I fell upon an "old" article I had read a few years ago relating to a study conducted by Professor Tadanobu Tsunoda of Tokyo Medical & Dental University. On a trip to Cuba, Pr. Tsunoda wondered why he felt so annoyed by the noise of local insects, while Cubans didn't seem to even hear the sound. Could it be that Japanese brains work differently ? The professor set out to research the physiological difference between the brains of Japanese and of the other races, and came to the conclusion that Japanese brains (or at least the brain of Japanese language speakers) processed the sound of insect in a separate part of the brain than other ethnic groups. While the cerebrum of Caucasians and Black Africans dealt with insect noises in the music part of the brain, in the right hemisphere, Japanese speakers constantly processed it in their language region, in the left hemisphere.

The question of whether the Japanese think differently from everybody else has been popular in Japan since the country's so-called "economic miracle" of the 1960's through 80's. A myriad of books and articles have been written on the subject. The Japanese, at a point, were convinced that their brain worked in an utterly unique way, which gave them the ability to do everything better than other nations. This concept inscribed itself in the broader and (in)famous theory of the Nihonjinron.

The bubble burst and long, painful economic recovery of Japan in the 1990's and 2000's has obliterated claims of ethnic supremacy, but many Japanese still feel alienated with the rest of the world. Some like to think of themselves as "aliens" who landed long ago on the Japanese archipelago and have no connection with the rest of mankind. This says a lot about how the Japanese see themselves.

In this thread I will post links to articles relating to the uniqueness of the Japanese, the different way things are done in Japan, or other culture shock stories between Japan and the West.

You can read more about Pr. Tsunoda's tsudy here :

The Japanese Language Brain, By Masaomi Ise (August 2002)

@ Japanese perfectionism

Newsweek : Revenge of the Garbage Nazi (June 2004)

@ Japanese abroad

MSNBC : 'Paris Syndrome' leaves tourists in shock