A culture is a collection of attitudes, customs, beliefs, practices, and other qualities that one can use to identify one group of people from another. Culture can be seen as use of language, possession of material objects which may have a certain meaning inscribed into them, rituals, institutions, artwork, and much more. The cultural group I want to analyze is the Asian culture, more specifically the culture of Japan. The Japanese culture is very complex and has developed over the past thousands of years. It’s government has gone from a shogun system with the emperor as a figurehead to a democratic nation much intertwined with the rest of the world today. When people think about Japanese culture, they often think about a samurai practicing a martial art, or a young geisha serving tea. However, the culture of Japan is much more complex than this, and the one specific aspect I want to talk about is the Japanese’ concept on the collective society or the group; the Japanese call this concept wa (“The Japanese culture” 1).
The Japanese culture tries very hard to avoid conflict. One can even make the argument that sometimes the culture is centered around avoiding conflict. The wa has affected Japanese society very positively, but one can make the argument that it has also negatively affected it as well. First, let’s look at the positives. Japanese culture is less individualistic that the West’s, and therefore people, especially younger people, are expected to keep their feelings to themselves and not give their true opinion away; this is considered polite because giving your true feelings away may cause others to be burdened by your problems, and this would bring shame to the person’s family. However, sometimes this can be a bad thing, as women aren’t willing to speak up if they get abused. Also, the courts tend to grant custody to only one parent in divorce trials, as they want to avoid conflict between the divorced parents.
That being said, this harmony has allowed Japan to be one of the lowest crime infested countries in the world. Why is this? For one thing, this harmony makes people get along and treat each other as family; their concept of wa allows them to feel interconnected. Japan is also a homogeneous society with very little ethnic groups. While this may be a bad thing in terms of intolerance of minorities, it goes into the Japanese’ view of harmony and being part of one (Spacey 1). This can also tie into socialization, as the Japanese culture expects you to give into the system by taking care and respecting your elders. More people live with their parents in Japan than in the West; actually, it’s more like more parents live with their children, but the points been said.
The functionalist perspective is a sociological perspective that describes the society as harmoniously working together to maintain a common cause. This ties into the Japanese’ idea of wa, as it shows that they are willing to work with one another to better the purpose and inner-workings of their state. The functionalist perspective plays a huge role in Japanese culture, as one can even say that it’s built on that since the entire purpose of their culture is to maintain a functional, working relationship with fellow Japanese citizens (“These class notes” 1). The conflict perspective is more of a struggle of power within the society. I don’t see this in the Japanese culture. While I believe that there are some conflicts and crime there, I don’t believe that enough people seek power over others due to the fact that the society is built upon working with one another and maintaining harmony.