Term Paper: Japan Be Seen

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[. . .] Japan and the ASEAN countries share a common cultural and religious heritage, therefore, any expansion and progression of the free market economy in the ASEAN countries would result in similar changes in society and social structure. Japan saw this progress as the coming Pacific era during Yasuhiro Nakasone's premiership who commented, 'Here the vigor and competitiveness of Western - particularly American - capitalism has been enriched by the Asian cultural heritage, in a life style that values harmony over adversarial procedures, conciliation over confrontation, and circumspection over assertion. We might call this our Confucian Heritage. It is, I believe, an extremely useful shock absorber for a modern society with its tendencies towards division and conflict.' (Nakasone, Yasuhiro (1986))

It was the intent of the Japanese government to industrialize and westernize, they were however, able to achieve the first target but the second target was elusive. Japanese traditions and religion play a vital role in the every day life of the Japanese. The western concept of modernity involves the evolution of secular and rational thought, a certain disregard for tradition and religion is achieved via modernization. Moreover the society moves toward individualism. This concept of modernity cannot be applied to Japan where people are still spiritualistic and give importance to traditions. The most striking example of the Japanese defiance to western culture is their architecture. Doors are made of paper panels and in every home there is the traditional Japanese low table. Dana Buntrock wrote in his article 'Without Modernity: Japan's challenging Modernization', 'After all, in economic terms Japan has surpassed many of the countries that were its original models. Instead, as one of the few nations to success-fully initiate industrialization in the nineteenth century, Japan offers provocative evidence that modernization can be had on terms which are not those established by the original modernizers.' (Butrock, Dana)

The Japanese approach to management is another reflection of the deep rooted cultural values in Japan. Other countries have adopted the Japanese style of management but few have been successful. This is mainly because the Asian culture affords a unique opportunity to practice the Japanese style of management. This culture, however, is not present in the west. The most clear example of the impact of Japanese culture on its business is the total absence of industrial action (strikes, picketing), whereas in the west industrial action and frequent worker dissatisfaction is not uncommon. The success in Labor relations may not be the only achievement of the Japanese; rather it is actually the mutual trust between organizations, employees, employers and the government. In no other country do all businesses operate on a just in time policy. This policy requires trust. In addition, although the business sector has emerged as a feudalistic empire with a very distinct seniority-based hierarchal structure, the communication within organizations is bottom up instead of being the other way round as it is in the west. Workers regard their company as a family and they never leave this family, at the start of each day they even sing the company song. (Asia Research Center) Consequently the social status of the worker is very much linked to the success of the company for which he works. An evaluation of the Japanese way of business leads full circle to the basic philosophy of the Japanese. Love nature, reduce and avoid conflict. This is now the heritage of the Japanese nation and qualities similar to these ideals are found in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

In today's world, Japan is no longer a specimen under the sociologist's microscope. Japan is by all means leaping towards a comprehensive leadership role in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Japan wants to transform its neighbors into more vigorous economic nations. The way Japan approaches conflicts through negotiation and dialogue only bolsters the effort on the part of other countries to resolve conflicts. Despite being the second largest economy in the world, Japan has only a small 'Self-Defense Force' and this attitude towards the active pursuit of peace makes other nations more willing to corporate. These are the reason behind the phenomenal success of the Japanese foreign policy. Japan's influence is most felt in the ASEAN countries, not only is Japan leading these countries towards modernization, it is also teaching them the Japanese way. A long time ago Japan was a passive isolationist state but now it is actively engaged in the creation of peace. The conflict with North Korea, deep routed antagonism between the Chinese and Japan, the situation of Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam all require Japan's guiding hand and influence. If Japan has taken up the responsibility to transform nations then obviously Japan as a country serves as a model in all respects of Asian development.

David Hitchcock, head of the Asian Pacific section of the United States Information Agency carried out a survey in which he evaluated the personal and societal values in the United States and East Asia. He found that American's valued (in descending order of priority) free expression, personal freedom, individual rights, open debate and thinking for oneself. Whereas the East Asian countries exhibited a sharp contrast, their values were having an orderly society, social harmony, official accountability, new ideas and respect for authority. (Sopiee, Noordin, 2001) In my opinion as I have expressed frequently in this paper that it is the similarity in values and culture between Japan and other Asian countries due to which Japanese expression of modernity can be used adequately as a model for all East Asian countries. This effect is enhanced by the active international role played by Japan. Therefore, Japanese perspective, although not universal, is certainly Asian.

Refernces:

Asia Research Center. University of Saint Gallen. Retrieved at http://www.asiacentre.net.

Butrock, Dana. Without Motivation: Japan's Challenging Modernization. University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved at http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:BlBPN8MOl68J:architronic.saed.kent.edu/PDF/v5n3/v5n3_02.pdf+modernity+Japan&hl=en.

Sopiee, Noordin (2001). Asia and the West. A Malaysian's view of a Controversial Debate. Retrieved at http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/97/1212/cs7.html.

Koizumi, Junichiro. Message of Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi

Commemorating ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved at http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/asean/year2003/message-1.html.

Nakasone, Yasuhiro (1986). The New Asia Pacific Era. Britannica Book of the Year 1986. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. (1986). [END OF PREVIEW]

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