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Modern Japan: Origins of the Mind

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In this book, Alexander Prasol, a professor at Niigata University of International and Information Studies, takes a fresh look at modern Japan, and does not treat the Japanese as enigmatic or mysterious people; their ways of thinking and their culture can be explained by an honest appraisal of their history and of the norms that have shaped this history.

Prasol not only reveals the mentality and national character of modern Japanese people but also attempts to explore and analyze the roots of their mannerisms.

Everyone knows that the Japanese are generally more polite than other nationalities, but why is this so? Why do they embrace a relaxed attitude when being served by others? Surely, there must be specific reasons to account for these observations. Delving into the social values of the Japanese, why do they value loyalty and commitment so much? How long have they been upholding these virtues? Why, when interrogated by the police, even without being beaten or tortured, do they easily confess guilt for crimes that they have not committed? What are the reasons for such behaviors? All these questions and more are answered in this engaging and illuminating book.

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Interesting sounding book. Yes, history shapes people's minds. There's no escaping it. But I wonder if it is going to be another "feudalism caused this or that" discussion. Because then you'd have to look at other formally feudalistic societies, like Britain.

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Everyone knows that the Japanese are generally more polite than other nationalities, but why is this so? Why do they embrace a relaxed attitude when being served by others?

Huh? Ritualistically polite, you bet. But truly considerate of others, no way. And "relaxed when being served by others"...nonsense. How come they yell "sumimasen" constantly at waiters and waitresses if they are not getting paid attention to quickly enough?

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Everyone knows that the Japanese are generally more polite than other nationalities, but why is this so?

It's not; people who say this don't live in Japan. I'm not saying Japanese aren't polite, but they do things that would be considered rude in other countries, and vice versa.

Why, when interrogated by the police, even without being beaten or tortured, do they easily confess guilt for crimes that they have not committed?

Crass stupidity? BTW, torture is not always physical as seems to be being implied here. From the stories you hear, it's mainly psychologically bullying them into submission. The "guilty until proven innocent" legal paradigm doesn't help with this either.

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Any book that claims to have all the answers to the behavior of 127 million people has to be held to a higher standard.

Can it explain why some the majority of Japanese support the death penalty, while a third still do not? Can it explain why some Japanese are polite in some situations, some others are almost never polite, and yet some are polite in only selected situations? How about why some don't even like to eat rice?

Blah, blah, blah.

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"a relaxed attitude when being served by others"

Herefornow was correct that it's not anything goes for wait staff. But there is a sort of passiveness for accepting or ignoring workers' errors. I mean, people are still eating at branches of that tainted yakiniku chain, right?

I must have surprised my inlaws at the bagel shop not long ago asking the staff to recalculate our bill and quickly getting back 200-300 yen that we were overcharged. I wonder what passiveness about double checking bills costs people on average every year, just for the sake of avoiding even small disturbances.

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the Japanese are generally more polite than other nationalities

Ah, right. The automatically opening doors installed in millions of shops nationwide, to cite just one example, are necessary here because most Japanese can't be bothered to hold doors for strangers. In Western countries, such doors aren't needed.

"Polite" is a very subjective term.

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Japanese can't be bothered to hold doors for strangers

hmm, I wonder who held a door open for me this morning? Must be an alien ...

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Everyone knows that the Japanese are generally more polite than other nationalities

Ha ha! Who writes this nonsense? If this is any indication of the assumptions this book is written around, buy toilet paper instead.

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Bicultural, read my post: I said "most." You can cite individual cases all you like, but electric doors are indeed in response to a common cultural tendancy.

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Let's not bash the book before reading it. The reviewer who wrote this article probably hasn't read the book and was looking for an angle while writing under a deadline. I'm sure a professor at Niigata University has some good insights into Japanese culture.

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Dr. Prasol is from Russia and teaches about Russia to the Japanese. This is basically the same book he wrote a few years ago, only with a different title, cover picture, and chapter sequence. His previous work, while insightful to newcomers, contained nothing any seasoned ex-pat would not already know. His views are obviously seen from an east-European vantage point. I doubt someone from America will agree 100%. Nevertheless, the historic background on these cultural idiosyncrasies is interesting. Any island population is bound to be idiosyncratic. My pap wore a kilt and carried a shillelagh, and I thought that was normal.

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Anytime I read a "they" regardless of which group of people it applies to, I can't help but cringe. In general, the reliance on stereotypes is for the lazy. I wouldn't pay 2 yen for this book.

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electric doors are indeed in response to a common cultural tendancy.

Electric doors are a response to lots of cheap electricity and a love of gadgetry. Even the taxi doors are automatic, and I don't think there is any cultural tendency in the West to hold taxi doors open for strangers.

Come the summer we may be seeing fewer automatic doors as the threat of blackouts grows.

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