Recently members of the Wellington-based yJNZBC co-hosted a public seminar with a visiting scholar from Japan. Prof Yamaguchi's presentation was titled: Cultural Differences between Japan and New Zealand: Implications for Business. If you missed the event, and are interested in the psychological aspects of Japanese business, o read more on the presentation powerpoint slides here.
Dr. Yamaguchi presentation centred the differences in control orientations and, collectivism vs. individualism.
Control orientations vary across cultures because, people desire to control their themselves and their environments and develop different strategies for control based on prevalent values. Japanese have different approaches to control compared to westerners and do not like to exert direct control on others. An example he used was of the Rakugo story, In this story a master is annoyed by his disciple who is singing too loud. Instead of issuing a direct command to stop singing, he says” How well you sing a song!” For a moment, the disciple is proud, taking his master statement at its face value, but quickly realises the true meaning of the message (Kojima, 1984, p.972). This means that entering into business transactions with Japanese, it must be understood that they will not try to directly control the discussion, but some of their behaviours will be indirectly controlling behaviours, and some subtle behaviours are their way of saying things that Westerners would directly state.
Dr.Yamaguchi also explained that Japan has a collectivist culture, which means that they place a greater emphasis on group harmony,‘wa/和’, than they do on themselves. This means Japanese are that they are more likely to engage in activity or purchase a product if other members of their ‘group’ are also doing it. For example, many Japanese stock brokers, list their most popular funds on their homepage and not their highest performing funds.