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The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture
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The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  460 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
In The Japanese Mind, Roger Davies offers Westerners an invaluable key to the unique aspects of Japanese culture. Readers of this book will gain a clear understanding of what really makes the Japanese, and their society, tick.

Among the topics explored: aimai (ambiguity), amae (dependence upon others' benevolence), amakudari (the nation's descent from heaven), chinmoku (sil
Paperback, 280 pages
Published March 15th 2002 by Tuttle Publishing
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,471)
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Feb 03, 2016 Tara rated it liked it
I picked this up out of curiosity after seeing it in a pile of books at a friends house. I suppose I could have done a little more research into similar books on the market as in the end I'm not quite the target audience of the book. It has several very short chapters on different topics that do provide interesting insights but I think 50% of the book is discussion topics and without anyone to discuss with I felt it fall a bit flat based on my own isolated knowledge, since the discussions were w ...more
Jul 11, 2011 フィル rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese
To many Westerners, the so called "Eastern mind" can be an enigma of seemingly conflicting ideologies and beliefs. However underlying this assumption is that there is any more of a common zeitgeist among Eastern peoples than there is among Western ones. This text will go even further to help clarify those ever elusive peculiarities in general East-West cross cultural understanding to tackle the unique facets of the Japanese cultural consciousness. Most importantly, however, is that this is a tex ...more
Dina P.
Oct 20, 2015 Dina P. rated it it was amazing
Wish I could give 5.5 for this book.

This is a thorough essays about Japanese cultures that for centuries has built up Japanese characters.
I really wish I had read it sooner, at least before I tried to learn kanji. Because this book gives me insight of the Japanese life, why the say or do the way they say/do. It is a kind of book that has a chain reaction on me. It makes me want to read books on Japanese cultures and history, and short stories, and manga. Well, in fact just anything related to J
Apr 19, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it
A solid overview of Japanese culture from essays written by student authors. It lacks depth, but those seeking wholesome learning will be able to find it by way of the questions at the end of each chapter. It also lacks unifying elements, the only cross-references having been put in by editors, since all of the essays were written independently. The discussion questions left me thrusting selected Japan facts onto my friends then trying to corner them into discussion, which didn't work too well. ...more
Chris Jaffe
Feb 20, 2016 Chris Jaffe rated it it was ok
Well, that was disappointing. Davies and Ikeno edited a book about modern Japanese culture, but it felt like it was a half-inch deep and a mile wide. I suppose that's inevitable given how they're trying to discuss an entire culture - but what's annoying is that they really don't discuss the entire culture.

Instead, the book focuses on individualized aspects of Japanese culture. There are 28 chapters, each focusing on some aspect of Japanese belief or practice. That might sound nice in theory, bu
Aug 18, 2014 Maria rated it really liked it
This is wonderfully theoretical and well supported, but a tad uneven (I think this is because the chapters were written by different people; possibly students?). I wish it had more specific examples and more cohesion from chapter to chapter so that it built an argument rather than having separate chapters.

Since my mother is Japanese and I grew up in the country, I understand the culture, but often find myself at a loss to explain my culture to my American friends, so I wanted more examples some
Dec 16, 2014 Marios rated it liked it
Pros: The idea behind the book was really interesting(written by Japanese english students, edited by their professor, proceeds go to scholarships) and the approach was exactly what I was looking for: straight to the point, each chapter focusing on one Japanese peculiarity.

Maa-maa: In the end of each chapter there were discussion questions and cross cultural issues; some of them intriguing, some of them(maybe most) anticipated.

Cons: the content/writing was also...peculiar. Amateurish? This was a
Nov 25, 2010 Yupa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Lungo commento copincollato dal mio blog...
Ma io mi chiedo: possibile che a XXI secolo ormai avviato, vengano ancora scritti, e pubblicati, e tradotti libri di tale sorta?
La Mente giapponese, eccola qua. Nulla di nuovo, le solite quattro o cinque cose ripetute allo sfinimento nell’ennesimo libro uguale a mille altri: il gruppismo, l’armonia familiar-aziendale, la comunicazione silenziosa, l’emotività che vince la razionalità, l’inscrutabilità da parte degli stran
Dec 23, 2010 Fadoua rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-japan
This book is a collection of essays initially written by Japanese students from Ehime University as exercise for English class. The essays were polished and edited by their English teacher Roger J. Daves. The students explain variety of concepts that shape the Japanese character, such as amae, chinmoku, wabi-sabi, Bushido, etc. The book can be also regarded as Nihonjinron document written in English.

The essays are written from the point of view of natives, which is the main merit of the book in
Amanda Himawan
The fact that this book was written by Japanese students for their class (which I just learned recently) explains why is this book so easy to understand. It explores a variety of basic Japanese social and/or cultural concept which is still relevant even until now.

Because this book covers a broad range of topics, you can't expect to get a detailed explanation for each chapter. Nevertheless, you can start to understand why Japanese acts the way they do after reading this book ;)
Oct 07, 2014 Melissa rated it liked it
A decent read and introduction if you want to graze the surface of an intriguing and complex culture so different from that in 'west'. This book briefly covers many topics (ambiguity, dependency, gift giving, funeral rites, Shinto and Buddhism, silence in communication, to name a few highlights) several of which relate heavily on each other. It was written by Japanese students as a university textbook (so occasionally, word choice and sentence structure are slightly awkward) and supposedly edite ...more
May 12, 2013 Robyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, japan
This is a great book for a fast overview of significant themes related to Japanese culture. These essays are based on a collaborative project completed over a period of years by Japanese students at a university in Japan.
Some of the topics include: Ambiguity and the Japanese, the Japanese Sense of Beauty, the Samurai, Silence in Japanese Communication, Male and Female Relationships in Japan, Japanese Social Obligations, Personal Space, Gift Giving Customs, Japanese Funerals, Arranged Marriage (
Jul 12, 2015 Sinead rated it really liked it
Pretty good book. It gives you short essays about a range of issues around Japanese life and culture, as well as psychology of Japanese society. It gives you an insight why Japanese do a certain thing from education, business and social encounters. Really liked it and helped me with university classes in Japan.
Manish Singh
This is a collection of small to medium sized essays on various topics about Japanese culture and way of life.

There are essays on many topics but everything boils down to a few things only. It seemed to me while reading that I was reading the same things again and again.
So you would definitely end up learning those few things about the Japanese culture by heart :)

Another good thing about the essays is that the authors have always tried to explore and explain the probable reasons as to why the Ja
This book is actually impossible to rate - it is a set of essays on different Japanese expressions and key-words. First of all, it is impossible to be equally interested in all of them, but that is not the main issue. The issue is that the quality is very, very uneven. Some of the essays reads as something a bored student has handed in, written the night before without any afterthought at all. And some of them are really great (I would especially like to mention the chapters Gambari, Hedataru no ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Brendan rated it really liked it
I found this to be a mostly fascinating book regarding Japanese culture and why Japanese people do the things they do or think the way they think. I'm familiar with a lot of what is covered in the book but I wasn't aware of the reason why for most of it. Definitely recommended reading if you are planning on living/working in Japan or have close Japanese friends or relatives. I probably still won't change my views about how people should give gifts simply for the sake of giving and not expect any ...more
Tomas Ramanauskas
May 19, 2015 Tomas Ramanauskas rated it liked it
An academic, wooden collection of essays written for school, yet a decent starting point in exploring and understanding of what and how is Japan.
Nov 27, 2014 OlePinto marked it as to-read
I registered a book at!
Feb 08, 2016 Dario rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, japan
Not much content, and structured more as a textbook with exercises and discussion activities. But easy to read and quite interesting.
Jul 23, 2015 Rebecca rated it liked it
A collection of short articles on basic, essential concepts in Japanese worldview.
Equipped with detailed bibliography for further research.
Aug 08, 2014 Kristen rated it really liked it
Interesting- I loved that it was written by Japanese English students. The sections on communication were where I lingered- the value of silence in particular.
Dmitry Ledentsov
Aug 03, 2014 Dmitry Ledentsov rated it it was amazing
an essential book for understanding the Japanese culture
farhan muhammad
Jul 20, 2014 farhan muhammad rated it it was amazing
Full of information. Very interesting. Mind-opening.
Aug 25, 2015 Danny rated it liked it
Azarine Kyla Arinta
Nov 17, 2013 Azarine Kyla Arinta rated it it was amazing
If it wasn't for the book, the class I am taking about Japanese society would be unbearable. This book is a very easy reading for those of you who are interested in Japanese culture and wish to know what shapes the character of Japanese people. By the end of this book, every time I read a book by Japanese author or watch an anime or J-movies I can see the pattern of Japanese character and I can comprehend and grasp the meaning behind it.
Katharine (Ventureadlaxre)
Fairly well rounded and accurate - currently up to date as far as I'm aware, and very interesting from a historical point of view. It covered most subjects and talked of them in an easy-to-read fashion.

Probably not that interesting to those who already know quite a bit of Japan however, as it doesn't go quite in-depth, but it's very good for those who are just starting to have an interest in Japan.
Nov 15, 2015 Heidi rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonficton, japan
Really interesting set of essays written by Japanese students about Japanese culture. While at some points I felt that it fell into stereotyping, overall it was a really interesting window into Japanese society, culture, and customs.
May 22, 2012 Jacob is currently reading it
Still in the middle of it. This book is meant to be used as a textbook so it doesn't have to be read in a linear fashion.

But reading has helped me understand why things are the way they are in Japan. It also helped me cope with some of the what I perceive as craziness as a foreigner in the country. Sometimes understanding why makes it easier to have grace for others.
Jun 11, 2012 Cone rated it it was ok
While a couple of the essays contained in this book were well-written and well thought out (Honne to Tatemae, Soshiki), too many of them relied on stereotypes, historical inaccuracies, and omissions in order to attempt to validate a point. It is difficult to take any critical essay seriously when it does not base its argument on complete and accurate information.
May 10, 2013 Stephanie rated it really liked it
This is a well-written, easily understood examination of many of the norms and customs of Japan. Each chapter ends with a series of discussion questions, some of which are incisive and thought provoking. I plan to return to this book again and again because there is much to remember and digest. It was a helpful resource for a trip to Japan.
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“In order to live without creating any serious problems for the group's harmony, people avoid expressing their ideas clearly, even the point of avoiding giving a simple yes or no answer. If a person really wanted to say no, he or she said nothing at first, then used vague expressions that conveyed the nuance of disagreement.” 1 likes
“In Japan, however, if you against someone and create a bad atmosphere, your relations may break-off completely. People tend to react emotionally, and most are afraid of being excluded from the group.” 1 likes
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