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This report investigates Japanese cultural variables and the opportunities and threats of Monash University entering the Japanese. This report looks at Japan cultural elements and behaviour.
It primary purpose is to recommend Monash University of entering Japan. Based on the findings of this research, it is concluded that Japan culture is very much different from Australia and is not easy to enter a market where education is closely related to culture.
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The purpose of this report is to recommend Monash University on whether or not to expand their business into Japan, while also investigating the constraints of Japan’s culture.
In investigating and recommending entry to Japan with the focus on its culture, the report considers Japan’s elements of culture and its effect on Japanese behaviour. It will also look at the implications of culture if Monash were to expand to Japan.
In order to complete the report, secondary data comprising of reference books and Internet resources was used.
The limitations of the report relates mainly with dealing with secondary data and the time frame set for the completion of this report.
In preparing the report, it was assumed that the data and information obtained through secondary sources are valid and accurate. It is also assumed that the reader is aware Australian culture as discussion about Australia is beyond the scope of this report.
Monash University was named after a prominent Australian, Sir John Monash. Monash has grown from a single campus at Clayton to six campuses in Australia, one in Malaysia and one in South Africa. Continuing its expansion strategy, it is now considering the expansion to Japan.
Japan while retaining its time-honoured culture, rapidly absorbed Western technology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After its devastating defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become the second most powerful economy in the world and a firm ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major slowdown in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth (www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ja.html). With a population of 126,771,662 (July 2001 est.), which highly values education, presents Monash with great opportunities.
To fully understand the Japanese business opportunities it is important to gain an understanding of the society that spawned it.
Individuals, families and groups
Morgan & Morgan (1997) highlights the stark contrast between Western and Japan social cultures. While western countries like Australia, United States and the United Kingdom individuality and independence are highly valued, Japanese society is group orientated. While most would agree that Japan is a group-oriented society, Rohlen & Le Tendre (1996) points out that the foundation of their group orientation is a direct result of their importance of developing human relations within their communities.
Before the introduction of Chinese influence on Japan in the sixteenth century, Japan did not have a stratified society. Confucianism was introduced to Japan by the Chinese and taught of harmony among heaven, nature, and human society achieved through each person’s accepting his or her social role and contributing to the social order by proper behaviour (http://memory.loc.gov/cgibin/query/r?frd/cstdy: @field(DOCID+jp0075). Confucian in his essay “Da Xue” (The Great Learning) explains, “Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy”. This give rise to high level of stratification and created a status hierarchy in Japan that defines the social interaction with one another due to distinction in age or seniority, gender, educational attainment, origins, and place of employment.
The higher the social stratification, the lower the social mobility (Mahoney et al, 2001). Therefore as a highly stratified society, individuals generally have difficulties in moving from one stratum of society to another. This causes gender inequality, discrimination in the workplace and ethnicity.
Although the Japanese writing system is heavily borrowed from the Chinese, the origins of the spoken language are unknown. Their language and communication styles of Japan differ greatly from Australians. The Japanese languages are high in context, which corresponds with their emphasis on the value placed on interpersonal relations, and are very concerned about saving face. Some of the differences are:
Silence: In conversations, Japan are much more than the West to be comfortable with silences. It is many used for reflective thought and appropriateness of timing.
Indirect and ambiguous: Japanese are ambiguous in their speech, especially when communicating negatives to be polite.
Face saving: Japanese does not like to be put in the position of being embarrassed especially through mistakes and failures. Japanese respect each other in this regard and avoid causing public humiliation to anyone.
Eye contact: Holding eye contact is regarded as rude.
“Yes” and nodding means “I hear”: During conversations, Japanese says, “yes” meaning that they hear and understanding the speaker. They do not literally mean “Yes, I agree with you”.
In addition, their body language and gestures are significantly different from Australia. For example their body language is formal and rigid; although they may smile a lot they have little facial expression and their gestures means different to Australians.
Japan has many religion including Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity and various other ‘New Religions’. The main religions practised are Shinto and Buddhism (84%), and others (16%) including Christian (0.7%) (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ja.html).
The roots of the Japanese worldview can be traced to several traditions. Shinto, the only indigenous religion of Japan, provided the base. Confucianism (not a religion), from China, provided concepts of hierarchy, loyalty, and the emperor as the son of heaven. Daoism, also from China, helped give order and sanction to the system of government implied in Shinto. Buddhism brought with it not only its contemplative religious aspects but also a developed culture of art and temples, which had a considerable role in public life. Christianity brought an infusion of Western ideas, particularly those involving social justice and reform (http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r? frd/cstdy: @field(DOCID+jp0077)).
Time is expendable to Japanese, especially when it comes to forming relationships before doing business. This relationship building can drag on for months. This laid-back approach may frustrate Australian who like to get to business.
Japan is a country with very few natural resources, but one: its people. As a result, its education system has been considered by many to be the key to economic growth (Bowring & Kornickt, 1993). After family ties, schooling is the most important determinant of social class and employment opportunities for Japanese. Education moulds children into group-oriented beings by demanding uniformity and conformity from the earliest ages. The attainment of excellence within this complex environment, and the importance it holds for one’s future is stressed early (Morgan & Morgan, 1991, pg 22).
Japanese primary and secondary schools prepare students to take a nationwide university entrance exam. The top-scoring students gain entrance to only a handful of prestigious universities notably Tokyo University or the Kyoto University (Mahoney et al, 2001, pg 394). Although there are many universities and educational institutions in Japan, the competition to enter the prestigious universities are fierce, because top employment can be assured due to high demand of quality recruits required by top high status employers (Bowring & Kornickt, 1993, pg 247).
Such intense competition means that many students cannot compete successfully for admission to the college of their choice. These students, called ‘ronin’ – a term which refers back to the masterless samurai of the Tokugawa period (Bowring & Kornickt, 1993, pg 247) – will usually attempt the entrance examinations again the following year, and in some cases make several attempts after more subsequent failures.
Mahoney et al (2001) stated that a Japanese’s status depends on the status to which he or she belongs. Attendance at an elite university such as Tokyo University or an employment at a big firm, grants one high status in Japanese society. Other factors such as seniority, family history and gender also determines one’s status. Gercik (1992) explains the importance of when a Japanese gives out his business card, the business card tells of a person’s achievements and status which is meant to command respect.
Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede identified five dimensions that different cultures have at certain degrees. Although the mythologies of Hofstede’s research are inconclusive, his studies are still highly valued in the study of cultural behaviour.
The following are Japan’s cultural dimensions based on Japan’s elements of culture discussed above.
Japan social orientation is collectivism; they place relative importance on the interests of the group rather than the individual. Japanese as mentioned earlier, focuses on developing and maintaining relationships with its communities. To maintain good relationships, there are obligations to maintain harmony and respect within the group. This apparent in the language and communication, where their language is highly context and is used with care to not damage relationships or cause embarrassment.
Japan’s hierarchy of occupation status, education, seniority, gender and family history makes it power respect orientation. Children are brought up to be obedient to their parents and seniority. And at the workplace subordinates are expect to do what they are told and respect their superiors. But because of Japanese high hierarchy, there are inequalities between the society and the workplace especially in seniority and gender status. .
As Mahoney highlights, Japanese are uncertainty-avoidance orientated and collectivist, and it is reflected in the workplace where Japanese firms offer lifetime employment. This could also explain why their students work hard to get into good universities; they are trying to avoid the uncertainty of not getting good career opportunities.
Many Japanese have aggressive goal behaviour; the stress on achievement from early childhood and are very competitive in education and business. Because of the high competitiveness of education, being the best student is the norm, which leads to high rewards for high academic performance. Unsuccessful applicants to prestigious universities will even be prepared spend years as ronins to repeat the examinations year after year. Some parents are even willing to help their child cheat the examinations to gain entrance to the universities because if successful, it will assured them a place in a good job.
Due to influences in Confucian, Japanese have a long-term outlook. They are willing to study hard to gain academic status and when in business, emphasis is placed on developing lasting relationships with business partners rather than to get a quick profit.
Although Japan has many universities, colleges and vocational schools, it lacks high quality prestigious university that meets the standards of students and employers. And as Japanese highly value education, demand for superior quality education is strong. Assuming Monash University is a high quality institution and Japan has relaxed international trade restrictions, Monash will be welcomed with open arms by Japan. And Monash having a English background could be an incentive for Japanese students who wishes to acquire knowledge about western culture to enhance their international career prospects.
While there are demand of high quality education, Monash is from an Anglo cultural cluster and will have difficulties in adapting its services and organisation to Japan’s culture. Japan’s uncertainty
orientation will cause scepticism towards new foreign universities that haven’t proven their worthiness.
There will most likely be conflict between Australian’s and Japan’s social structure and language communication causing misunderstand and confusion among human resource managements and students. Australia’s social structure towards individualism will be incompatible to Japan’s nationwide collectivism.
Overall Japan and Australia are from two very different cultural clusters which makes customising a service harder than customising a product to different cultures.
Japan culture is very conservative and is strongly focused on building strong relationships with one another, which makes them very group orientated. Japan’s culture is very different from Monash’s Australian culture. Culture in deeply imbued into education and education cannot easily be accepted if it conflicts with their countries culture.
Throughout the report, there obvious contrasts between Japan’s and Australian culture (Details of Australian culture is not discuss here).
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