Japanese people have studied their own origins since the Meiji period.
There have been many hypothesis, styles of housing and legends, pointed
towards Polynesia, various cultural similarities directed attention
towards Southern China. Yet, other clues pointed towards Korea and
Northern China. It does seem likely that the first Japanese made their
way across land bridges from the north and south Asia. This would have
occurred during the last Ice Age, about 18.000 years ago.
Japan could be accessed very easily at this time, connected to the Asian
continent at many points by the vast land bridges. To the north, came
the Mongoloid races, short in height and fairly flat featured from the
south came another Mongoloid race, round faced and tall, they were
prevalent throughout South East Asia. These two races mixed and out of
this mixture came the first Japanese people.
It is generally thought that the original Japanese, spread throughout
Japan, fairly evenly. From the Yayoi to the Kofun periods. After that
came the advanced Chinese and Korean races who immigrated to Japan
bringing their technology and culture. The taller immigrants,
assimilation into the Japanese race took time to spread. Traces of the
original Japanese can still be found in the people of the Northern and
Southern most parts of Japan. The Japanese to the north tend to be round
faced and shorter whereby the southern Japanese tend to be taller with
Japanese People and Nature
The Japanese appreciate nature, it is not an enemy because the Japanese
climate is relatively mild with a lot of rainfall. From the earliest
fisherman and later, farmers, the rhythms of nature were closely followed
by the people of that time. This identification with nature by a society
sensitive to the changing seasons, led to the awareness of the smallest
changes, like a breeze in the trees, the tinkle of water in a stream, etc.
It follows then, that many arts and customs followed their sensitivity
The Buddhist belief of the passing of time and the Japanese ideal about
nature have been incorporated as a concept to the belief of nature as an
extension of oneself.
Yugen (mysterious tranquil beauty), Wabi ( tranquility around us) and sabi
(sadness in ones heart, a lack of desire) are intrinsic characteristics in
the traditional Japanese garden, flower arranging and the tea ceremony. In
all of these arts the ideal is to achieve a representation of nature
The traditional martial arts also use this philosophy, believing that
power comes from being relaxed and in tune with nature.
the late 1930's to early 1940's, the average family consisted of 5
members. It was quite common for three generations to live under the same
roof. The father had the dominant role in the household. One word for
"wife" is "kanai" (meaning: inside the home). She
would have to wait hand and foot on her husband and also on her husbands
parents, look after the children and do the household chores. During the
last World War, while her husband was away at war, the wife, much the same
as those in the west, had to find enough food to feed her family and try
and ensure their safety. She could not share any of her problems with her
husband, while he was away
After the war, things started to change in the family. The nuclear family
became more prevalent, the husband started to loose his grip on absolute
authority in the home, he could no longer veto his children's marriage,
education or silence his wife.
The, mother-in-law / husband / wife, triangle, is quite often at
war, the wife no longer taking abuse from the mother-in-law, and the
husband stuck in the middle of it. Modern wives "take no
prisoners" where their children or family are concerned. The husband
sometimes has very little say in family affairs, children's education,
finances and such.
The stereotypical image, many foreigners seem to have of Japanese women
(and Asian women in general) as a slave to her husband's every whim or
desire are sadly mistaken. There are many inequalities facing women in
Japan, pushed by greedy corporations and small companies alike, to pay
"part timers" a lower wage for working full time hours, often
working harder than those male employees who are full timers. The
government, naturally, will not change the laws here any time soon, to
better protect women at work, and give "teeth" to the sexual
harassment and discrimination laws (guidelines) that are in place
But on the home front the woman usually rules. Husbands can expect to be
given pocket money by their wives. Wives normally keep careful track of
all credit and debits, keeping receipts, complaining if the husband comes
home smelling of alcohol late at night. A Japanese woman at first glance
may seem to be docile and everything you expected her to be, but later on,
you may see the real woman emerge out of the camouflage.
The Japanese family on the surface is very harmonious, compared to many
Western families. There are never public displays of discord between
husbands and wives as this would be considered very disgraceful behavior
by society, where everything should be placid, at least outside the home.
This philosophy has its roots in Confucian teachings, brought to Japan in
the 6th century from China. Confucian ideals run all through Japanese
society, often making the Japanese people unfathomable to foreigners. This
is especially "telling" when
Western businessmen try to negotiate with their Japanese counterparts, or
for the many foreigners living in Japan, who often complain about their
host country to anyone who will listen. I will be listing the gaijins most
popular complaints of 1998 at the end of this year.
It is rare to see a child scolded in public. For me to witness children
running riot through a shop or restaurant with the parents, doing nothing
to curtail the badly behaved children, makes me feel anger towards the
parents. For Japanese to witness me scolding my first daughter, when she
was going through her "terrible two's", probably made them angry
at me. Who is right? I prefer my way, one reason
is that my oldest daughter, who is nearly five years old now, can be taken
to an expensive restaurant or hotel and behave with admirable good
manners, towards the waiters and anyone else around her. This was not
beaten into her, but we always corrected her patiently when she was a
toddler. Now she takes it as normal to sit in her seat and not run around
as so many other children her age or older usually do. Sometimes I have
noticed other parents looking at her, and maybe they are wondering why
their children cannot behave as my oldest does. Still our youngest
daughter is just " hitting her terrible two's"!
The Japanese family in the privacy of their home, may not always be as
tranquil as they would have you believe. Spousal battery is not often
reported, but there are groups emerging to assist wives who have been
beaten by their husbands. Most wives are too ashamed to admit there is a
I think also, the older generation of Japanese (pre Second World War),
took it for granted to beat their wives from time to time. This was
highlighted to me, by one of my friends, who was married to a Japanese
woman for 11 years, until they both decided to end the marriage a couple
of years ago.
He and his ex-wife often used to have rabid disputes, they were living
with her parents and younger sister in Tokyo at the time. One evening they
were quarreling again, his mother-in-law came into the room and told my
friend, "give her (daughter) a good smack round the face, that should
shut her up". Needless to say, he didn't
follow that advise. He was too stunned to hear that from his wife's own
mother, and he was also too good natured, to do it anyway.
Husbands abusing wives, wives abusing husbands, child abuse, it all
happens in Japanese homes, as much as it happens in most other countries.
Child abuse is perhaps the most taboo subject in Japan more so than eating
whale meat or talking about the Emperor. Japan has become the center for
all pedophile activities in the world, since other countries including old
pedophile centers such as Thailand and the Philippines have put teeth into
their child protection laws.
Japanese internet sites provide a host of disgusting pictures and videos
to pedophiles around the world. I believe these sites are well known to
various police agencies in other countries. They are also known to the
National Police Agency in Japan, but they are powerless to stop these
sites from operating. Japanese law does not prohibit the display of naked
children, etc. These sites are believed to use material from other
countries, so it is not only Japanese children who are put at risk by
these sites. I would ask you to take a minute to protest these
feeble Japanese laws, protecting children, by clicking here
, a link to the National Police Agency (Japan) which will deliver you to
their e- mail form. You can type your message in English or Japanese.
One final point: Many Japanese men have been arrested for engaging in
illegal sexual activities with children in the above Asian countries.
Typical Japanese mothers are sometimes hard to comprehend, when you can
witness on a daily basis, children loose in a car, often standing up in
the front seat head against the windshield, while the mother happily
drives along the road. Child seats are not a fashionable item for the
family car in Japan. Color TV, navigation
system, CD player, MD player, are all a must if you want to keep up with
child seat?" "No, they are cruel devices that restrain a child's
movements in a car, how can dear Taro enjoy the journey?"
have heard it all, another example:
wouldn't buy a child seat because my neighbors would think I am being
cruel to dear Taro".
opinion, "I can't buy a child seat because the other neighborhood
mothers would not accept the idea".
My advice has always been and will always be, "think for yourself and
the life of your child, first".
Easy for me to say, as I don't have to conform to every whim and fad of
The government, as usual, has just recently made a half hearted attempt to
educate parents on the safety of child seats. Much as it tried to inform
the public about AIDS and using a condom, many years ago. It was
soon forgotten by the general public and government alike.
Bicycle helmets for children are an unknown piece of equipment in Japan.
Adults on their fancy racing bikes and racing outfits always seem to wear
helmets. I think because it looks fashionable, matching the bright spandex
outfits, not out of any consideration to safety.
My children do have helmets now. We always take them on our bicycles when
we go shopping, so a helmet is important, as other foreign families do in
We were living in the countryside, we searched high and low for helmets.
We finally ordered two, the shop manager, maybe, thought we are very odd
parents, but business is business.
When we went out to the local shops, we got many strange looks from
people, as though our children are aliens, well they do look a little
alien in their helmets and they are aliens in Japanese people eyes, when
they remove them, so I guess it doesn't matter.
On a positive note, most Japanese parents do devote themselves to their children's
needs, buying them anything, clothing them well at all times, spending a
great deal of money on their children's education. Paying for expensive
school trips, often to other
countries, maybe sacrificing their own happiness in order for their
children to be happy!
It is all a contradiction, that makes Japan, Japan. To get a Japanese woman's
perspective (my wife's) on these issues and many others click
Day At The Beach
enjoy much the same things as their Western counter parts, skiing, mountain
climbing, hiking, walking, sport, dating, going to the beach, and so on. It
is not always all work and no play, not these days anyway, and not with the
I have often felt the same things as, so many other foreigners,
that the Japanese people are cold, heartless, illogical
and bigoted. I still believe many Japanese are bigots
"of the first order" and most Japanese are completely illogical.
Cold and heartless, no, not any more than other nationalities or
races of people. I know some people dislike or hate the Japanese
because of atrocities committed during the Second World War. I do
feel very sad, because I understand something about both sides.
Recently (end of November 1998) a group of veteran prisoners of
war from many countries had their case thrown out of a Japanese
High Court, with the Judge not clearly admitting that they had even
suffered abuse at the hands of their Japanese jailers. One
British veteran was nearly in tears after the verdict. It is not
possible for the Japanese Government to openly admit wrongdoing during
the last war. It goes completely against the grain of Japanese
There are many cases to prove this point. Recently the
Chinese President, Jian Zemin, made a state visit to Japan.
Prime minister Keizo Obuchi, was unable to clearly and without
reservation, make an official apology to China, for the atrocities
caused by the Japanese military in that country.
The so called "comfort women" (sex slaves),
are yet another example of Japan not coming to terms with its
responsibilities, With case after case thrown out of the Japanese courts. A private
charity was set up to "assist" some of these women,
if they signed a document, relinquishing any further attempts to take legal
private charity was sponsored by the government to quite former slaves. Many women have refused this "hush"
We should remember that Japan suffered terrible
devastation during the last war, with Tokyo razed to the ground, and the
atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think the Japanese
people paid a very high price for the wrong doings of their
military and bureaucratic leaders during that war with many atomic
bomb victims still suffering today. One last observation on this
topic: which modern industrialized country has not committed an
atrocity during war or peace? I don't think any of the people were
given an apology or compensated in anyway, by our great countries.
Doesn't the Bible say, "Do unto others....."
The ordinary people of Japan have the same feelings as
the rest of the human race, but from an early age, are not allowed
to express those feelings, always holding them inside, sometimes
leading to mental illness, suicide and rash acts, they are all
prevalent in Japan.
When a very popular singer committed suicide, many
young girls tried to follow suit, a couple were successful. Maybe
this demonstrates the shallowness of many young peoples
lives, that they can destroy themselves so easily. Who is to
blame? Japanese society, the family, or both, I tend to believe
that the latter is true.
A typical family
Family life is usually pretty busy in Japan. The
husband may have an hour or so commute to his office. He would have to get up at 6:30-7:00 am in order to have a light
breakfast and shower. He would be in his office by 8:30 usually,
certainly before the official time.
Japanese workers are famous throughout the world for
the long hours they put in every day, I will be discussing this
issue in some detail in another section.
He would not
usually finish work at 5:00 pm, but stay on in the office until the work is
done. Then he may go and have a few drinks with his colleagues, getting
home at maybe10:00 or 11:00 pm, eating the meal his wife has
prepared, taking a bath and sleeping after midnight and the cycle
will continue the next day.
The wife will get up earlier than the rest of the
family, to prepare breakfast, for her husband and sometimes a
lunchbox. She will then have to get the children ready for school and
also prepare their breakfast. By 8:00am the house will be
empty, the housewife can then start the housework, taking frequent
rests to watch her favorite daytime TV. program, reporting the
latest scandals about Japanese stars. Then she must watch the
phone in programs where other housewives talk to various
"talents" about their sexual, emotional, medical, and other problems.
Then she may visit the other neighborhood housewives, for coffee and
a gossip. By early evening she will then prepare the family
dinner and wait for her children and husband to arrive home.
mentioned in another section, have a hectic school life, if they attend a cram school, then
they may not arrive home until 9:00 or 10:00 pm, eating a
quick meal and then going to their rooms to do their homework and study. It
may be quite normal for them not to see their father, perhaps
until the weekend, if the children are high school age, then
perhaps they will hardly ever see their father, as they will spend
time with their friends or studying for exams.
The housewife is often the mediator between father and
children, the children have grown apart from their father and may
not understand or sometimes even like him. The father will
grow more distant from his family, staying out even later,
getting more drunk in the evening and maybe passing out on a station
platform or even in the street. This is a quite a common sight in
Tokyo, late at night. I heard one story, that fits the above points
exactly. The father went drinking with his office friends until
late, it was a very chilly February evening, outside of Tokyo. He said
"goodnight" to his friends and started walking to the
The next day the police visited his office, announcing
that he had died of hypothermia. He was found laying on the
sidewalk by a patrol car, early in the morning. They speculated that
he stopped to have a rest and then fell asleep and died on the
sidewalk. He left a wife and two children.
For the majority of families weekends are a
time, to spend together, going on a small trip, shopping, having lunch
or dinner in a restaurant, especially for the new generations of
parents, where some western ideas on raising a family have taken
root. The husband no longer sacrificing himself and his family
for the sake of his company, spending more time with his wife and
children. Many families also plan expensive vacations abroad,
before the children start high school. This is seen as one of the
last chances for a family to spend a long vacation together.
In more traditional homes the mother will educate her
daughter on cooking skills and so forth. She will also teach her
how to serve guests in a correct manner. The daughter from her early
teens will be expected to serve guests at the family home. The son
is usually exempt from such work.
Numerous parents send their young children to music
schools, there are an abundance of them everywhere, teaching even very
young children. Japanese parents are much like their
counterparts in the West, taking enormous pride in their children's
achievements, even if it is playing a piano off key at a local music
school concert !