The Japanese ritual on work must seem interesting and exotic


Japanese people are conscious (意識して) of “Wa” (harmony, a feeling of thankfulness, a feeling of respecting another) and use “Enryo” (hesitation, modesty, reservation), so we (Japanese) are often bewildered (戸惑ってしまう)by the Western communication style where foreigners exchange opinions directly and sometimes have arguments with each other.

In Japan, when there is a difference of opinion,  people tend to deal with (対処し) it as amicably (穏便に) as possible, refraining (控える) from exchanging opposing opinions. We don’t have the custom of debating or brainstorming, where you express different opinions from the other people.


Therefore, (したがって) when foreigners begin a discussion, Japanese people don’t know what to do, so we keep silent. On top of that, (まして) people who are not good at English are simply overwhelmed (圧倒される) by the debate and don’t know what to do.

That is not good as is. (それはこのままではダメです) When exchanging opinions, it’s natural that there will be conflict (戦い・争う・口論・衝突). It’s necessary to learn the back-and-forth communication style.


Foreigners are not able to understand the mysterious communication style of Japanese

The psychological background of the Japanese dislike for brainstorming has to be the desire to preserve the “wa”. In business, Japanese want to preserve the “wa” so much that we don’t insist on (主張する) differing opinions (反対意見) strongly in front of the people we are talking to.

Japanese people unconsciously feel that saying something strongly to another person may hurt the person’s feelings, so when we confront (直面する) someone in those situations (そうした場に), we soften (和らげる) our tone go into “enkyoku” (indirect, euphemistic) mode to imply (ほのめかす、暗に意味する) our message.


On the other hand, in the West, people tell others their opinions directly. For them, business exchanges are not heart-to-heart talks, and there is back-and-forth discussion. Westerners think that business is business, and that it doesn’t influence individuals’ relationships. 

Japanese people think that saying things directly to superiors and customers is rude (失礼) and that it can also ruin (壊す) our relationship with our coworkers. For that reason (だからこそ), we try to change the place and create an atmosphere where it is easy to talk.


While exchanging our “honne” (true intention, true feelings, true colours) , we communicate our opinions little by little, and move the communication forward through “nemawashi” (to lay the groundwork, to digging round root). 

The Japanese have a mysterious communication style. Foreigners are not able to understand it.



The ritual of exchanging business cards

Every culture in the world has certain patterns of behavior based on it. That is, in a certain sense (ある意味で) , customs are handed down (受け継がれた) from generation to generation, and ”kata” (form) fosters (育てる) people’s behavior patterns. Of all the peoples in the world, it’s said that the Japanese place the most importance on (重きを置く) learning through “kata”. 

B-movies and such often present stereotypes of Japanese people, and show us giving funny, deep bows. Added to that (それに加えて), the exchange of name cards in business situations seems like an extremely formal ritual. What is the proper timing and how do you exchange business cards and then start a meeting with another person? For foreigners, this knowledge is the first encounter (遭遇, 遭遇する) with Japanese “kata”. 


Also, when Westerners meet a second time, they give their business cards to people without hesitation. On the other hand, if the other person doesn’t ask for it, it is common to not exchange business cards. However, in Japan, business cards are almost always exchanged at first meetings.

Once we have been exchanged, Japanese people don’t exchange cards again, unless there are special circumstances, such as when the other person’s position has changed, etc. A business card is a person’s “face”, so once you have received it, you should take good care of it.



The Japanese ritual must seem interesting and exotic

The way that Japanese people learn “kata” is unique. For example, in the traditional arts, the master doesn’t teach any theory to an apprentice (弟子). He or she starts by making the apprentice learn the physical form. In that case, the more future (将来性) an apprentice has, the harder the master will press the person. 

Now, things are not that extreme. However, Japanese people tend to demand (要求する) that the learner have perseverance (忍耐) and obey the teacher. This learn style is not acceptable to people from countries like America, where people are trained by complimenting (褒めて) them in order to increase their motivation, or by explaining things logically. 

Due to these differing customs, when a Japanese person is the boss, it can create an unbridgeable gulf (とんでもない溝). You have to keep persevering until you have mastered the “kata”. In the Japanese way of learning, once you have mastered the “kata”, you are given freedom, but for foreigners, this may be one of the most difficult to understand processes.



No individualism

Japanese people’s learning style emphasizes (強調する、重点を置く) the value of “kata”. Japanese-owned companies abroad use this method for employee training, and give tasks (業務) that are not directly related to the work someone wants to do. This can cause terrible troubles.

These days, you can no longer see new recruits cleaning the desks of their superiors at Japanese companies. However, it often seems that after the new-employee training, when people are assigned to a department, they are sent to departments they are not at all interested in, and after some time (しばらくして), they are transferred to other departments they never imagined they would be sent to.


In Japan, the company plans the individual’s career, and in many countries like America, the individual is at the company to achieve his or her own career. This difference created the different personnel systems (人事制度).

In Japan, at places like hair salons, new employees are always just put in charge of shampooing and are some times ordered to clean the floors. It’s a modern version of the apprentice system (徒弟制度). In a way, this way of thinking might be effective for fully mastering the fundamentals.

However, the Westerners use time sensibly  (賢く) to train people in a short period, it is intolerable (耐えられない、我慢できない). These differences in ways of thinking are connected with the high employee-turnover rates (離職率) at Japanese companies which have expanded abroad.