Uchi Soto and Japanese Group Culture

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The concept of Uchi Soto is one of the most unique aspects of Japanese culture. This concept is the key to understanding Japanese society and it explains why Japanese people behave the way they do and how they view foreigners in Japan.

So what is Uchi Soto? Uchi (内) literally means home, while Soto (外) refers to outside. The core concept revolves around the idea of dividing people into two groups, a in-group and an out-group.

Your family and close friends are considered uchi (in-group), as well as your co-workers and superiors at work. However, your clients are always considered “soto” (out-group).

When speaking with someone from an out-group it is important that the out-group be honored, and the in-group humbled. This is done through the use of Japanese honorific language (“keigo”). Although many young people don’t embrace this tradition as much as the older generations does, uchi/soto is still the big part of the foundation of Japanese business culture.

Japanese customer service is known for its high quality and I personally feel it is a little excessive especially with this uchi/soto custom. In Japan, customers are to be treated with the utmost respect. If you are a sales person, you are expected to use honorific wording at all times with your customers.

One way to do is to speak humbly about your boss and colleagues who are a part of the “uchi” category. So if your manager’s last name is “Suzuki”, you would refer to him just as “Suzuki” in front of your customers and not as “Suzuki-san”. It is a little strange, but you are basically respecting your customer by lowering (humbling) your manager’s position.

When Japanese people have a chance to talk with foreigners, they feel lost for not knowing how to appropriately interact with them.

So how does this all relate to the “Gaijin Complex”? Foreigners, tourists and customers are always considered “soto” in Japanese society. Many visitors to Japan are generally impressed with the level of customer service, as Japanese people are generally polite to soto people, but it does not mean that their politeness and friendliness are sincere and they are genuinely trying to be your friend.

Some of them may be truly interested in getting to know you but most of them are simply following the custom. So when Japanese people have a chance to interact with foreigners outside their work, they may feel lost for not knowing how to appropriately interact with them. Outside the work, this uchi/soto relationship is vague and it becomes even more confusing with foreigners.

This is also why foreigners (soto) have a hard time being truly accepted into Japanese society and those who wish to become Japanese citizens (uchi) face many obstacles.

This is a very unique aspect of Japanese culture that I am not necessarily fond of. I do not want to speak humbly of my boss if he is a successful businessman but at the same time, I understand the importance of following such custom in Japanese business culture. In America, this uchi/soto system does not exist and I do refer to my boss with Mr./Ms. to make sure that our customers are aware of my bosses prestigious positions in our company.

The concept of uchi-soto also applies to another significant Japanese custom, the practise of honne and tatemae. I will discuss honne and tatemae in more detail in an upcoming article but the basic concept of how it applies to uchi-soto is:

When you are in your group (uchi), you can be honest (honne), but when you are with strangers (soto) you tend to be more honorific and avoid saying things directly (tatemae).

I hope this explanation of uchi-soto has given you some insight into Japanese culture. Do you find this practice of uchi-soto strange? Tell us in the comments below.

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Japan born, US educated, language teacher.
  • グッチ 都玲 says:

    Ah, but Japan isn’t monoethnic. Let us not write off those who have and still are petitioning the government to ensure an equal and safe space within society.

  • Chuck Reindle says:

    I’d like to congratulate Yumi Nakata for a well thought-out article that’s short and to the point. Very easy to build upon. As a matter of fact, the thread for this article on the GaijinPot FB page has hit 304 posts. And it just keeps going. As a matter of fact, you’re article motivated me to buy a videocam and I’ve already posted several videos related to this topic. Again, thanks a million Yumi.

  • zuko says:

    Insightful. Thanks Yumi. I’ve been living in Tochigi for 2 years, but still getting a grasp of the culture. Nice movie choice btw – although I wish the ending was different…

  • razielsabbat says:

    i wish i know some japanese people, i find them very intrsting and the culture as well.

  • Cherry says:

    I told my Japanese friend about this “uchi-soto” concept. It was the end of friendship then, I thought. Well, he seemed to be unaware of such thing.

  • GeneralObvious says:

    It’s not the same thing. If a Japanese person considers you a close friend they will do everything they can to help you if you are in need. Far more than they would do if you are just an acquaintance.

  • Linda Hill says:

    I had a perfect example of this happen to me when I visited Japan in 2005. I got off a train with my luggage and was faced with a long, steep flight of stairs. A pair of teenaged students–a boy and a girl–approached me and, out of politeness, asked if they could help me in English. I was so shocked, I said, “Sure!”
    All the way up the stairs, the girl complained. Though I couldn’t understand what she was saying I could see both by her body language and the apologetic look on the boy’s face that the complaints were about me. At the top of the flight of stairs they handed back my luggage. I made a point of bowing and, in my best Nihongo, I said, “Doumo arigatou, gozaimasu.”
    They mumbled, “Dou itashimashite,” and ran. I doubt they’ll ever assume a Gaijin knows no Japanese again.

  • David Christopher says:

    I would like to know what the Japanese are thinking, as they are being so kind or polite.

  • manishjp says:

    Humans, because they can imagine, like to judge and classify people on their material, intellectual and emotional makeup. This is normal. The mistake happens when gaijins try to make themselves look “uchi” infact end up being “soto” with their origins.

  • John Braden says:

    I have a friend I made on FB who lives in Hiroshima. Due to my living in America, I can only go to Japan once a year on vacation. The first time he and I met, he took me to his school (he’s a teacher) and showed me calligraphy (his subject matter). Later on we had lunch before I left Hiroshima that evening. The following year, we met at a neutral place (restaurant) where I met his wife, three year old daughter and newly-born son for dinner. It was a little difficult, as our level of language is quite limited and we had short, basic conversations, aided by technology. This year, he invited me to his home in the suburbs of Hiroshima to have dinner with his family. I loved the idea, as I knew I would see the children in their element and they would be much more relaxed. We had a great time and I left late in the evening, with the promise of seeing each other the next time I went. This is my naive question: am I “uchi” or “soto”? I always thought that being invited to such a private place such as a home broke some invisible social barrier and now I am more than just an acquaintance. Is this true? Please clear this up for me, thank you!

    • グッチ 都玲 says:

      Like gender, I do not feel it to be so cut and dry. It is negotiable and can change, shift over time (50 Shades of Soto). As relationships take years building (and require neutering), perhaps you are a little more uchi than soto. I hope they have a chance to visit you in the US.

  • Tenrai says:

    TruE!

  • Tenrai says:

    The fact America nuked two major Japanese cities and still holds it hostage says a LOT too…

  • Asuka Taga Yow says:

    Hi, Big E. I didn’t immigrate to the US and didn’t become American but I live in the states. It was my choice to live here and it’s nice to have that. You maybe right about me but what’s wrong with being nationalistic? If one has lived abroad and experienced more than one culture that’s when s/he feels where they are from. Don’t you agree? Sure, I love Japan. I don’t love everything about it. It’s not a perfect country as any other. For foreigners, it must have unique challenges just like living in other countries. I don’t know where you’re from but I feel like uchi/soto is similar to how race somehow divides people here. I accept criticism and still stand by my opinion.

    • Tenrai says:

      Exactly, and WE can never really become “American” or “Japanese” so to speak and I wouldn’t want to in all entirety either, though I can’t stress more, coming from a collective culture like that of Japan or Pakistan to an individualistic culture like that of America one is in for massive a culture shock! opposite is also true.

      I feel, my abstract love for Japan and Japanese culture stemmed from tales of a Japan which no longer exists. Today, Japan is more of an American colony, where the youth worships everything American.

  • Bani says:

    There’s not much I hate more about Japanese culture than tatemae.

  • Felix Darren R. Abante says:

    I think it has some relevance to “the customer is always right” thing in business. This does not mean that the customer is right per se. It only means accommodating the customer wishes which requires immense degree of politeness.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      sure customers are treated almost like god in Japan..

      • David Christopher says:

        Japan is severely dependent upon foreign trade. I am sure Japan would love to tell everyone to kiss off. But I don’t think that would work out to their favor.

      • Tenrai says:

        The opposite is true here in Pakistan, where customer service guys think too highly of themselves and do not extent proper respect. When pointing out their rude, distant behaviour, the only rebuttal they have, “I didn’t misbehave or use profanity. ”

        I think there should be a middle ground, a business you have a congenial aura about it. Where customer aids are friendly, well again not too friendly, just the right mix respect and amiability

  • Asuka Taga Yow says:

    I don’t think it’s strange. It’s just culture. Yes, Uchi/Soto is Japanese but it exists not only in Japan but everywhere. It can be better understood if translated friends/not friends…but broader and applies in more situations. Business-I don’t think it’s strange. It’s just the way it is there. I would do that if I was working in Japan. Foreigner- I believe there are many obstacles for foreigner to feel accepted in any country because culture, language and how they connect people… Those things are tricky. Generally speaking, Japanese people are very appropriate, polite and nice. They may not want to help foreigner but if asked they will kindly help anyway. Not all countries are like that and there’s virtue in that kind of action even it didn’t come from their heart. I hated my first couple of years outside of Japan and it took time for me to feel accepted. However, I believe that’s natural and probably most foreigners everywhere goes through that. I don’t quite understand what this writer wants to say. The article just sounds like Japan bashing to me.

    • Chuck Reindle says:

      Uchi-Soto seems related to performance-approach and performance-avoidance in Achievement Goal Theory. This theory can be found in any nation. Scientific research by international research teams with U.S. and Japanese college students show that the Japanese are better at performance-approach/avoidance than Americans. One could assume that the Japanese are so skilled at Uchi-Soto, that the word itself has now become English. It’s an abbreviated form of naishuudan/gaishuudan (内集団・外集団)。As a matter of fact, doing a search with just uchi/soto in Japanese won’t bring up the term we’re referring to here.

    • Felix says:

      Well said. I agree totally.

    • Asuka Taga Yow says:

      I live in the States for almost 20 years. 🙂 There are times and moments where I still don’t feel accepted here. Do I blame the American culture? No. At one point, wherever we live, we have to be an individual and accept that we can’t always belong and that’s ok. Living here is my choice. No culture is perfect and all cultures have its great and not so great things. However, I believe it’s important to stay open so one can learn. Why it’s that way in that culture? How can I be accepted?-if you want to be accepted. Living in a foreign country is always extra work.

    • Pro Genki says:

      well written and interesting comment. I think we all need to be aware of our ethnocentrism and how it influences how we feel and behave.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Thank you for your comment..may I ask where you reside outside of Japan now? Yes it is true that it is more challenging for foreigners who live in ANY countries to be accepted, and at least Japanese people are very polite.

  • Ian Amorim says:

    I did see that when I was for more than a month in Japan… But on the other hand, I’ve had a lot of japanese being extra nice and trying to help me – even if that would be a bother to them – and I wasn’t a customer.

    Once I was walking in Kyoto with a map in my hand getting to a restaurant. A japanese lady approached me and with very little english knowledge, asked me if I needed any help. She didn’t accept no for an answer. She exerted herself to get me to the restaurant.

    Another time in Aomori, three japanese obasan’s took care of me for a whole day and I didn’t even had asked for help! But they wanted to help, since they saw I didn’t speak japanese very well… My impression was that even when I was not a customer, I was trated so well…

    Is this also part of Uchi-Soto??

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I am glad that you had a really encounter with Japanese people..it may be related to Uchi-Soto..this is very complicated and Japanese people in big cities are not generally that helpful..you can ask for help, they will be polite but I think people are more willing to help in the countryside. At the same time, their attitudes can change depending on your race etc.

  • Tina Charlton says:

    The general idea of this cultural belief would be to practice being polite to everyone in every situation which needs to be practice in Australia customer service a lot more

  • TheWanderingJewels says:

    General Rule of Thumb in the American Midwest is be polite, until given cause to be otherwise.

  • I think that the humbly treatment to the closest people shows your belonging to this group, and your confidence to the one you’re talking about.

  • Assaf Koss says:

    It is evident that the more hierarchical a culture and society is designed to be, the worse off the people are. More conflict and violence ensues.

    As an Anarchist, ideologically, it is illogical to describe one person as “better” than another. A person is either good or bad, morally. Only when it comes to specific abilities, is one person better, but then it is a technical term, and not a social description. That person is /actually/ better in that ability, objectively.

    It makes me wonder about the state of Anarchy in modern Japan. Anybody got any information on this?

    http://www.AssafKoss.com

  • Johnny LoveFive says:

    I can’t help but think setsubun “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi” when I see the headline!!

  • ミラー サラ says:

    For some reason I totally get this. I want to practice this with my volunteer place. It’s totally understandable too

  • Mohamed says:

    Thank you for this article… I’ve been here for two years now and I just started to realize that just a few months ago and it is completely frustrating me and is one of the major reasons I know I won’t stay in Japan after I finish my studies.

  • spmael says:

    Thanks for the article , i follow the idea of @AliceBelvoir:disqus it is not strange at all and even if in the uchi/soto relation the politeness is fake , it is still necesssary to have a good leaving society because in business or when you meet a foreigner you are not necessarely ment to be friend by if there is politness (even fake) it makes us want to more friends that if you were rude

  • AliceBelvoir says:

    As a British citizen born and raised in England, the uchi-soto system works for me and makes sense. I like being treated “with the utmost respect”, and try to treat others in the same way. You comment that you “do not want to speak humbly of my boss if he is a successful businessman” – but why? Perhaps America isn’t big on humility, but humbling a manager by not using the suffix ‘san’ sounds fine to me. After all, your manager is just a fellow human being doing his job well, and would be nowhere without the money that your customer provides, however talented he is at the job. His success or failure also depends on all the other people who work for the company doing their job well too. In that sense, no one is more or less important to the company than any other.

    I was also very puzzled by the following: “Many visitors to Japan are generally impressed with the level of customer service, as Japanese people are generally polite to soto people, but it does not mean that their politeness and friendliness are sincere and they are genuinely trying to be your friend.” This is surely true of any culture. It may surprise you – and of course, I can’t speak for everyone in England – but the general perception of American customer service amongst my peers is that it is comes across as completely insincere and often overly familiar – i.e. disrespectful.

    So to answer your penultimate question, “Do you find this practice of uchi-soto strange?” – the answer from me is No, absolutely not. It makes complete sense to me, and I think it would make sense to many from my own English culture and class and be actually very appealing. But then our culture is stereotypically (and therefore somewhat inaccurately!) characterized by what others perceive as politeness and reserve to the point of seeming remote and formal – diffident, even.

    When in America I was often told – with some astonishment – how polite I was. From my perspective it can be a culture shock to experience the directness of Americans I encounter who do not pepper their conversation with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the way that I do. They aren’t being rude – it’s just a cultural difference – but it can cause offence if one doesn’t think about it carefully and make that allowance. In the north of England – in Yorkshire, for example – there is also a traditional pride in speaking one’s mind with a directness that can seem “rude” to us soft southerners. Without understanding these cultural differences, there is plenty of opportunity – even within a single small country like England – for misunderstandings and offence to be taken where none is intended.

    My partner is Japanese and lives with me in the south of England, and I often have to remind him to say what he wants directly (i.e. not tatemae), but in a polite way. Funnily enough, despite the legendary politesse of the Japanese, he used to respond in ways that seemed to me blunt to the point of rudeness. Here, you can’t just answer “No” to the question “Would you like a cup of tea?” You would need to answer “No thank you.” You can’t just say “Can I get one of those?” You have to say, “Could I have one of those please?” You can’t say “I’ll take one of those” either! Also, if your partner asks you if you’d like to go shopping, you can’t just say “No”, or even “No thanks”. You might have to say something like “Thanks for asking. I’d love to another time, but I really need to get on with my work.”

    In summary, my own culture has its own system of tatemae, and of uchi-soto. So the Japanese system, with all its drawbacks, makes complete sense to me and actually appeals to me. I value humility, politeness and respect. I don’t mind taking a long time to get to know people. I would rather people were polite in a way I can understand, even if it is a formality rather than deeply sincere, because I am from a more reserved culture that has more formal boundaries than perhaps is typical in America. Again, it is all about cultural perspective. There is no “right or wrong” in this, only what appeals to you more or less according to your own background and taste. Personally I’d prefer to live somewhere rural in Japan rather than, say, New York – but it’s “horses for courses”.

    • Miha Ua says:

      I think if you read Pride and Prejudice or The Count of Monte Cristo you will find uichi soto in english and european cultures, at least in olden times. Nowadays you will find it in the poshest parts of England for sure. Bad manners are considered low class, therefore you behave at all times and even toward your enemy, with honour.

    • Felix says:

      Very well written piece of information.
      I might like to add that respect in Japanese culture doesn’t mean that they are obliged to embrace other people who are different. You don’t have to like a person to respect them. This is the foundation of Uchi-Soto. Respect to the west means that someone looks up to someone or someone who sees someone more noble or something along those lines. Were in the east particularly Japan, the word respect carries other connotations with it. Usually with Uchi- Soto ethos. Soto means respect on the surface even if they don’t like you in anyway.

    • TC says:

      Just a heads up that penultimate means second to last. Sorry but it’s just a pet peeve of mine since the word is most frequently misused by people attempting to sound scholarly.

    • Ness` says:

      British culture does not have “uchi-soto”. Honne and tatemae, I feel you’ve slightly misunderstood – it’s not so much about directness vs indirectness, as it is about expressing your true feelings on a matter (honne), and tactful use of flattery and/or deceit to try and show a form of politeness (tatemae). Uchi-soto is much stronger in the more rural areas of Japan, and being British, you almost certainly would never become “uchi”. The author of this article has missed a major, relatively unspoken point with uchi-soto, in the sense that those considered “uchi” can only ever be Japanese (something even expatriates have a difficult time with). On the plus side, if you’re not involved in the Japanese corporate world, or you’re not too eager on close-knit social interaction, preferring instead the reclusive lone-wolf lifestyle or surface relationships, uchi-soto treatment, and tatemae are ideal!

      – A Brit living in Tokyo

      • Miha Ua says:

        I think if you read Pride and Prejudice or The Count of Monte Cristo you will find uichi soto in English and European cultures at least in olden times. In posh circles the ‘uichi’ is alive and well. And the ‘soto’ is practiced with such deference that you’d almost feel the toffs accepted you as one of their own old chap. Alas, no.

      • AliceBelvoir says:

        Thanks for your reply. I’m not convinced that there is any human culture on earth that does not have some form of uchi-soto or even tatemae versus honne – it’s just that it is not necessarily expicit, or as extreme. It seems that it is certainly more extreme, overt and excuding in Japanese culture, but I am convinced that it exists in some form in every human culture. I think the author has missed even the possibility of this because she cannot see outside her American-centric upbringing (within which she feels comfortable, and sees anything else as “strange”). I wanted to highlight this in the comments I made. Although the post has some value, I think it would be better to ask a cultural anthropologist who has made a study of these issues within a range of cultures. I am not convinced that no Japanese person would ever see me as uchi, but then perhaps that is wishful thinking. I’m married to a Japanese man, my in-laws are Japanese, and so are two of my nieces. So perhaps we’ll see – and I’ll report back to you and we can establish whether or not your your explanation is as definitive as you seem to think it is.

  • Tamas Kalman says:

    it’s actually quite similar in hungarian, just the intersection of the social circles are different (formal/nonformal way of speaking).

  • Nathan Shanan Crookes says:

    Thank you for this article, I hope one day I can fit in better to Japanese society ☺

  • Thomas Busch says:

    Thank you for the article. I do not find the practice of uchi-soto strange. I am married to a Japanese wife and frequently travel to Japan and work since 20 years with Japanese. My point is that Uchi-soto is one of the factors that ensure a degree of civility in daily interaction with people that I feel very comfortable with. I do not like the rather informal and to a certain degree aggressive interaction in most western countries. I find that not civilized and depressive and to a degree it is a consequence of our degeneration and decadence.

    • Felix says:

      Absolutely. Spot on

    • HopperCrackenbottles says:

      See, I politely disagree on a number of points. I question, for example, the worth of “a degree of civility” compared to the potential conformity it coerces or silence it compels in those who may have differing opinions. The free exchange of ideas and prevalence of logic and rationality over personal sensibilities has been a hallmark of improvements in science, technology, and society throughout the world. In the same vein, I wonder about the statement following “to a degree it is a consequence,” and invite you to be more concrete as to what constitutes “a degree,” “degeneration” and “decadence.”

      I will, of course, say thank you Ms. Nakata for putting so much effort into trying to explain this concept. I can’t say that I find it strange, but I do find the uchi-soto philosophy problematic (as well as its continued acceptance) in a changing world. While some may assert a personal preference or distaste for it, I think it reaches into much more important areas of internationalization that need to be acknowledged and discussed. Like other customs and cultural practices from many cultures and civilizations throughout history, it is important to recognize when customs, practices, or habits cause more harm than good. The practice of uchi-soto can also be defined as discrimination, and seen as a driving factor behind many of the judgemental and generalized views some Japanese hold of foreign people, both tourists and long-term residents, currently coming to Japan.

      It also colors the perceptions of some Japanese people as they go abroad, acting as
      a filter that prevents them from truly and evenly considering what they perceive. I see this happen with many Japanese students who go abroad, when they return to tell me about what they saw. Their interpretations are often very skewed because they try to fit what they experience into their preconceived notions of what they expected, rather than trying to understand their experiences without bias.

      For example, simply generalizing that “foreigners” (a term I am not fond of in general, as it holds a derogatory connotation in many other cultures, which I often see Japanese ignore,) see Japanese customs as strange illustrates how the uchi-soto system leads some Japanese to unwittingly make other generalized assumptions. As I am foreign, for example, some Japanese assume that this tradition will quite possibly seem strange to me. That is a preconception – a prejudice, because they have no real evidence to assume that.

      Now, I am not accusing anyone here of making that assumption on purpose, and I understand that Ms. Nakata most likely did not mean any offense. I am not taking offense. But I should be able to answer honestly. 🙂

      However, the fact is that the assumption is unwarranted, and only based on the understanding that I am foreign. It does not allow for the possibility that I may have studied Japanese language and culture in university, (Bachelor’s in Japanese Language and Culture,) that I may know other Japanese people who could have explained this concept at an early age, or that I may have lived in Japan twice. It simply assumes that I am foreign, so I probably find a Japanese system of social stratification strange.

      Additionally, it assumes that “any foreign person may find it strange,” without allowing for differences in background, interactions between foreign and Japanese cultures in other parts of the world where large Japanese populations exist, or hereditary relations to Japanese ancestry. You might simply assume, based on my appearance as a foreigner, that I would not understand that tradition, when in actuality I’ve worked in Japanese companies, my father-in-law is half-Japanese, and there are over 3 million Japanese-Americans in the U.S. today who regularly share their culture with other U.S. citizens. However, I am not the focus of this example: it is a fact that there are many others like me in the world. So, why do some Japanese automatically assume that foreigners would think their culture strange?

      Most importantly, the very act of categorizing people based on “Japanese” and “foreigner” is a gross generalization, which completely ignores the possibility as the commenters above have already proven. The generalization is that foreigners may find it strange, where as the reality illustrates that as-often-as-not they don’t for a variety of reasons. Each is an individual with individual experiences leading them to different judgments. As such, it is unfair to allow any preconception as simple as the word “foreigner” to lead anyone to make assumptions about what another person may or may not think.

      So, my apologies, and thank you Ms. Nakata for trying to explain it for those who may not know, but please understand that many others do not find it strange. Personally, I find it dangerously ethnocentric, damaging to the growth of globalization and cooperation between Japan and the rest of the world, generalized, and over-simplified. I just hope one day people will stop assuming foreigners find Japanese culture strange because “they’re foreign.” It’s extremely difficult precisely because most people don’t realize how deeply ingrained their prejudices are, or how to identify them. 🙂 I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this very important topic, and I hope we can all learn from each other through civil discussion.

      • Thomas Busch says:

        Sir,

        my apology for replying only now.

        I am new to social media and do not check my account often, so I just saw your reply now.

        English is not my mother tongue so again my apologies for any mistakes therefore, but I am sure I can make my point.

        I cannot see that “the free exchange of ideas and prevalence of logic and rationality over personal sensibilities has been a hallmark of improvements in science, technology, and society throughout the world.”

        I am a very sensible person and so are are people I live and work with.

        Humans are sensible in general, but surely in different degrees.

        No scientific work is of any use to humanity if it excludes that fact.

        Would that mean by your logic that we cannot exchange our ideas freely and apply logic and rationality in our daily interactions when we are sensible ?

        And what are the hallmark of improvements in science, technology and society you have in mind ?

        That the most able and brightest engineers, chemists, physicians, mathematicians, economists, lawyers etc from the top end universities cannot come up with any better economic model than the current one that is based on debt, endless growth in a world of finite and limited resources and that destroys our environment and planet, the very base of our existence ?

        That will still employ a monetary system developped centuries ago that has contributed and/or caused financial meltdowns destroying the lives of the “average man ” by socializing the costs of the reckless behaviour of the very few who control and game that system ?

        And for societies what advantages do you see apart from the ever increasing massification of ever growing cities with increasing alienation and pornification of its population, increasing drug abuse, loss of humane norms and values ?

        May I ask if you perceive today’s consumer and materialistic society that sees its salvation in the sheer consumption of products with a very limited shelf life in a quality sense and intellectual sense, as intellectually developped and the best outcome, that as you say the “free exchange of ideas and prevalence of logic and rationality over personal sensibilities” can produce ?

        Science has brought us know how that enables us to live longer and healthier if we chose to do so.

        An constructive open dialogue ( that if conducted in a sophisticated way takes into consideration sensibilities as they are part of human nature ) has delivered social concepts, structures and institutions that enables us a rather safe life free from physical harm if we accept to live within generally accepted norms, values and laws.

        But that is it.

        Not much more has improved.

        Not a great record for “the free exchange of ideas and prevalence of logic and rationality over personal sensibilities” that you see as a hallmark of improvements in science, technology, and society throughout the world.”
        I think some former and present tribal communities were and are surely more developped and civilized as we are and will ever be.
        Sir, I am an craftsman who runs a very small but international business.
        I have no academic education so therefore I cannot engage in a proper academic dialogue.
        Hopefully I could make my point clear. Thank you again for referring to my comment and looking forward to further debates, discussions and/or exchange of ideas.
        Respectfully yours and best regards.

      • pkels says:

        Making friends will be difficult because you can’t trust whether they are being genuine or fake.

        • Felix says:

          This mistrust is were the questioning of foreigners takes place and the assumptions. Underneath all that is a process of sizing you up via a well developed sense of feeling that these Japanese have.
          I have noted that although they appear very disciplined and focused, they are also not stupid either. Means that just because they are indirect and putting on a polka front and being polite with the Uchi-Soto ethos, doesn’t mean they are not sizing you up on a deeper feeling level. Until trusted, they will continue as they do, and you will regarded as a soto and simply outsider or someone that has something to offer them in the interaction. And sure they will roll out the red carpet and they will treat you with super respect, but at the end of the day, its all about trust. They don’t trust too easily.

        • AliceBelvoir says:

          But this is true of anyone you meet, in any culture! Any culture has rules of conduct/politeness that mean you cannot be definitively sure about someone until you get to know them. This is a socially protective mechanism. We have gut instincts for a reason, however, and this can inform us as to whether the person is sincere or not. Friendship is rarely instant, it’s something that develops and deepens over time.

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