Japan culture, do you want to know? Chapter 1: Why your Japanese colleague is so quiet in the meeting?

静か ビジネス全般(海外での働き方含む)


Do you have Japanese friends or co-worker, even Japanese manager? Do you live in Japan? Do you want to be Japan in future? Do you want to learn cultural background of Japan animation (Manga)?

You may have tons of reasons why you want to know Japan culture.

Let me introduce myself. I worked for international company and to stay in Singapore.

I’m Japanese, born at local area in Japan, to belong Japanese primary, junior and high school then to enter university in Japan.

My friends/colleagues ask me a lot, why Japanese does ~~~, why she seems like ~~~, what is preference for Japanese.

Started to feel it’s a good timing for sharing how Japanese think? what Japan culture is? why Japanese are different than you?

Why your Japanese colleague so quiet at the meeting?

You may feel like that “Why Japanese are so quiet in the meeting?”.

Sometimes, you may feel odd and wired for your Japanese colleague.

“Is he bad temper?” “Is she tired for something?” and even “She seems like not to have any opinions…”.

However, there is a reason why most of Japanese has a tendency of so quiet in the meeting.

There is 5 typical reasons below

  • Language barrier
  • Hierarchical culture
  • High context cultural background
  • Want to hear the presentation end to end. Don’t jump in during the presentation.
  • Culture of shame

Let me share the details accordingly.

Understanding Cultures through Their Key Words English, Russian, Polish, German, and Japanese【電子書籍】[ Anna Wierzbicka ]

(2022/11/11 11:07時点)

Language barrier

How do you feel my English writing?

You may already know that our Japanese have language barrier.

We spent almost 10 years for leaning English (from junior high school to university) and many Japanese belong to English school with their pocket money.

Then, why we Japanese can’t speak English??

Several reasons here.

Japan is developed country, so only speaking Japanese is sufficient for everybody day to day life. You don’t need English anywhere in Japan. Japanese works perfectly to live in Japan.

You can see Hollywood move with Japanese translation too. (almost simultaneously launch to other developed countries).


But, this is the cause of the language barrier.

Japanese think

Do we need to learn other than Japanese?

Other reason is Japanese grammar is so different than English.

In English, you say

“I want to learn English.”

But, change order the words based on Japanese grammar

“English, want to learn”

Remove, “I” then to upend English like this.

Very different grammar makes difficult our Japanese speak English.

Hierarchical culture

Japanese culture is very hierarchical. So, Japanese tend to be quiet in front of manager.

I had over 10 years of experience as people manager.

I met the situation below.

Imagine, you have a meeting with your Japanese subordinate. you are talking about current project you and team are working on. Then, you need to decide go or no-go decision for the project. So, you have a time for discuss the direction with your subordinate.

“Could you share your opinion?”

You would have a surprising reply below.

“My opinion? You are my manager. I will follow your opinion.”

I can imagine you feel this is exaggerated, but

I had those answers often from my subordinate.

Worst case, your manager never ask your opinion at all….

So, Japanese have had limited opportunity to demonstrate their opinion at the meeting.

So bad, but this is not only the office but started to the classroom from your youthful days.

Good thing is we Japanese are so organized, punctual. But, flip side is we are not mastery for demonstrate our own opinions.

Japanese culture the religious and philoso [ ロジャー・J.デイヴィス ]

(2022/11/11 11:09時点)

High context cultural background

Diversity would be limited in Japan since we are living island, kind of isolated.

We had “Sakoku” in Edo period, Japanese government in Edo not allowed to any interaction with oversea countries.

This unique situation makes Japanese so dense and more mono-culture.

So, we can believe his or her opinion next to you.

This is totally different out of Japan.

Japanese seem that not need to demonstrate their opinion because your person next to you would have similar opinion.

“Why we need to speak up?”

Don’t jump in the presentation

Outside of Japan, to jump in the presentation is normal.

However, it is quite rare.


Because, we think to jump in presentation is not polite way.

“We should hear his/her story because he/she is speaking now. This is not a time to jump in”

“I have questions, but not now. I will ask question after finishing his/her presentation”

But, outside of Japan, people jump in everywhere/every time…

I’m confident how Japanese feel,

“I want to hear full story. Please don’t jump in here and more.”

I know, this is Japan unique phenomenon.

Japanese should change if they work with globally.

I understood fully.

I just wondering if I try to represent Japanese voice in the meeting.

Culture of shame

Very famous words for Japanese is “Culture of shame”. This is contrast to culture of guilt in western countries.

Japanese prioritize high for their “Menzu” which is kind of pride. (not same…)

We are growing up to prioritize not to fail rather than accomplish the success.

If you fail in Japan, it is called “Menzu ga Tsubureru”, it means “lost honor”.

So, Japanese are tend to avoid any fail/false everywhere.

Japanese are not willing to demonstrate their opinion if they are confident it is completely true.

Bit similar to “perfectionism”. But, not same.

Japanese don’t want any fail/false in the meeting.

Mixed up their not perfect English capability, Japanese don’t want to express their opinion more and more.

Culture Hacks Deciphering Differences in American, Chinese, And Japanese Thinking【電子書籍】[ Richard Conrad ]

(2022/11/11 11:09時点)


Now, you understood why Japanese are quiet in the meeting.

One of the solution is “Bringing your Japanese colleague up in the meeting”.

It would be good if you ask your Japanese their opinion often.

You might be able to find good idea from your Japanese colleague those who are very silent in the meeting usually.

Japanese Mind Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture【電子書籍】[ Roger J. Davies ]

(2022/11/11 11:10時点)


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