Social Change In Japan Essay, Research Paper
The Japanese culture has allowed for very little diversity. This started very early in their history. The social controls used to eliminate diversity are the family, the power of gender, the poor treatment of minority groups, the corporate Japanese mentality, and the respect required by people in authority. However, due to globalization and the shrinking of the world, Japanese society is starting to make the change to diversity. The individualistic mentality shared by the new technology driven younger generation is putting pressure on the old Japanese status quo. The transformation is happening very slow, but as the population ages and the old conservatives are being replaced by the new liberals, the old way of thinking is also being replaced by the new.
The establishment of the caste system during their feudal development insured unity and lack of diversity would be a theme through the rest of their history. During the Nara period the Japanese society was separated into classes which were based on the position of each family. Whether the position was of a court official, samurai, or peasant farmer, each class carefully blended together. The appearance of unity was paramount. Individual rights were non-existent. It became common place to respect and even worship the ancestral heritage. Wisdom was thought to be a combination of knowledge and a practical application of that knowledge. Therefor, the older family members were thought to have to most wisdom from the lives they spent applying their knowledge. They were revered and respected by the younger generations in the family. Another way in which the traditional family structure in Japan supports the conformity of its? member is through the Bushido influence. This “way of warrior” has permanently established in the Japanese culture during to Tokogawa Era. The warrior code dictated that loyalty, respect, and honor were the most important personal ideals one could have. These ideals filtered out of the samurai class and eventually rooted deeply into the national character of Japan. Conformity is required through this ideal because an individual mentality would not consider loyalty to be as important as society viewed it. In addition, by behaving out of the norm, shame would be brought to a family. The individualistic mentality runs contradictory to the traditional family structure in Japan.
Women and minorities in Japan have been traditionally viewed as second class. Equal rights were not granted to women until the Occupation Era following World War II. The modifications that were made to the existing Meiji Constitution gave women the same rights as men for the first time in the country?s history. Prior to that they were seen as servants, dominated by their husbands, in what can only be described as a master / slave relationship. The new Japanese Constitution of 1947 empowered the Japanese women for the first time in the countries history. Minorities were persecute throughout Japan?s past. Native Anglo?s were hunted down and slaughtered. The surviving numbers were driven north onto the smaller surrounding islands. The closed era of Tokogawa Shogunate tried to remove all of the diversity within society. Any thought other than the Shinto/Buddhist/Confucianism that dominated was society was expelled. The violent massacre of Christians during this period only supported conformity to the ideals of the ruling class. The stance they took on foreign thought and technology insured that no outside influences would affect Japanese culture. This view lasted over 200 years until the country was opened to foreigners again. The long period the Japanese spent with no diversity combined with the loyalty and honor themes of Bushido, made it impossible for them to accept diversity after the country was opened again.
The xenophobic sentiment of the Tokogawa Era only added to the strict view that Japanese had of individuality. The feeling was solidified during this time that to be different contrary to the good of society. The Bushido code of honor and loyalty in a sense dictated the conformity of the warrior class. To be different might have been seen as disrespectful to the lord Through the samurai the conformity of the peasant class was insured. The samurai led the conformity of the peasant class by example, and when necessary fear. Even today in Japan, much of the same sentiment can be felt. It is a direct result of the history of the country. In fact a common phrase used to scare school children in Japan is “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” Corporate Japan is still the most unchanging aspect of their society. Old conservatives that have become powerful business men control most of the industry in Japan. The are the modern equivalent of the samurai in many ways. They instill the sense of honor and loyalty in the people that work for them. Much like the samurai did to the peasant farmers of the old eras, the business leaders today lead by example. The only way to break into their upper echelon is to adopt their ideals and goals. Stories have leaked out of successful business moves that made money for companies were looked down upon. The individual was ostracized from the company for thinking out of the box. The conformity to company ideals has the same reward system that the samurai offered the peasants. Lifetime employment is almost guaranteed to those who adapt the goals and ideals of the company. In addition, to the old conservative business leaders, outsiders are not welcome. The feudal organization of Japan?s society, it can be argued, is perfectly reflected today in the conservative old line companies. The Bushido code that is reflected in their corporate philosophies dictates the conformity and non-diversity of its? employees.
The authority given to the power holders in the Japanese society comes directly from the impact of the Bushido and Confucianism. Confucianism, discussed briefly prior, influenced the political ideology of Japan from early in its? history. The Nara Era established a form of government that was adapted from the Chinese influence of Confucianism. The political ideal stated that the emperor received his authority directly form heaven. It linked the emperor directly with the divine, instilling in him the power to rule over all. It further set forth the idea that every person was duty-bound to increase the harmony of society. This harmony eventually became a sentiment similar to that of “don?t rock the boat when you?re in it.” The laws and ideals that came to fruition during the period instilled in the population the desire to fit in and conform. This had the effect of decreasing personal freedom in order to have the most harmony. The same sentiment of harmony is a theme reflected in the older conservative generations in Japan. The values of Confucianism are what supply these people with there power. As surrogates to the emperor in the new era, these men of respect are given their authority over others in order to insure the most harmony. Vicious battles do not take place that dishonor the adversaries in board rooms. Careful and quite deliberations take place. The leaders follow the Confucianism ideal of promoting harmony.
The tide is changing in the country today. The globalization of industry around the world has necessitated a change in Japanese diversity. In order to be successful in the new global marketplace, the old conservative views are starting to be shed for new liberal ones. An area of the economy that is changing much faster than the rest is the computer and internet technology companies. The young leaders of these new companies are enjoy unmatched success in the Japanese market. This success has instilled a sense of respect by these younger industrial warriors. These new era samurai are helping to change the tide for all of the younger generation. The system in place represses the desire for freedom and diversity in these younger generations. Finally they are seeing successful self starters that are turning away from the traditional conformist mentality. They are heroes and icons of a new culture to the youth of Japan. The new champions of industry would never have come into power under the old system, but with new technology comes new cultural influences. People today enjoy more personal freedom than past generations, but the tide is changing remarkably slow. The balance between the old and the new will definitely happen over a long period of time. Perhaps generations will pass before the country?s view of diversity and conformity will change. Perhaps after the revolution underway presently, the country will accept diversity as a necessary evil of the new world economy, but still hold onto the xenophobic and conformity views it has had throughout its? history. Only time will tell whether the Japanese society is ready to accept diversity. The movement has been started by the younger generation and the successful technology based companies they have founded. Japan?s history dictates that conflict follows fast cultural changes. The transformation from the Nara Era into the Tokogawa Era, and later from the Tokogawa Era into the Meiji Era were all marked by quick and rapid changes in Japanese cultural doctrine. Each transition had violent confrontations between those fighting to take power and those trying to keep it. During each of these cultural revolutions influences from the old system remained. Japan today has put down their swords, but as past history shows, the old conservatives will not hand over their system to the younger liberals easily. This suggests that the change toward diversity in Japan will not happen over night, but slowly over time. It may take generations for the Japanese society to completely forget the conformist and xenophobic cultural influences of the past 1500 years.