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JAPAN. UKRAINIAN LOOK

Sociological research among students of Donetsk National University1

The Rising Sun... Stone Garden... Tragic destiny of the Samurai...  "Beauty tinged with sadness"... Sakura and Fujiyama... What is this for Ukrainian mind? Is it simple words or result of the external influence? Why do these words become part of our life in Ukraine? Is it a contribution to the fashion or reflection of our internal world?

Only 20 years ago in Ukraine the image of samurai was the image of war, today – the image of traditions. Why such changes are taking place in the consciousness of people? How do we envisioning Japan? Exotic, traditional, technological? How possibly such different definitions can form harmonious combination with such a little (there is a one another its epithet) country? Why it is unchangingly associated with the same signs, and whether these signs have identical meaning in a different period of time? What is Japan? Is it a country with the unique culture or enormous technological anthill?

This year’s (2005) spring we tried to find answers on these questions by means of sociological research among students of Donetsk National University (Donetsk is the large industrial city of East Ukraine with the population more than 1 million person). Quota sample constituted 510 respondents. Students are the most progressive part of society opened for perception of new information. Therefore it was interesting to take a look on how modern generation of Ukrainians sees Japan. Researching the images of Japan having in the mind of our respondents we selected various components: words, signs, myths, emotions, et. to make images of Japan maximally complete and bright. Let us go through 4 main images of Japan.

The Image 1: TECHNOLOGICAL ANTHILL

Most bright is the economic image (55.64% of those responded). Associations with an Anthill, Mega Polis and even Extraterrestrial People are in the basis of this image of Japan in the mind of the young Ukrainians. Anthill as personification of industriousness, collectivism comes forward as a character of Japanese people. Hi-tech Japan that is in consciousness of students somewhat still remind isolated from the other world, seems to U.F.O. as a all-sufficient, closed, small and highly developed country.

89,39% of respondent students consider that Japan is industrial giant which has great economic influence in the World market. Of course, as the most developed industries respondents mark economy (79.88%) as well as science & technology (79.49%).

On this background it seems to weaker a myth that the goods of the Japanese manufacture are high quality. On this question, as a whole, 57.56% of respondents have given the affirmative answer and 28.29% have given the neutral answers. On the other hand, at present Ukraine the myth about high quality of the Japanese goods is replaced in the mass consciousness by another one: “There are no goods of the Japanese manufacture in Ukraine. More or less that production which is on sale in Ukraine under the Japanese brands, is enough poor quality, as in most cases - a fake”.

The Image 2:

TEA CEREMONY, KIMONO, HARA-KIRI…

41.58% of students link the image of Japan foremost with its cultural image. At the same time, there is a tendency to mix up the Japanese and Chinese cultures. Japan is associated with such words as East, High Culture, Tea Ceremony, Martial Arts, Samurai, Hara-kiri, Geisha, Sake, Kimono. Japanese Culture is described by such epithets as traditional, ancient, loyal, tender, elegant, original, enigmatic, strict, quiet, passionate, modest, stranger, proud, opened, beautiful.

A myth saying that world view of Japanese people absolutely differs from the world view of the Ukrainians is very strong (86.42% of affirmative answers).

In this context it was interesting to look how students perceive Ukrainian and Japanese societies through the mirror of identical indexes. For example, definition «society with strong traditions» is more peculiar to Japanese society (72% to 1% of those who consider this more relevant to Ukrainian society). If we will add to this an index «for both societies equally» we will get 98% on behalf of Japanese society and 27% on behalf of Ukrainian society.

Let’s see the data on other indexes: industriousness, diligence: Japanese society – 47%, Ukrainian society – 5%; respect to senior: Japanese society – 47%, Ukrainian society – 4%; solidarity of people in the society: Japanese society – 40%, Ukrainian society – 11%. We see enough critical perception of Ukrainian society along with idealized pictures of Japan. Possibly, Japan is traditional not so much as such students expecting to see it feeling the lack of traditions in an own culture.

The Image 3:

THE NATION OF «WHITE COLLARS»

How do students perceive images of Japanese people? The image of average Japanese is thirty years old dark-haired thin men of middle height. He wears strict business suits of quiet tones (black, grey, dark blue), light shirts. There is necessarily a brief-case or folder in his hands. Do you feel correspondence with «a man in a white collar» image? Unlike Japanese men Japanese women, as Ukrainian students consider, love bright colors, in particular pink color.

As a whole Japanese people are perceived as rather hardworking and disciplined, clever enough, cultural and purposeful people. Besides they are more likely polite and active enough. At the same time, students perceive Japanese people as rather unsociable, sad and rather closed people. Such qualities as devotion and goodwill, aspiration to the collectivism, peaceful nature are neutrally expressed in Japanese people according to youth’s opinion.

The Image 4: DREAMS ABOUT JAPAN

Political representation of Japan is the weakest one. Insignificant influence on perception of Japan is rendered by Russian-Japanese contradictions. Only 13.39% of respondents suppose that the relations between these countries carry a negative character. 65.15% answer negatively a question whether Russian-Japanese relations influence their perception of Japan. Another 15.52% chose an answer «influence partly». Approximately same amount had difficulty with an answer. The variant «Yes, it is influencing to a great extent» have chosen only by 0.22% of those responded.

Overwhelming majority of students (85.85%) speak out for strengthening the relations between Ukraine and Japan. Such a large percent is explained by positive enough image of Japan among students, and first of all – its economic dimension. In-depth interviews with the students revealed such expressions as: «I would dream, that Japan co-operated with Ukraine in an economic sphere».

Students were offered to choose three spheres in which Japan and Ukraine may develop their relations at most. Absolute majority mentioned scientific and technical developments (78.39%) as well as economic partnership (59.88%). Besides, student exchanges is also a relevant sphere (38.51%). 36.35% of those responded specified the sphere of tourism and another 24.95% mentioned cultural cooperation. At the same time the economic image has reached the limit. Among the spheres about which students wished to know in more details are traditions, culture and art, a life of youth and an everyday life of people.

THE FORCE OF SAMURAI AND THE TENDERNESS OF SAKURA

It is interesting to notice that there are no significant gender distinctions in vision of Japan. I.e. in women’s vision economic appearance is present stronger than cultural. However we could identify in a general image of Japan a «masculine variant» that is the image of samurai and «feminine variant» that is the image of sakura.

A masculine variant considers Japan from the side of its force. In its basis is the red color (the symbol of blood, emotions, strength, fight; color of courage, strong personalities, conquerors); Japanese Flag (red circle on a white background – the symbol of victory); samurai sword (the symbol of bellicosity, force, power) – means safety, protection (in modern time – culture, traditions). A sword bearing physical elimination can be interpreted as a symbol of the Spiritual Source. The Samurai acts as the keeper of traditions, the Japanese Spirit. He determines the perception of Japan as the strong, merciless and mighty empire.

A feminine look on Japan is the state of harmony. It consists of such components as white color (means a cleanness, innocence, life); tree (immortality); flower (the symbol of fleetingness, brevity of life, perfection, innocence, youth). Flowers on trees symbolize transmission of traditions to a new generation. Owing to it the beauty of national culture is kept. Image of sakura is the combination of secret, modesty, obedience in the Japanese character.

Feminine and masculine visions of Japan are present simultaneously in the consciousness of the Ukrainians. Mildness and rudeness, strong emotions at an outwardly quiet kind, bright senses and restraint can be combined simultaneously in the character of Japanese people in opinion of Ukrainian students. The image of Japan is determined by the strength of samurai and piercing beauty of sakura, cruelty and tenderness, red and white colors like a blood on the snow. Like a blood on the flowers of trees.

Irene Demisheva


[1] The research was conducted within the master's degree paper «Japan and Japanese people in political consciousness of population of Ukraine and Russia» (Demisheva Irene, Donetsk National University, Sub-Faculty of political science).

The work has been prepared by author for the publication on "Japanese Page" web site.  The author has given a material for the publication as the volunteer of Dreams Come True Foundation. The assistance in the publication is rendered by Dreams Come True Foundation (Kiev, Ukraine).

ALL PERSONS WHO АRE INTERESTED IN FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE GIVEN THEME AND CONDUCTING SIMILAR RESEARCHES CAN SEND THEIR SUGGESTIONS ON ELECTRONIC ADDRESS:  irina_zimna@ukr.net, irazimna@yandex.ru

 

 

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Last updated: 02/20/18