Japanese Culture and Traditions: Can We Be Free from What Others Think?


Can we free ourselves from other people’s values?

Martin Luther said “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” The words first reminded me of wall paintings in Lascaux Cave where Cro-Magnon people tried to express themselves without expecting someone else to see. Martin Luther and Cro-Magnon people taught me that we can free ourselves from other people’s values. Having said that, I still wear neat clothes outside; so ragged ones at home that even Cro-Magnon people would be surprised to see me at home. Their lessons don’t seem to be enough for my independence in clothes choice, but the IT revolution might finally free me.

Steve Jobs, making a presentation in his usual clothes: black turtle-neck knit and jeans.
Source: https://wired.jp/2014/04/25/jobs-and-wozniak-told-in-manga/

We come to judge each other by online information

Less and less people wear neckties. I think the CEOs of the big IT companies, such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. might be one of the reasons for that. Give it a thought. Why do you think the custom of wearing neckties has disappeared? I believe clothes are tools to express ourselves. In a narrow sense, we subconsciously rank people by what they wear. As the IT revolution goes on, personal information floods out. Consequently, we come to rank other people more easily. In exchange for loss of privacy, no longer do we need to buy and wear luxury clothes to try to show ourselves better.

The timeline of our products from 1969 to 1983.

Home is a very private space in Japan

The point would be whether or not furniture plays the same role as clothes. I think the answer is “NO” in Japan, at least. We don’t invite people to home much, and so, all the interior items are basically selected without much care what others think. In Japan, furniture doesn’t work as a tool for self-exhibition, different from clothes. Aren’t you interested in our furniture selected by the Japanese people only for self-satisfaction for half a century?

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.