Japanese Culture

For Assignment 5 I’m creating a graphic story about the boy in Japan who was missing for 6 nights – Yamato Tanooka and I wanted to collect some thoughts and observations about Japanese culture as background research.


Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yokoyama bows after he submits a document of a recall in Tokyo

Toyota Motor Corp’s managing director Yuji Yokoyama


Yuji is bowing deeply in apology for the shame that he has brought upon the company by issuing the recall of a massive number of cars. The depth of the bow is a serious matter and different depths are named and have precise meanings. 45º bow (angle of the back) with the face parallel to the floor is an apology. 35º bow is a greeting.


Thi is a similar situation where the executives of MacDonalds are apologising for food safety infringements.

Bowing is greeting – instead of shaking hands and more informally.

It is interesting that this formal communication is entirely visual rather than a form of words that we might have in UK – “How are you”, “I am very sorry”.

Ganbatte – “do your best”

This expression seems to underpin a lot about the Japanese approach to life. It’s referenced in the comments about a video of queuing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ermNqkUUiJw) to explain taking litter home as well as the discipline and co-operation expressed by those featured. The exact translation seems quite elusive as the meaning changes in different contexts however – it seems to impell the Japanese citizen to eschew laziness and cutting corners, as well as to be fully involved and cooperative in all situations.

It is not something we think of as the guiding principle of the average UK citizen, however, in certain situations we do get “Dunkirk spirit” named for the hundreds of private boat owners who risked their lives to rescue british soldiers from the French beach. We also see this when communities all join in with the search for people who are missing – abducted children for example, sometimes feared unconscious or worse in a local forest. We can identify with the pulling together of the Japanese community searching for Yamato Tanooka in this sense.




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