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The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,114 ratings  ·  88 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 (si ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published March 15th 2002 by Tuttle Publishing
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Victor Finn
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a nice little introductory book to the functions of Japanese society. The questions formulated at the end of each chapter are particularly good for sparking interesting thoughts and conversations.

However, I had a few problems with it. The author projects the moral biases of the liberal west onto Japan and constantly criticizes them for not being egalitarian and globalized enough. I think the authors should have thought about these criticisms more critically and evaluated the hierarchic
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
This collection of 28 essays can serve as a text in cross-cultural communication. The writers are senior seminar students at Ehime University in Matsuyama, Japan in a cross-cultural class.

Each essay covers a different theme and is named by the Japanese word for the custom or cultural value. The word is explained with context and examples; Research is cited. All essays are followed by discussion questions. Some essays have case studies and some present topics for further exploration.

Harmony is
Jan 30, 2016 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
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
Chant Cowen
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Maybe I have read too many journals on East Asian culture because this felt extremely disappointing which is a shame. Ironically the place it was written (students) is not that far away (Matsuyama) from where I live (Takamatsu).

The majority of the book is split into various topics of modern Japan that gloss over finer points and for the most point give such a superficial description of Japanese culture it leaves the reader wanting more.

I have issue with Tuttle books in general because I know t
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
While somewhat dry and academic I found all of these essays quite enjoyable, especially as an accompaniment / insight to all the Japanese literature I've been reading lately. It says in the introduction that this collection was developed for two audiences: university students participating in Japanese studies programs and Japanese students of English who wish to explain and discuss their culture - but I assure you it applies to more / anyone with a deeper than surface level interest in Japan.

May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this while in Japan, and it was illuminating. American and Japanese culture are extremely different, so having aspects of Japanese worldview explained felt necessary. As a Korean-American, I found aspects of Japanese culture that resonated with my parents' and grandparents' ways and worldviews as well.

If I were Japanese, I'd probably raise more of an eyebrow, but on the whole I found this hugely helpful in understanding the culture. I recommend reading it before, during, or after a trip to
Chris Jaffe
Feb 20, 2016 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
Jul 08, 2011 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
Aug 18, 2013 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
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I started reading this book right before going for a month in Japan for a trip, and I must say it was very useful.

It's a collection of essays written by Japanese university students about various aspects of Japanese culture and mentality. It's very difficult to know if all the details provided are accurate (I was just for a month there), but based on some discussions I had with Japanese people, they seem to confirm what the book is saying.

Some repetition exists, but that is because each essay is
Dina P.
Oct 20, 2015 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
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.
Bobby Baden
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I appreciate the in-depth nature of this book and the relevance of the topics it addresses. The assessments are accurate, and the questions at the end of each chapter are helpful in guiding deeper thought. The questions would best be used as a discussion topic in a cross-cultural group setting.
Bivisyani Questibrilia
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bivisyani by: Hilda Dermaya Arifia
For such an interesting read, I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before I found it on my friend's bookshelf. She said, it used to be one of her textbooks when she was studying in university in Japan. Flipping through its table of contents, I gleamed at the various Japanese principles of living, finding myself only family with Bushido and the Senpai/Kouhai relationship. There are numerous concepts that I was familiar with and understood partially, but never knew they had a name—or why they exis ...more
Denise みか Hutchins
This is an excellent introduction to many of the unique aspects of Japanese culture. It covers a wide range of topics, and manages to achieve a satisfying level of depth without becoming overwhelming. There were a few typos (maybe half a dozen), but considering the fact that it was written and edited by Japanese university students and professors, I didn't find them detrimental to understanding and in fact I found the writing to be impressively academic and professional. And the fact that this b ...more
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
To be honest, I didn't like the book at first. It was a requirement for one of my Japanese cultural classes during my 1st year in college, and I only read it because I had to. I didn't feel anything exciting or interesting from the book...
Until I read it again 2 years later. At that time, I had lived in Japan for about 3 years and had some experience with the people and living in Japan. I was able to relate so much more when I read the book. It was like you have some friends whom you have known
The Bamboo Traveler
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
Excellent book on Japanese culture. It was very informative. It really helped me understand Japanese culture. I particularly liked the fact that it was written by Japanese university students who were majoring in applied linguistics and TEFL. Each individual chapter can stand on its own. There is some repetition of ideas but it didn't bother me. It helped me understand the concepts more clearly and deeply. The writing is kind of formulaic and over relies on transitions for cohesion, which is som ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This was quite an academic style analysis of basically what makes the Japanese approach to almost everything noticeably different to the eyes of the average Westerner or foreigner. Anyone who ever visits Japan notices a million things each day that intrigue and perplex, and so before we left Japan on our first ever visit I went in search for a book like this because I had and still have so many questions. I found the book very comprehensive, covering every aspect of life. Perhaps it was a little ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A super good introduction for anyone who wants to understand the japanese pattern of behaviour, I bought this book shortly after I made friends with japanese people at school, it was amazing seeing the parallels between what I read in this book and what they did. it helped make me feel less confused and less afraid that I was doing something wrong as a westerner trying to relate to them. It is an easy book to read, reducing very broad topics into concise essays, so Id say this book is best used ...more
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seeing as I have no firsthand experience, having never been to Japan, I can't vouch for the validity of the content. However, it doesn't frame Japanese culture as "foreign" (these essays are written by university students at Ehime University in Matsuyama, Japan) which is a big plus. Though it uses Western conceptions of societal roles as contrasting elements it doesn't place them in a position of supremacy. The varying quality of the essays isn't too broad, but it's definitely noticeable.
Filippo Diotalevi
It's quite an informative read and a good introduction on Japanese culture, but written by students, with all the limitation you would expect. The quality of the essays varies a lot, some are quite childish and superficial, other more detailed.
Being essays written by different authors the book lacks of consistence, many topics are repeated or explained multiple times with different level of details.
Stuart Jones
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A neat compilation of student work on the culture of Japan. It's a good primer for people starting to get interested in Japanese culture, and reinforces a lot of what people that have lived in Japan already know. Still, you get to read about Japan from college students that have lived it their whole lives, and who better to tell you about the ins and outs of the system than them.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I binged borrowed a number of books on Japan in preparation of a 2 week trip there. This book was a pretty crude and reductive rendition of what it means to be "Japanese", to be fair, any 300 page book that attempts to summarized a whole culture will likely be crude and reductive. It was instructive in ways to get a gist of certain ideas like aimai, giri, bushido etc.
Charlotte Mercille
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, japan, nonfiction
Informative, concise and refreshing. Borrowed it from a friend before my first trip to Japan and I think people with little to no knowledge of Japan will benefit the most from this collection of essays. In other words, it's a good crash course to understand Japanese history and culture. The text is also divided in each main concept, which makes it highly readable.
Anna Hintsyak
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book provides basic knowledge on Japanese culture. I think its a bit repetitive(however, it was written in introduction that some of the topics will be mentioned a few times in different chapters, as each topic is separate essay written by students). It would be good to include here also themes related to gaming industry in Japan which has a huge impact in Japanese society.
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
An academic look at different aspects of Japanese culture. Insightful for someone who is traveling or doing business in Japan into the very different way in which Japanese culture and society functions from the west.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting collection of introductory essays on various philosophical aspects of Japanese culture. The essays were thought provoking, and many of them definitely provided impetus for further investigation on my part.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-science, japan
Good intro to some aspects of Japanese culture. Collection of student essays. Several overlap a lot, but it reinforces the concepts. Easy read. Each chapter is followed by discussion questions and case study vignettes suitable for students living in Japan with access to cultural observations.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and complete overview to the japanesse mind. I really enjoyed each chapter of this book because as an buddhist I love and respect their culture.
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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
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