Quote Japan

Interesting, odd, outrageous or informative quotes about Japan

Ronald P. Dore- Quotes from “Shinohata- A Portrait of a Japanese Village” (1978)

“Every other shop in these streets glitters with plate glass, aluminium frames and often automatic sliding doors or kind which less affluent or gadget-minded societies reserve for airports and supermarkets” Ronald P. Dore, in Shinohata- A Portrait of a Japanese Village (1978)

“The youth group stood on guard at the entrance to the hamlet every night, and just followed round everybody who came soliciting votes from other hamlets- didn’t say anything, of course, just stood ostentatiously outside each house they went into to show that they had been observed” Democracy Asian-style, as described in a Japanese village in the 70’s in Japan by Ronald P Dore, but could just as easily be Thailand now

“Taifuu-sama- the ‘Mr Typhoon’ of 1959 which brought such prosperity it acquired an honorific suffix, thanks to the mayor’s astonishing success in getting relief funds” Ronald P Dore

“…any discussion of recreation and leisure pursuits must take account of the pleasure that some men get from running things or… persuading, manipulating, gently pressuring… making speeches, being the centre of attention” Ronald P Dore

“It was the worst time in my life coming back from Korea at the end. Never be on the losing side: that’s the golden rule- that’s what that taught me” A common lesson learnt by the Japanese after WWII, as told by a veteran to Ronald P Dore

“One or two Shinohata houses had formal pictures of the Crown Prince and his bride, but the Imperial family aroused little interest” A typical Japanese attitude to a figurehead that has no real power, Ronald P Dore

“Shinto priests almost never, and Buddhist priests only in some sects, have stepped beyond the role of ritual practitioner to assume that of moral guide… That job was largely left to… head of the family and community, to the Confucian scholar and in modern times to the school” Ronald P Dore

“The moral cohesion of society owes even less to specifically religious institutions in Japan than in most other industrial societies” Ronald P Dore

“Harmony and its Tensions” A very telling chapter heading by Ronald P Dore

“Everyone has the same right to…’life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’- as the 1947 Japanese constitution puts it, its American drafters not having thought it necessary to strain for originality in these matters” Ronald P Dore

“The lack of what in other societies might be valued as ‘privacy’ is part of what it means to be a ‘member’ of a community like Shinohata” Ronald P Dore

“…because it was competition in terms of new ‘imported’ school knowledge, not in terms of mastery of a traditional family-transmitted culture- the handicap of the poor and lower status groups was probably less great than in European societies which evolved with greater cultural continuity” Ronald P Dore

“… one of Shinohata’s two ‘bullies’, not to put too fine a point on the capacity for getting away with overbearing behaviour by presuming on one’s neighbour’s mild mannered preference for harmony and the avoidance of confrontation” Ronald P Dore

“The idea that the individual should be the starting point, and that social arrangements are the result of a social contract for mutual convenience… is a relatively new one even in Europe. It has even more tenuous roots in Japan” Ronald P Dore

“I have seen a 12-year-old boy come into a room where his grandmother was watching… her favourite soap opera, and switch to the teenage gangster serial… without a word of either apology or explanation. Grandmother accepted the change with all the resignation that 65-years’ experience of Japanese men had put at her command” Ronald P. Dore

“…for most people the asceticism of the past was the asceticism only of necessity. There is little sense that indulgence might be bad for the character” Ronald P Dore

“Order, discipline, self-control; it is the school rather than the family which is largely responsible for building these elements into the masculine Japanese character.” Ronald P Dore
“Each class teacher makes it his business to visit the homes of each of his children at least once a year” Ronald P Dore

“School remains, for most teachers, not just the place where they earn their bread and butter; it is a place where they belong…” Ronald P Dore

“The devastating thing about… the high school entrance (exams) and the university entrance (exams) is that everybody perceives the process not as a matter of individuals choosing their future careers but of individuals being differentially chosen or rejected for opportunities everyone would like to have” Ronald P Dore

“… the Tokyo University label has a gilt-edged value in the market- at least in terms of how bright you were at the age of eighteen even if there is not much guarantee offered (or indeed sought) concerning what you might subsequently have learnt there” Ronald P Dore, explaining how Todai is the Louis Vuitton of Japanese universities

“His favourite form of recreation was sleeping” Ronald P Dore, mentioning a common ‘hobby’ that people seem not at all embarrassed about

“If that is the picture of the incipient juvenile delinquent, one can see why Japan has the lowest crime rates of any industrial country” Ronald P Dore

“Every month the township Newsletter designates that month’s subject for family discussion… Let parents and children together discuss what TV programmes they wish to watch, and let us decide jointly and amicably…” An impressively Confucian piece of busybodyness, described by Ronald P Dore

“They look like Vietnam refugees” A 1975 family commenting on a 1955 Japanese photo. “Progress”, as quoted by Ronald P Dore

“.. the closeness of the relationship (is) determined by kinship, physical proximity, common membership…, personal friendship…, and the past history of gift transactions between the two households” Just some of the things to take into account when giving gifts or making visits in a small Japanese village- Ronald P Dore

“…priests hardly rank as spiritual advisers in Japanese villages; they are more like the conjurer you might get for a children’s Christmas party- providers of rare and necessary skills to grace certain ritual social occasions” Ronald P Dore

“If you hear voices raised in apparent altercation in the daytime in Shinohata (before anyone has had time to get drunk, that is) it is as likely as not to be over the acceptance or non-acceptance of a gift” Yet again, the Japanese outdo even the English for unnecessary politeness. Ronald P Dore

“Tomorrow is the agreed day for spring cleaning, so will everybody please do their spring-cleaning. Don’t forget to take out your tatami mats and beat them, and the Health Committee reminds you to take particular care with your kitchen” One of several daily village loudspeaker announcements in a Japanese village (not North Korea!), described by Ronald P Dore

“Haiku writing is a sociable affair, not a matter for solitary inspiration or tranquil recollection” Ronald P Dore

“There is an aura of solemn spirituality about many recreational pursuits in Japan and nothing seems to thicken that aura so much as the presence of money” Ronald P Dore

“You can say what you like about these politicians, but they certainly know how to run the country…here I am, doing much the same as I was doing twenty years ago… but our whole style of living is different; everything’s mechanized, we don’t have to work nearly as hard and we can afford things we’d never dream of a few years ago” The village headman of Shinohata, quoted by Ronald. P. Dore

“A full acre of rice that (colour TV) cost me; about 25 bales (of rice)… It doesn’t half eat up the electricity, though. We only use it for special occasions. Ordinarily we use the black and white set in the kitchen” A very Japanese extravagance, the Louis Vuitton handbag of its day, quoted by Ronald P. Dore

“‘Straw mats’ hardly sounds like a luxury item, but the Japanese tatami… is a sophisticated product which not everyone (in the 50’s) could afford” A good example how modern ‘Japanese traditions’ are always just the posh ones, Ronald P. Dore

“Some (families), in addition to the daily living room and a large traditional-style Japanese drawing room…had added a Western-style best parlour with a carpet on parquet floor, plastic imitation wood panelling, a radiogram, and suite of stiff, heavy sofas and arm-chairs and blonde dolls in glass cases” Ronald P. Dore

“The… Goemon bath… required considerable skill to use; since the bottom of the cauldron, directly attacked by the flames, was a great deal hotter than the water one could get a nasty burn.” Another conveniently forgotten working class Japanese tradition, Ronald P. Dore
“Gone are the days when people told stories about stingy guests who would hurry home when they felt their sphincters tightening so as not to give away valuable fertilizer” Ronald. P. Dore

“Modernized as they may be, the Shinohata villagers have not yet acquired the cult of the natural smell. They look back with no nostalgia to the days…before the oxen disappeared and a DDT spraying campaign pretty well eliminated both flies and mosquitoes from the village” An example of the Japanese trust in chemicals and mistrust of uncontrolled nature, Ronald. P. Dore

“Why, I suggested, don’t we all eat… inside a mosquito tent…? The idea was accepted, though I gather discontinued after I left and there was no foreigner present to provide a legitimate excuse for such bizarre behaviour” Ronald P. Dore

“Women, too, have a greater variety of best clothes, and now they can begin to afford the extravagance of the Japanese kimono… What to Westerners are simply symbols of Japaneseness, to Shinohata women are symbols of an expensive middle-class way of life which they can only now begin to afford” Another expensive ‘tradition’ that booms while less high status ones die away, Ronald P. Dore

“Gardens are another form of conspicuous display which comes in the same category as kimonos, traditional luxuries which recent affluence has now made possible” It appears money can even explain the Japanese garden… Ronald P. Dore

“They happily wear The Factory’s uniform even on off-duty Sundays; when they come to the shop they loyally spurn the products of rival firms, even though the Factory’s brand may be out of stock” Poor villagers take the Japanese loyalty to the company to new extremes, Ronald P. Dore

“The only woman I have ever met who still had blackened teeth, a curious cosmetic device -or perhaps anti-cosmetic since it was confined to married women- which practically disappeared well before the end of the last century” Ronald P. Dore

“The poorer you were, the less property counted, the more you could afford to live by impulse. But with universal schooling and a rise in living levels the more formal canons of respectability spread from the upper to the lower strata of villagers and formally arranged ‘good matches’ became the norm. The old custom of ‘night-crawling’- teenage boys creeping into a girl’s bedroom at night… gradually died out.” Ronald P. Dore

“Husbands and wives do not touch and fondle each other except for the purposes of- apparently rather perfunctory- sexual congress, or to give comfort in serious illness” Another reason for Japanese mother’s boys? Ronald P. Dore

“The people of Shinohata had never been much aware of being Japanese because no other kind of people had much impinged on their consciousness” Ronald P. Dore

“There are no veterans’ associations to keep alive nostalgia for the war-time camaraderie, and recent nationalist revisionism has not much altered the interpretation of the war which took root in the immediate shock of defeat; it was not just a lost war, and not just a foolish war, but somehow also a guilty war” Ronald P. Dore

“We really believed we were there for China’s sake. But the Chinese weren’t grateful. And we, well, we were all expecting to die, after all. We were all trained not to expect to come back, so it didn’t matter much what you did…. You were doing it on “the other side of death”, you see” WWII veteran, quoted by Ronald P. Dore

“It would be: ‘Everyone face towards the Imperial Palace! Deepest bow!’ Funny, we hardly think about the Emperor nowadays from one year’s end to another, but we did then, that’s for sure. We were always bowing to the Emperor for one thing or the other” Someone who was a school child during WWII, quoted by Ronald P. Dore

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