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
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
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,
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
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
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.
The research was conducted within the master's degree paper «Japan and Japanese
people in political consciousness of population of Ukraine and Russia» (Demisheva
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,
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