Get help Understanding Japanese thinking Understanding Japanese thinking Japanese culture is very different from Western European or American culture. Here are a few pointers which will hopefully be helpful. Note that the pointers contain some generalisations which will not always hold, however we hope they will be valuable, recognising that there are always exceptions to any generalisation! Group culture: You may notice that Japanese people usually share a common ancestry, appearance and culture. Unlike our culture in the West which has occasionally been heavily influenced by outsiders, the Japanese normally operate in a group culture. In this culture, being the same and working carefully within a group is encouraged and approved. In contrast individualism can be frowned upon. Japanese people often have a strong sense of national identity. Perhaps related to this, they also tend to see uniformity as a good thing, to be promoted and encouraged. In contrast, non-conformity, or being different, can be perceived as a threat to harmony. Outward appearances: In Japan there is often a strong focus on what other people can see and perceive about individuals. Keeping up appearances and not showing stress or feelings is normally quite important. In contrast to the Western approach, which can sometimes disregard what others think, the Japanese are very sensitive to conforming to expectations and not appearing to be exceptional or out of the ordinary. Culture of politeness and order: In Japan it is important to be polite and orderly. These attributes are highly prized and taught to children from a very early age. The language reflects the complexity of this, with a whole different vocabulary and way of expressing yourself if you are addressing a superior, a customer or someone older than you. Harmony is important: Harmony and good relationships are highly valued. Anything involving the loss of face or shame is carefully avoided. Almost all Japanese people are very uncomfortable in situations which are likely to be confrontational or which may lead to disagreements or anger / frayed tempers. They will generally go to great lengths to avoid them. Conforming to societal norms expected: There are many societal norms which will, in almost all situations, be carefully respected. Many of these can make life difficult as a foreigner living in Japan as they may not be written down or clearly communicated. Please do consider investing in a copy of A Christian's Pocket Guide to the Japanese which is available from our online shop and has a wealth of information and detailed suggestions about how to relate to, and share the gospel with, Japanese people. See also our page on What do Japanese people believe?