the most culture shock to a first-time visitor in any foreign country.

  18. #18
    Techno Nudger Rich303's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Onigiri Chan
    In my American opinion, cheating is cheating is cheating. I can safely say that here the unfaithful are a key source of drama for anyone - whether they're serious about their relationship or no.

    I totally agree with you.
    If someone wants an 'open' relationship they should not pretend it is true romance/love.

    Being cheated on can make you look inward and blame yourself for not being 'enough' for the one you love.

    More seriously it can split up families, lead to murder (in extreme cases) and cause all kinds of problems.

    Cheating sucks !



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  19. #19
    Banned Onigiri Chan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich303
    Being cheated on can make you look inward and blame yourself for not being 'enough' for the one you love.
    More seriously it can split up families, lead to murder (in extreme cases) and cause all kinds of problems.
    I've never been to any other countries, but I find it hard to believe that the above isn't found to be true in Japan (and everywhere). It's strange to me that the concepts of 'good and evil' could be looked at in such a grey light. Certainly love has provoked problems (from small to outrageous) all throughout history...love, among other things.

    So then, why wouldn't the obvious means to the hurt and conflict that results be avoided - no matter the culture?

    Just another reason to get out and explore the world.

    By the by, Rich303, thanks. =) I'm surprised you recognized it.

  20. #20
    Veni, vidi... vicodin? GodEmperorLeto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    1) Watching Japanese movies, drama (jidai geji) or anime, it seems that Japanese believe that the winner (of a battle or war) is always right.

    2) Japanese morals do not have a concept of right and wrong like in the West or Muslim countries. Nothing can be right or wrong by itself. It always depends on the situation and how other people see it.
    These concepts have their origins in Eastern philosophy, especially Daoism, which stresses social harmony over the actions and desires of an individual. Indeed, the individual is most at peace when following the natural inclination of oneself, but that's usually pictured with imagery like a leaf floating along a stream, not necessarily a salmon traveling against the current.

    Western/Middle Eastern morality has many of its origins in Athens and Jerusalem.

    The Homeric epics may seem morally ambiguous, but they definitively set up a value system which exemplifies craftiness and bravery. In contrast to bushido, Graeco-Roman societies imagine soldiering as the civic duty of any and every citizen. Death in service to one's country is seen as a sacrifice, whereas in bushido, death in service of a lord is almost expected and not nearly as appreciated. Craftiness and ingenuity are lauded, even if they disrupt social harmony. The individual is the most fundamental component of a society, however, he is infinitely responsible for his actions.

    This is also exemplified in Hebrew law. Although it devises a system of purity and uncleanliness similar to Shinto, the objective is different. The Tanakh sets up a linear view of history, unique in a world of cyclical philosophies (especially in the East). Mankind is responsible on both a collective level, and on an individual level, for death, sin, and entropy. Each person is responsible for his actions, and the Talmud seeks to prosecute individual behavior, regardless of station, with perfect justice.

    These things are not part of Eastern philosophy. It has been noted many times that Eastern philosophy, which underpins much of Eastern society and values, is markedly different from the value-systems of the West. Plenty of authors (historical, religious, philosophical, and anthropological) have hashed over these points many times throughout the past hundred years.
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    Regular Member persil's Avatar
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    Okay, I have difficulties giving my opinion in that kind of post normally, but here I go. Don't stab me please!

    Personally, I think there is a distinction between a society's way of life and traditions, such as what's socially accepted (like relations between people, having multiple partners or not, and such) and what is morally acceptable.

    I'd like to believe that morals are universal. And as such, I don't think it is humanly all right to believe that cheating is ok as long as you don't get caught. Yes, there's a saying that roughly says: "what one does not see does not hurt", and it's true, but still it does not make it right!

    I believe in good and evil, that killing people is bad even if the means are good, I know everything is not white or black, there is room for interpretation, but I don't believe that anyone should believe that "the end justifies the means".

    Also, let's just say I respect that belief. If one starts cheating on his wife/her husband, it's just the start of a mechanism that will utterly in almost every case end in the discovery of the truth, thus evil...

    Anyway, what I mean is that I believe that some fundamentals should be respected. There is no rule of nature that says relations should be exclusive, that's part of a culture, but as humans I think that lying and killing should be universally bad.

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    I think it's interesting. A lot of people claim that humans are not monogamous.
    This is probably true, due to the fact that a large majority of people cheat in their marriage. Even those who don't cheat probably use pornography (I'm not saying that viewing pornography is cheating, but it does show a desire to see someone other than your spouse in a sexual way, meaning we're geared toward wanting more than just one sexual partner.)

    So, with all that..and the fact that really I can't see how cheating really hurts someone unless they find out, I think I agree with the Japanese in that aspect. I guess it comes down to how someone was saying that westerner morality comes from their own inner sense of right and wrong, and Japanese morality is more like about a sense of shame they get from disrupting things.

    So interesting! xx!!!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by kooo
    Even those who don't cheat probably use pornography (I'm not saying that viewing pornography is cheating, but it does show a desire to see someone other than your spouse in a sexual way, meaning we're geared toward wanting more than just one sexual partner.)
    And if you watch it together your both naughty people who want to cheat?
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    westerner morality comes from their own inner sense of right and wrong, and Japanese morality is more like about a sense of shame they get from disrupting things.
    moreover, they consider the other ppl.
    it means it is always not only "me" like me me me
    If the Japanese picked up a purse,they would think the person who droped it is embarrassed with the first idea.
    there is few good or bad decision from own inner sense.
    Last edited by caster51; Jul 4, 2006 at 12:57.

  25. #25
    Banned Onigiri Chan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caster51
    moreover, they consider the other ppl.
    it means it is always not only "me" like me me me
    If the Japanese picked up a purse,they would think the person who droped it is embarrassed with the first idea.
    there is few good or bad decision from own inner sense.
    As a westerner I see things differently. If a person does what he or she feels - regardless of the potential outcome - it seems to me more self-indulgant than stearing clear of any negative actions before the results.
    As before mentioned the saying "what you don't see doesn't hurt you" is applied here.
    For me, upholding my moral beliefs are somewhat a matter of preserving my own sense of integrity as well as keeping the people around me from hurting any more than they have to at my expense.
    None of this is to say that Americans aren't directed by the moral codes of their society.
    Using the purse example; if someone was to find a purse on the ground they'd undoubtedly consider keeping the money - but because of the accepted moral beliefs within our society, keeping someone's lost money is known to be wrong. An average person would likely make an effort to return the purse on account of social moral code, even if he or she had no strong inclination towards it.
    Although after thinking about it a little bit, this is neither here nor there - off subject. : (

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