Japanese myths – Hard work and saving come naturally


“Japan is good example of the problems based on immutable culture. The Japanese are renowned today for their high savings rates, for their discipline and commitment to hard work and high quality. But a century ago, Japan’ savings rates were far lower than in the West. Likewise, foreigners used to be firmly agreed on the laziness and incompetence of Japanese workers. In 1881, a foreigner wrote in a Yokohama newspaper: ‘The Japanese are a happy race, and being content with little are not likely to achieve much.’ As late as 1915, an Australian expert told the Japanese government: ‘My impression as to your cheap labour was soon disillusioned when I saw your people at work. No doubt they are lowly paid, but the return is equally so; to see men at work made me feel that you are very satisfied, easygoing race who reckon time is no object. When I spoke to some managers they informed me that it was impossible to change the habits of national heritage.”

Thunder from the East page 132

The question then is, in good JapanExplained style, why the change happened. Mainly, it was a fabulous piece of social engineering where the government, starting in Meiji times, made up a version of the samurai spirit and convinced the whole country that it was their duty to live up to it, despite the peasant, merchant and later working class cultures having had nothing in common with it.

For more common bollocks about Japan, see here.

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