When participating in cultural activities abroad, the Japanese government believes in simple traditions as the tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arrangement) - to symbolize Japan’s peace-loving nature to the world. Interestingly, whilst researching Japanese diplomacy, I came across an article on how sake is gradually increasing its presence at Japanese government banquets hosting foreign dignitaries.
Japanese cultural diplomacy includes:
- · Art and cultural exchange programs
- · Teaching the Japanese language abroad by dispatching specialists and training local language teachers.
- · Encouraging Japanese studies overseas and intellectual exchange between Japan and other nations.
The Japanese have a strong cultural ideal of mutual respect, thus when entering political debates or discussions they believe in showing understanding and a sense of affirmation about the other side’s views. When reaching a standstill, the nemawashi (根回し) starts. Both sides seek a hint of common ground to start with and proceed gradually, continuing as far as possible. If no further progress can be made, both sides then attempt to concede ground in order to meet the opponent halfway out of courtesy. As you can see, it’s very different to the Western Socratic method of debate (which is synonymous with developing critical thinking). Simply dismissing one’s views or even firing questions at the argument to expose the weaknesses as we’d more likely be inclined to is perceived to be rude.
The goal of Japanese cultural diplomacy is to “not only propagate Japanese thought and traditions to the world but also aim at introducing non-Japanese culture to Japan to enrich the cultural heritage of the world.”
Somewhere between public/political culture and private interactions, the idea of balance is clearly important to a nation not only striving to make it’s imprint on the world but to amalgamate that which it finds useful to its own culture.