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Examining the Level and Causes of Japan's Resistance to Americanization

Theresa L. Taylor, MIR

VIU graduate Theresa L. Taylor examined whether there is resistance towards Americanization in contemporary Japan by assessing the opinions, beliefs, values and expectations held by Japanese people towards Japan and Americanization.

Coming from Jamaica with a first degree in Travel and Tourism and holding over six years of experience promoting and participating in cultural exchange programs mostly in American, I saw living and teaching English in Japan as a prospect worth exploring. This was mostly due to my intention of pursuing my Masters of Science degree in International Relations at a University in America during my time in Japan. One of the most alluring perks of studying International Relations, I found, is becoming cognizant of the all-encompassing nature of the discipline. Profitable was my decision to study International Relations while living in Japan as I had the greatest advantage in experiencing different worlds and understanding issues facing global politics and the global integration process, for international businesses and relations between and among states alike.

Living and working in Japan provided me with first-hand experience of Japan’s cultural order and, the idea that Japan might be Americanized was short lived. Surely, there is widespread indication of American cultural diffusion in Japan on a commercial scale. I realized however that though American cultural influence is present in Japan, Japanese are very much rooted and grounded in their traditions. From serving the Board of Education and teaching the English language, I became aware of the strong inequality between male and female. I later understood that the school system places higher emphasis on building strong moral discipline and self-control over academics. Hence, this explains why many students have little interest in learning English since English does not contribute to their way of life. From having conversations and discussions with Japanese friends and acquaintances, I came to realize how very proud Japanese are and how some genuinely believe that Japan is the pearl of Asia. I found this very interesting, to say the least. Though Japanese appears to support economic growth and development brought on by America’s involvement, the beliefs and attitudes of many Japanese manifest a strong resistance to Americanization in Japan. Many Japanese, in most cases, shows a strong sense of duty to their cultural and moral values and, engage religiously in traditional cultural activities. I have however had conversations with other Westerners in Japan who refute the idea that resistance to Americanization exist in Japan.

My curiosity turned into a genuine interest in criticizing claims which supports that Japan is Americanized. While Japan and America clearly has history and has maintain relations on the basis of international politics, trade and, military security from Eastern enemies, domestically, Japanese are passionately Japanese and wish not to be Americanized. And, the social, educational and defense systems in Japan makes sure not to support Americanization. Foreigners are seen as just foreigners in Japan and are treated as such even after living in Japan for decades and yes, even after having to pay high taxes. Even mixed Japanese born and grow in Japan face citizens and discrimination because they are seen as not fully Japanese. My suspicion that great resistance to Americanization was strengthen after learning about South Korea and visiting Thailand where communication in English was no hassle because English is largely spoken by natives. A huge contrast from the reality in Japan where greater time and effort have been put into making English a second language. From my knowledge garnered during my study and my experiences in Japan, I wanted to conduct a purposeful study that would contribute new knowledge to previous literatures which speaks on the subject of Americanization and resistance to Americanization in Japan.

Hypothesizing that there is a resistance among Japanese towards Americanization, I proceeded to conduct a study featuring the direct views, opinions and expectations of Japanese towards Americanization.This study employed a mixed, embedded design method for collecting data from a sample size of forty adult men and women located in three geographical areas; rural, urban and suburban, in Japan. The study provided rather very interesting insights of the opinions and believes of Japanese towards Japan and resistance to Americanization in Japan. Results were used to confirm resistance, measure the level of resistance and examine causes of resistance to Americanization today.