Essay on Japanese Culture

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Sewanee University of the South
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Expanding a business into Japan is a move that is considered to present chances of both success and failure in equal measure. In as far as the two divergent outcomes are concerned, success and failure, the difference is brought about by the leadership approaches that are undertaken by a firm as it expands. Japanese business environment is different from that of America in different respects which include; ethics, life styles, traditions /values, and business practices. Proper observation of the various cultural factors while doing business in Japan amounts to close to 70% success of the business because to the East, cultural construct affects the business environment in every respect (Arnold et al., 2015).

On the other hand, companies that have failed to make an impact in the Japanese market by registering growth and success failed because of improper application of leadership styles. Leadership styles that are not sensitive to the Japanese culture yield negative results for companies. Therefore it is important to examine the cultural context of the Japanese culture to establish the best management and leadership approaches that will enable the new branch to be competitive and perhaps register success in the Japanese market.

In as far as managing across cultures is concerned, the leadership styles that are used by companies in the East differ from styles applied by countries in the West. Largely, companies in the west have their business models modeled around expansion and profit-making because the countries in the west are largely capitalist thus companies revolve around individuals who are founders of financiers (Hamilton & Webster, 2016). It is a different case in the East because companies have their models modeled around societies and their strategies revolve around the betterment of the company for the betterment of the society. Having explored the differing business model employed by businesses in the East and the West, it emerges that cultural construct plays a critical role in both instances.

In as far as ethics are concerned, unlike the American business context; businesses in Japan observe personal ethics more than organizational ethics. Ethics are individually centered rather than being organizationally centered as in the case of companies in the American context. However, it is worth noting that the leadership styles influence the ethical standards in the sense that the leadership bears a greater responsibility for observing and influencing employees to be ethical in their dealings with customers (Kew & Stredwick, 2017). In ethical cases which often arise as a result of privacy breach, American companies have encountered more cases of unethical conduct than their Japanese counterparts.

There are fewer suits in Japanese companies that stem from the breach of privacy or other unethical issues, which is not the case in the case as compared to American companies which have been experiencing numerous legal suites stemming from unethical dealings (Hofstede, 2003). What brings about the differences with regards to issues that arise from ethical and unethical issues is defined by the laws that regulate businesses in the two countries. In most cases when American companies are found to be in breach of ethical standards laid by the business laws, they are liable for penalties which they pay in monetary terms, which is not the case if it happens for Japanese firms. If an ethical breach affects Japanese firms, the penalty will be a jail term rather than a financial fine as it was the case in an American context. Comparing the two shows that Japanese penalties are more deterrent than the American ones thus explaining the difference in the occurrence of the unethical issues between the two countries.

Life styles is another subject of consideration in as far as business is concerned, Japanese life styles regarding consumer behavior, spending patterns, preferences and tastes, customer and market trends differ greatly from that of the American people. It is worth noting that unlike American people who are defined by a large population youthful population, the Japanese population is defined by adults who are 40 years and above. There is a great difference in consumption patterns as well as tastes and preferences of the adult and youth. Most of the Japanese consumers are informed about the market patterns, products, quality, alternatives as well as the pricing models of different companies (Hamilton & Webster, 2015). A consumer population that is composed of such populous does not engage in impulse buying or trial and error as it is the case in the America. Regarding savings and spending patterns, Japanese are big savers and fewer spenders. They are also characterized by slow decision making informing the competitive marketing strategies that are employed by firms in the country.

Japanese traditions and values is another cultural component that charts the course taken by companies in Japan. As mentioned in the introduction section, Japanese companies are not about profit making and growth of the firm alone; rather the tradition requires them to model their business towards the society. There is a traditional term that applied to business in Japan called Keizai which are developed from the words Kei meaning governing the world in harmony and Zai meaning bringing about the wellbeing of the people. It is therefore clear from the term that Japanese companies value morality and wellbeing of the society more than profit or growth of companies. It, therefore, incumbent upon Japanese companies to model their leadership style to uphold Japanese traditions and values which seek for the betterment of the society as a whole rather than the development of a company (Covusgil et al., 2016). Additionally, Japanese value quality products and services more so with regards to the products and services that may affect their health. Quality products and services are therefore synonymous with the Japanese companies since it they are deeply valued.

Japanese business practices entail; emotional sensitivity, group harmony, simplicity and humility, social responsibility, continuity with the past, respect for tradition or authority, and the need to gain wide consensus among many others. A leadership style that will work best in as far as the Japanese business traditions are concerned range from democratic to team leadership owing to the business practices that characterize Japanese market (Kew & Stredwick, 2017). Emotional sensitivity is one issue that defines the Japanese culture, in the companys leadership; a leader must be sympathetic to the employees and customers in the sense that it should address their feedback.

Companies that show less concern for the people have little chances of success as compared to those that are both sympathetic and emotionally sensitive to the community or its customers for that matter. On the same note, companies that observe group harmony, simplicity, humility have better chances of success than those that do not observe the practices (Arnold et al., 2015). In the Japanese culture, humility is considered to be a very important value that determines whether one will be acceptable or not. Just like firms in the western world, companies in Japan engage in corporate social responsibility where they sponsor various projects in the society such as environmental conservation project among others.

Hofstedes Cultural Dimensions

Hofstedes five cultural dimensions; power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation apply differently to the Japanese companies and Japanese culture in general as compared to how it applies to the US companies and culture. However, in some cultural dimensions, they strike a balance in how the cultures respond to the different cultural constructs. For instance, in as far as individualism dimension is concerned, both Japan and the US culture observes an individual as an important unit in the society. However, how the same individual should behave in the society differs in the US in that they are not obligated to better others as is the case in a company which is an entity (Hofstede, 2003). It is a different case when it comes to the Japanese culture in that it is required of an individual to be concerned about others.

Masculinity is a very important in as far as Japanese culture is concerned, feminine and masculine gender in the Japanese context/culture differ regarding roles and values that each upholds as compared to the same groups in the US culture. Since Japanese is a masculine country, values and roles of men and women differ in one way or another. In the case of assertiveness, men are more assertive and aggressive that women, while when it comes off the value of caring, women tend to score high in the sense that they are more caring than men (Kew & Stredwick, 2017). Regarding roles, men take up roles that are challenging and require physical strength while women take up roles that are less physical.

However, regarding roles that are less physical and it requires more of intellectual skills and knowledge, both men and women are considered to be competitive, and they are almost equally represented. In comparison with the US, just like Japan, US is defined largely by masculinity, but the trend is slowly drifting to a competitive one. Regarding roles and values, men and women in the US are considered to be equal in every sense except for few roles that define feminine such as involvement in less challenging roles (Kew & Stredwick, 2017). Generally, in every society the assertive role is always referred to masculine while on the other hand, caring which a modest role is has been referred to as feminine,' Japanese culture largely ascribes the general perspective on masculine and feminine roles.

Uncertainty avoidance often defines a society's tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Japanese culture can be described as the one that is less tolerant of uncertainty or ambiguity. Japan's less tolerance to uncertainty can be explained by the fact that the Japanese people are less tolerant of divergent opinions or views as well as through the fact that the Japanese society through its companies always tries to avoid unstructured situations. Japanese's society has structured its people to embrace situations that are free from ambiguity or uncertainty; it can be explained by the fact that the Japanese people through its culture value the truth more than anything else. Thus having in mind that every uncertain situation is characterized by untruth, Japanese culture tends to avoid such situations (Mladenovic et al., 2017). Since the uncertainty embracing cultures tend to be more accommodative to other cultures, the opposite is also true in the sense that the Japanese culture tends to be less accommodative to other diverse cultures.

With regards to long-term versus short-term orientation, the Japanese culture tends to lean on the long-term orientation more than it leans on the short-term orientation. The dimension can be explained by the fact that Japanese people are characterized by perseverance and thrift. The same case applies to the companies, they have long-term strategies that outlive generations, a good example being a company such as Toyota which has outlived more than three generations and it has never rounded up neither has it experienced any serious economic challenges. On the same note, having a look at the Japanese society, there still exist traces of dynasties that ruled Japaneses lands in 500 BC, such as Akihito and Nakamura (Navahandi, 2016). In general, Japanese culture as described characterized by the short term versus long term dimension shows that the society values forward-looking, established companies that will be there in the years to come.

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