Japan is often described as a homogeneous society, but there are sources of internal diversity.

II. Knowledge Elaboration (5 points x 6 questions, two questions per page).Remember that I am looking for in-depth answers, so consider multiple (3 or more) aspects and/or examples as you answer (unless otherwise stated).

  1. Japan is often described as a homogeneous society, but there are sources of internal diversity. Identify two sources of geographic diversity and give two examples of differences for each. Also identify and explain two sources of ethnic diversity.
  2. Explain how the concepts of cooperation and ittaikan (solidarity) characterize Japanese patterns of behavior. Include examples of social practices that build or reinforce ittaikan.
  3. Describe how equality and hierarchy can coexist within a Japanese group made of seeming equals, such as a kindergarten class, and give several examples. Also describe how compliance with group norms is enforced.
  4. Describe the vertical social structure in Japan. Give at least three examples of how its organizational characteristics are reflected in either Japanese education or corporate culture (choose one, not both).
  5. Describe how the high value assigned to harmony in Japanese companies is reflected in traditional business practices. Address at least three business practices.
  6. Compare early socialization practices in Japan and the US (or your own country), and describe how they reflect the two nations’ cultural values and beliefs.
  7. Describe the competition structures existing in Japanese society, and discuss their effects on productivity in the society as a whole. Consider both competition between peers and between groups.
  8. Describe differences of instructional style among Japanese and American teachers, and how their differences symbolize cultural values and social expectations.
  9. Describe issues facing Japanese who choose to attend university abroad (for an undergraduate degree). Address the cultural bases for these issues.
  10. Explain how conditions in the first two postwar decades led to or reinforced traditional Japanese business practices. Address at least three business practices.
  11. Describe and explain how cultural values and beliefs are illustrated in Japanese communication styles. Address at least three different cultural values.
  12. Explain how the use of multiple self-address forms (e.g., watakushi, boku, ore, otousan /father/, ojisan /uncle/, sensei /teacher/, etc) manifest Japanese cultural characteristics.
  13. Describe the advantages of kanji in Japanese writing, from both communication and cultural points of view. Identify and explain at least three of each. Also, identify disadvantages of kanji in Japanese writing.
  14. Describe differences in the ways Japanese and North Americans reduce uncertainty related to meeting a new person for the first time. Explain the cultural bases for differences in the types of information sought.

III.Knowledge Application (8 points)

This is a one-page essay in which you apply your cultural understanding to suggest a solution to a given Japanese societal challenge. Evaluation is based on your ability to (1) describe the problem clearly (3 points), (2) analyze the nature of problem(s) from a cultural perspective (3 points), and (3) apply your knowledge to make sound suggestions for a solution (2 points). Regarding (2), it may be helpful to use the framework of Assignment 3 (internal culture, external culture, behavior patterns, social practices, and historical factors). Regarding (3), in order to be highly evaluated, your suggested solutions must be consistent with, or at least consider the cultural factors identified in (2).

Sample Questions for III. Knowledge Application

1. Japan’s demographics are changing in ways that will challenge Japanese society in the future, posing a serious labor shortage. There will be fewer young workers to power Japan’s industrial economy, and finding enough service workers to care for the elderly will be a challenge. One partial solution to the labor shortage involves making it possible for women to both participate in the labor force and raise children. Address the following, in a short essay format.

Briefly discuss the current barriers to women trying to be mothers while having meaningful careers. (Description, 3 points) Identify external and internal cultural processes and social practices that would need to change to enable women to fully participate in both the labor force and family life. (Cultural Analysis, 3 points) Finally, what are your recommendations for Japanese firms, government agencies (such as the MEXT and METI), the general public, and any other relevant groups, to enable women (and men) to have marriage, children, and careers. (Application, 2 points)

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