by Ayaka Nakamura
When I asked foreign friends a question, “what is Japanese culture?” many said, samurai and kimono that are related to traditional Japanese stereotype, and Japanese people also often say Japan is a mono-cultural traditional country. Yet, I think Japanese culture contains many foreign origin customs and is ever-changing. However, although it is difficult to differentiate a multicultural country from a global country, Japan is not enough globalized to be capable to accept people who have different cultures.
One of the most frequent answers to the question, what is Japanese culture, might be kimono. There is no doubt the traditional clothes is a part of Japanese culture, and many Japanese wear them for festivals and various ceremonies. Yet, kimono is not Japanese original or only-Japanese culture. Similar style wears were used over Asia, and Japanese people actually imported pre-kimono clothes from China and Korea. Then, how about Zen culture? Japan has five famous Zen temples where sophisticated monks created poetry and paintings, and the word, Zen, is widely known as a Japanese culture in the world. Yet, Zen was happened in India and was brought to Japan much later. Although both kimono and Zen are not originally from Japan, they are part of Japanese culture.
In addition to these pan-Asian cultures, Japanese culture contains Western cultures, too. One will hear the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, by a European composer, Beethoven, on the last day of every year in Japan. Playing and singing the Symphony No. 9 altogether is a Japanese ending year custom, and people eat soba noodles listening to it. Moreover, how about shaking hands? Is it not a Japanese culture? Although touching someone’s body part would not fit into Japanese polite manners, shaking hands became a common way of a greeting especially in business, and most of all Japanese know what shaking hands means. From ancient time, Japan integrated many foreign cultures into its own culture, and people are not aware of their non-Japaneseness as cultures are invisible.
However, instead of accepting foreign cultures, Japan is not capable of having people who have different cultures yet. If accepting people is about globalization, then Japan has not globalized enough. Although many companies expresses they need “global” people to work with, they would not hire a Muslim man who can do a great work but who needs to have praying time five times a day. It would still take time for Japan to stand at the global stage. Yet, I believe it is not impossible, and Japan can be a more multicultural and global country. For the change, Japan definitely has to deal with some overdue customs, such as treating women as tea servers and recruiting only Junior students, that would cause a delay in the global business race.