Japanese people are seriously bad at insisting on own opinions during discussion. This is one of the representative features of Japanese people which foreigners may feel Japanese people are really shy.
However, in the first place, we Japanese can’t even talk our own mind to each other. If being said something by elders and betters, Japanese people tend to become a yes-man to give way on every side to elders and betters witout insisting on their opinions. It is the Japanese typical charactor that a junior person refrains from mentioning own ideas to a senior person because of giving too much importance to the hierarchical relationship.
A word of “shy” means nervous and embarrassed about meeting and speaking to other people. I want to reveal my thoughts whether or not the reason that Japanese people conceal their own true thoughts and hesitate to reveal themselves to others is that Japanese people are shy.
Japan is a village society. Cooperating with each other in a village society, villagers listen to what the village head man is saying with silence and do as they are told and understand implicit rules. If raising an objection to the plan or the policy that is decided by all villager’s consensus, the objector ends up being ostracized. Traces of Japanese village society’s custom once existed before remains in the form of “peer pressure” nowadays.
Japanese high shchool students’ fellowship is a good example of the epitome of Japanese village society. The text message app, “LINE” is popular among high shool stidents as an online communication tool. Ironically, this app forms Japanese village society. For example, if there are certain implicit rules among them like if you receive text message from someone, you must reply your message back, a person who break the rules becomes the target of getting harsh harassed by other students united under fellowship.
We can see the same composition in the grow-ups society in Japan as well. You may have heard about the Japanese unique organization culture that workers are practically forced to go out drinking or go on a pub crawl with their bosses after work. Though Japanese people have come to respect personal free time after work these days, there are still companies with outdated characteristics that encourage employees to go out drinking with collegues and seniors after work in order to deepen their communication in each section. In such a company, going out drinking with collegues and bosses are one of the implicit rules that all workers are required to keep.
If you turned down this drinking offer and don’t attend the drinking party after work for your personal reasons, it would have a bad effect on your work like someone would disturb your work or some of your collegues don’t support you on the job.
In short, having fellowship with others and weighing more importance on time with fellows than time with a family is the Japanese spirit. Non-Japanese people may feel that Japanese people are really shy but Japanese people believe that “modest personality” without strongly insisting on their opnions directly leads to being well-groomed as a grow-up and keeping a decent form to the Japanese society. So, this factor flustrate them to bravely make a step forward with all their hearts.
For example, Japanese don’t basically have such common sense to sue a company they work for because individual achievements made in the same boat as a “company” all belong to a company’s achievement. So, even though your achievement is highly evaluated in the company, evaluating your achievement fairly by giving you high reward and making you assume a special position is not traditional Japanese corporate culture. Actually, on a Japanese business card, the name of the company and worker’s title or job description are printed first before worker’s name. Compared to a western business card that strongly emphasizes worker’s name in the middle, it is totally opposite.
This Japanese business card style may implicitly show us company’s thoughts like “your every single achievement is depending largely on company’s supports. If you have as great confidence as you want to put your name in the middle of the business card largely, you just open your business by yourself.”
Reading company’s policy and singing a company’s song at the morning assembly means to pledge their loyalty to the company and admonish employees against being self-righteous. This is because Japanese companies tend to have resistance on granting employees a certain scope of authority and focusing on exploiting individual ability to the maximum.
The reason that Japanese CEO’s remuneration is overwhelmingly smaller than that of western CEO’s is that a Japanese CEO is only the head of the management association and important decisions tend to be often made by the concensus of board of directors. So, Japanese CEO’s scope of authority and responsibility is limited compared to other countries’ CEOs.
If you hear that a historical hero existed once in Japanese history, there might have been someone who was set up as a hero regionally with people’s personal subjective preferences. However, there should be no one historically, who is recognized by anyone as a hero in Japan. This is Japaneseness, whose society does not create one man above or below another man.
From the objective viewpoint, it is possible to regard successive emperors as a hero. The successive emperors of Japan have made Japanese naitons keep having the thoughts of awe for long time and the emperors have been paid attention as existence of awe by people in any era. Which means, the reason that Japanese people are shy is that no one can exceed the emperor of Japan in many ways.
It is quite difficult for non-Japanese people to understand only the surface knowlege of Japanese very unique culture because there are still a lot of things that even we Japanese also don’t understand our characteristic and culture itself. However the one thing I can tell you for sure is that a word of “shy” imagined by Japanese is clearly different from a word of “shy” imagined by western people.