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Culture & Identity of Japan

Introduction

Japan has rapidly changed in the past century as nearly all focus and efforts have been on economic growth and prosperity. The country has been a leader in technology and a regional power for well over a century, but with the shift in focus to economic growth since World War II (WWII) the country has changed in many ways, particularly in their way of life, although their historic culture remains the same in so many ways.

After WWII Japan continued its industrialization efforts as the people continued to urbanize. Today over 90% of the population lives in cities as only about 4% of the people work in agriculture. City culture dictates the way of life for most people in Japan today as many people hold regularly scheduled jobs and their daily routine is fairly consistent from day to day.

For many of these city dwellers work begins at about 9:00 am and ends at about 5:00 pm. Life for many begins and ends on the public transportation systems and at work order and hard work are demanded. The country is a leader in technological progress and there is a great number of jobs in this industry, both in manufacturing as well as in the services sector.

For many students life is similar to that of their parents as school days generally begins at about 8:00 am and end at about 3:00 pm as all students wear uniforms, and have some time off, including a summer break from about July to August. However, schools have vastly different schedules from one to the next. Organization and discipline are important to the Japanese and it appears this way with the school children. Despite this, children are free to be children and much of the discipline is done to encourage their children to succeed.

Although Japan may seem uniform in some ways, particularly in appearance as so many people dress in like fashion and public transportation fills up at the same times each day, the Japanese are also individuals and this is best seen in their free time or when out for drinks with colleagues. Life during these times can seem chaotic, particularly when out drinking, but it is also a time for the people to let go of the societal pressure to succeed and work hard and just relax.

Free time in Japan is highly individualized as everyone enjoys something different, but family is very important to the Japanese and much of the free time is spent with family, often times supporting and encouraging children as they pursue their interests, studies, hobbies, and lives.

Identity

Today, there's a revival of pride in being "Japanese," although this wasn't the case for the past few decades. Prior to World War II (WWII) this pride was in the connection to the Japanese ethnicity, but after their loss in WWII, the nation as a whole felt shamed and lost their identity in many ways. Today, this same term is being used as the primary means to identify, but today it isn't as closely related to the ethnicity as it is to the political and, more significantly, the economic state of Japan. While historic Japanese culture does contribute to this identity in significant ways, today being "Japanese" typically is defined by the country's technological and economic successes and any citizen, no matter their ethnicity is generally included in this identity.

This page was last updated: November, 2013