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Every so often, when I'm reading a book or a website about Japan, I stumble across some little turn of phrase or other that just makes my brain boil. I know it's not my culture and not my job to defend it, but ignorance bugs me in any context, and ignorance that paints a very human, earthy culture as inscrutable and ice-cold? Yeah. Drives me nuts.

Today, while reading through Etiquette Guide to Japan by Boye De Mente, I skimmed this tidbit of insight into the Japanese mind in the chapter about 'Criticism':

Japanese are naturally much more sensitive to criticism than they are to compliments. The origin of their extraordinary sensitivity to criticism surely derives from the importance of correct behavior in their traditional system, since an essential part of proper behavior was to avoid being shamed and shaming others as a result of behaving in an unacceptable manner.

One of the best-known anecdotes dating from Japan's mythological age involves a god who shamed his fellow gods and goddesses by his failure to follow prescribed manners. He was banned from the heavens.

Which sounds like a classic example of the strict and obsessive attention of the Japanese to the slightest gaffe in etiquette, right? Because, y'know, I've read that myth, and De Mente is right, they were awfully harsh. Kicking poor Susanno-oh out of heaven, just because he had a little old raging temper tantrum, smashed his sister's rice fields, flung his own feces around inside her house, dropped a flayed horse carcass into her living room, and killed one of her handmaidens?

It was outrageous of them, really, over a minor slipup like that. The Greek and Norse gods would have called it a charming holiday. :D

Date: 2008-03-05 01:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*facepalm* I'm in a class right now where statements like that get thrown around.

Date: 2008-03-06 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*cracks up hard* Wow.


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