Japanese and Americans

Japanese and Americans: Cultural Parallels and Paradoxes

Charles Grinnell Cleaver
Copyright Date: 1976
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt4wm
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Japanese and Americans
    Book Description:

    Japanese and Americans was first published in 1976. Long periods of residence, study, and teaching in Japan have given Professor Cleaver an opportunity to observe its culture and to compare it with that of the United States, where he is a specialist in American studies. He reaches the conclusion that differences in the two cultures have been emphasized so much that similarities have been overlooked. Further, he points out, when differences have been discovered, a moral judgment has often been implied. In this book he provides a balanced view which will, it is hoped, contribute to a better understanding between the two countries. Since an exhaustive comparison of the two cultures is out of the question within the limits of a single volume, he has chosen the method of an oil prospector, drilling down here and there, where science or hunch suggests there might be a payoff. In his study he uses the word culture in the manner of the anthropologist as meaning the whole way of life. He places more emphasis, however, than the ordinary anthropologist does on the clues which the arts provide. Thus, among the subjects he discusses at some length are fictional writing and architecture. Among his other subjects are political and military nationalism, international economic reputations of the two countries, attitudes toward nature, and the organization of work and leisure. In his concluding chapter he discusses current tendencies toward local and international loyalties as opposed to those which are national, and the growing interest in cultural nationalism which accompanies a distrust of political and military nationalism. Finally, he makes a plea for an international community with cultural diversity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6193-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  3. CHAPTER 1 The Problem: Stereotypes (Self-imposed and Otherwise), “National Character,” and Paradox
    (pp. 3-17)

    Cultural myopia has been severe on both sides of the Pacific, and when that disease has been compounded by xenophobia, as has often happened, the results have ranged from ludicrous to deadly. An ensign on Commodore Perry’s expedition, encountering a Japanese bath, “turned away with a hearty curse” because of the “lewdness” of coeducational nudity.¹ Japanese who visited the United States soon after Perry “opened” Japan with his “black ships” reported back that Americans were immoral: they had been discovered to kiss in public. In 1868 a Japanese official found it necessary to declare to his countrymen that they should...

  4. CHAPTER 2 The Wilderness Zion and the Land of the Gods
    (pp. 18-37)

    That culture should in part obey the political boundaries of the nation-state testifies to the potency of the sentiment of nationalism among many peoples. I wish here to focus on three faces of nationalism, the cultural, the economic, and the political at those times when the political has taken on heavy military overtones. The modern world has generally defined greatness in a nation-state in terms of the success of this military-political union. Japan wasn’tdefinedas a great nation in the Western eye until it defeated Russia in 1905. Whoever it was who said that the high voltage of the...

  5. CHAPTER 3 The “Crass Materialists” and the “Economic Animals”
    (pp. 38-57)

    An almost unchallenged opinion in many parts of the world holds that all Americans are rich and that they are so because of their single-minded pursuit of what used to be the “almighty dollar.” The economic miracle which Japanese have wrought during the past quarter of a century has resulted in their being stigmatized, around the world, as “economic animals.”To the extentthat these international stereotypes fairly represent the Americans and the Japanese, they were come by honestly.

    The land of Japan is lovely to the eye but niggardly in natural resources. Historically, it has offered a living to...

  6. CHAPTER 4 The Old Environment: Nature
    (pp. 58-82)

    Most Japanese and Americans dwell in two environments, the old natural one of legend and recent memory, and the new one of their own making, cities and machines. Much of the wisdom of the two peoples, and the symbols by which they order their lives, derive from their close communication through the years with nature. That relationship recedes from the day-by-day consciousness of most of them. In 1930, half the Japanese were still farming and fishing and lumbering; now about 15 percent of them are. Half the Americans were in nonagricultural pursuits in 1870; now 90 percent of them are....

  7. CHAPTER 5 Workaday and Holiday
    (pp. 83-123)

    The fact that most people in Japan and the United States, so deeply immersed for so long in nature, have adjusted to the vertiginous changes required by their new “secondary environment” surely testifies to the marvelous adaptability of the human animal. The difficulties in making the change have been, as one would expect, similar in many respects. The timing of their preparation for change differed, however. Urban life on a scale which bears some resemblance to the contemporary is older in Japan: Edo and New York were founded at about the same time, early in the seventeenth century, but the...

  8. CHAPTER 6 Fiction and the Popular Imagination
    (pp. 124-169)

    By glancing here and there at Japan’s and America’s traditions in fiction, we might discover some interesting matters deep at the marrow of the two imaginations. Occasionally, perhaps, we might learn something about more overt social attitudes. I can imagine no work of art which is not in some way a social gesture; at the same time, I know of many critics who interpret too simplemindedly the social import of a work of art. The fact that the Japanese have a tradition of fiction about well-to-do ne’er-do-wells does not of course say that Japan is a culture of well-to-do ne’er-do-wells....

  9. CHAPTER 7 Shelter and Symbol
    (pp. 170-202)

    Shelter, for our homelife, our work, our worship, and all our other communal activities: it is scarcely ever left as bare as sheer necessity dictates. The environment we build around us is a message to those others out there. It tells about our attitudes toward the natural landscape we settle in, and toward the materials we derive from it. How skillful are we in their use, how much pride have we in our crafts? May a temple be built of aluminum? Do we cherish our inherited forms, or wish to act out our emancipation from them? What of our neighbors?...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER 8 The Nurture of the Young
    (pp. 203-230)

    No matter what perspective one uses in examining the cultures of Japan and America, his glance must ultimately rest on how they train the minds and sensibilities of their young people. Obviously the tone and strength of the cultures in the future are in important ways being shaped in their schools and colleges. (Informal education is another matter; I cannot here wrestle with the protean question of education which issues from parents, peers, churches and temples, Boy Scout leaders, judo instructors, and television tubes.) National budgets reveal that both peoples cherish more deeply priorities other than education. Americans spend about...

  12. CHAPTER 9 In Concluding
    (pp. 231-243)

    Trying to estimate the usefulness to the twentieth century of ingrained ways of thought and feeling in Japan and the United States is sure to be a matter of hunch and conjecture, but it seems important to try. The Japanese have of course proven themselves wonderfully adaptable to new circumstances. The Americans’ earlier history of similar skills is almost as remarkable, considering the depth of the frontier and the numbers of immigrants; if, in recent decades, they have seemed somewhat stodgy and set in their ways, a widespread awareness of the criminality of the Indochinese adventures and the liberation from...

  13. EPILOGUE: “Same Difference”
    (pp. 244-244)

    In the neighborhood where I grew up, we were quite certain that we knew what was what in this world. Yet our block wasn’t impervious to challenge from outside agitators, or even from among our ranks. Our cherished beliefs about cars, about girls, and about the queer habits of people in other neighborhoods were constantly under attack, but didn’t die easily. Most important to us were our sports heroes.

    None of us would ever see Babe Ruth play defense in the outfield, for example, but we wished to believe in his skill and zeal in that capacity. When cynics gave...

  14. By Way of Bibliography
    (pp. 247-256)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 259-266)
  16. Index
    (pp. 269-290)