The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

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Patterns of Japanese Culture

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.

When we hear Japan mentioned, we perhaps think of cars, animation, electronics, Sakura blossoms, shrines, and Japanese service. Indeed, Japanese products and services can be found across the world. They are accepted and used globally and are generally praised for their high quality.

After World War II, in order to satisfy Japan’s need for economic development, Japan started to export their products to many countries around the world. Japan also encouraged Japanese enterprises to step out of Japan and take part in international acquisitions. For example, in 2018 Takeda Pharmaceutical Company acquired Ireland’s Shire Pharmaceutical Company for seven trillion Japanese Yen; Japan’s Softbank Corporation acquired fifty-one projects worldwide at a total cost of nine trillion Japanese Yen. According to statistics, in 2018, Japanese corporations made thirty-two overseas acquisitions worth over ten trillion Yen. This was an increase of seventy percent compared to the previous year; the number and cost of global acquisitions reached a historical high. Japan’s expansion will not stop and it is very likely that some of our future colleagues, partners, neighbors, or new friends will be Japanese. Thus, learning more about the culture, characteristics, and values of Japanese people is practical and meaningful for our international exchanges and cooperation. Historians tell us that all behavioral patterns are based on cultural backgrounds. Therefore, we should begin by learning about the origin of Japanese culture to understand the behavioral patterns of Japanese people. This book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, is a classic that analyzes the origins of Japanese culture and studies the character of Japanese people.

The author of this book, Ruth Benedict, is an American cultural anthropologist who specializes in cultural anthropology, and is involved in long-term studies on different national cultures. She wrote The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in the later period of World War Two. At that time, Germany was already destined to lose the war, and the United States was in desperate need of a post-war policy for Japan. However, due to the culture differences between the Western and Eastern societies, and the lack of a deep understanding of Japanese culture, the U.S. remained undecided on its policy towards the country: would the Japanese government surrender or not? And if Japan surrendered, should the American government utilize the Japanese government and keep the Emperor? In order to make the right call, the American government decided to encourage experts of various fields to study Japan, resulting in the publication of The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. It became known as a ground-breaking work of modern Japanology and spread widely, enduring over a long period of time.

Next, we will discuss Japanese culture together by answering four questions:

Question one: how should we understand Japan’s strict hierarchical concept of “taking one’s proper station”?

Question two: how can we understand Japanese culture’s attachment to Gimu and Giri?

Question three: what is the contradiction in Japanese people’s attitude towards sensory pleasure?

Question four: what moral dilemmas exist in Japanese culture?

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