Japanese Cultural Traditions and International Business

Japanese Cultural Traditions and International Business

Gloria Garcia (University of Tokyo, Japan & ICADE Business School, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9814-7.ch059
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Although people from several countries may share some universal values, they also have different cultural values. The differences in cultural values generally produce different ways of thinking and acting that can cause misunderstandings and disappointments in business communication. Therefore, the willingness to understand in depth others' cultures is necessary for doing international business. Japan is an important country and thus the author explains in-depth the specific cultural values that are important in the international business between Japanese and non-Japanese people. This chapter is based on a broader research conducted in Japan and focused on the unique characteristics of Japan's cultural values, social norms, and business customs. Thus, it presents the specific cultural values coming from the Japanese philosophical and cultural traditions, examines their influence in the Japanese international business, and emphasizes the importance of understanding them in depth for doing business successfully in Japan.
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Cultural Traditions

A cultural tradition can be understood as the values, norms, attitudes or ways of doing something that have existed for a long time among a particular group on people, passing on from generation to generation. The generic term of tradition refers to beliefs or customs performed in the past and maintained by societies and institutions. Thus, traditions are a matter of time and some of them that seem to be old frequently might have a recent origin. Besides, the traditions can also be invented and set up by repetition, thus giving the impression of continuity with the past (Hobsbawm, 2003). Innovated traditions are a central element of the modern national cultures since to provide a commonality of experience, such as traditional national cuisine, which expatriate may continue to practice in foreign countries. Cultural traditions are really a matter of time because, for instance, is the traditional English tea actually so traditional? I mean, drink tea is an older tradition in Japan or in China than it is in England.

Although culture is an important concept in this work, it is not the intention of this chapter to present the multiple definitions of this term, but to describe the main characteristics that are common to all of them. Thus, from the several definitions of culture it has been possible to identify the main features they share. These common characteristics are: it is learned by observation and imitation, not genetically acquired (Gardiner & Kosmitzki, 2002; Hofstede, 2001; Schiffauer, Baumann, Kastoryano, & Vertorec, 2004); it is shared by the members of a group (Benedict, 2006; Haviland, Prins, Walrath & McBride, 2004; Moran, Harris, & Moran, 2007; Thompson, 2011); it is transmitted from generation to generation (Hodgetts & Luthans, 2003); it is based on symbols, such as the language, and the information they carry (Geertz, 1994, 2005; Huntington, 1996; Kluckhohn, 1951); it is dynamic (Beamer & Varner, 2001); and it is structured, organized and pattered and has an internal unity and order (Lichbach, 2003).

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