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Lesson Transcript


Becky: Hello, and welcome to JapanesePod101.com. This is Introduction to Business Culture, Lesson 1, Values Underlying Japanese Business Culture. In this lesson, we’ll teach you about Japanese business culture and introduce some important keywords. I’m Becky.
Risa: ...and I’m Risa
Becky: In any society, there are unique cultural features, customs, and values that are hidden from view. However, these hidden values show up in everyday life and daily conversations and are second nature to people who are born and live in that culture. Perhaps these differences may make you feel perplexed when interacting with Japanese people.
Risa: But if you understood them, you wouldn’t need to worry so much.
Becky: Yes, and then your interactions with your Japanese business partners would be smoother and more rewarding.
Becky: In this lesson, we'll introduce three basic Japanese cultural values, which are also important in the business world. Risa, what are these three values?
Risa: First, we have 先輩後輩 (senpai kōhai)...
Becky: ...which is the “seniority system.”
Risa: Next is 連帯意識 (rentai ishiki).
Becky: The “sense of solidarity” or “teamwork.”
Risa: Then, we have うち・そと (uchi soto)...
Becky: ...which can be translated as “the logic of the ingroup versus the outgroup.”

Lesson focus

Becky: Let’s first talk about the seniority system! As you may already know, in Japan, young people respect their elders and their superiors. Risa, why is that?
Risa: Well, the person born earlier has more experience.
Becky: So they have plenty of things that they can teach to their juniors, because of that experience.
Risa: That’s right. Even the word "teacher"( 先生 sensei) literally means “born before.”
Becky: This seniority system starts at school, so it’s something that Japanese people experience all of their lives. That’s why it’s so ingrained in the culture. Students refer to their older friends as “seniors” or...
Risa: ...先輩 senpai...
Becky: ...and younger friends as “juniors”...
Risa: ...後輩 kōhai.
Becky: This means that younger people show deference to their seniors. They ask them for advice and follow the lead of their seniors.
Risa: That’s right! This applies even if there is only 1 year difference!
Becky: I see. Going back to the business world, we can find the same system inside companies. People with more years of experience can be called “seniors” and people with less experience “juniors.”
Risa: For example, you can hear things like 先輩社員から飲み会に誘われた。 (Senpai shain kara nomikai ni sasowareta)...
Becky: ...which means, “I was invited by my senior employee to a drinking party.”
Risa: Japanese people think 先輩 (senpai) should be respected.
Becky: This is because seniors were born earlier and have more experience, so they’re like teachers. It’s good manners to receive and follow guidance from "seniors." This holds true in any situation, such as at school or at work. For example, if you have trouble, you should consult your seniors and find a solution.
Becky: Next is the “sense of solidarity” or...
Risa: ...連帯意識 (rentai ishiki).
Becky: Sometimes, on social media, we can see Japanese children cleaning classrooms or preparing lunch together; this is related to the “sense of solidarity,” right?
Risa: Right. In Japan, from childhood, we act as groups.
Becky: Through this, people learn the sense of solidarity. This is reflected in the business world, too, as companies need a consensus inside the organization to make a decision.
Risa: Companies in Japan have a hierarchy.
Becky: If an employee at the lower level has an idea, their idea will get sent to the relevant departments for approval.
Risa: It also gets sent up.
Becky: Right, after receiving approval from the relevant department, the seniors at the top of the pyramid then get to decide.
Risa: This takes time to do.
Becky: But because so many people have checked it and approved it, once it’s approved, it won’t be changed. This can be seen in the phrase--
Risa: 社に持ち帰って検討します。(Sha ni mochikaette kentō shimasu.)
Becky: ...which means, "I'll take it back to the company and examine it.” The individual won’t make the decision, because this committee-style system is the norm.
Becky: Finally, we have the “the logic of the ingroup versus the outgroup,” or...
Risa: うち・そと (uchi soto).
Becky: “One's home” is often called...
Risa: ...うち (uchi)...
Becky: ...which also means "inside." Its opposite, “outside,” is...
Risa: ...そと (soto).
Becky: These terms can also be applied to your family.
Risa: Yes, one's family are うち (uchi)...
Becky: ...and others are...
Risa: そと (soto).
Becky: Even in a business setting, when you talk to people from other companies, your co-workers are the ingroup.
Risa: Right, your family and colleagues are in your group.
Becky: So they are treated as "yourself" when you talk to people outside of your group. How does this apply to everyday life?
Risa: In Japan, it is common to add "san" to a name.
Becky: For example, if you want to say “Mr. Tanaka,” you’d say...
Risa: ...田中さん (Tanaka-san).
Becky: In a business setting, you can add someone’s work title, for example “department manager” is...
Risa: ...部長 (buchō). For example, you can say 田中部長 (Tanaka-buchō).
Becky: If you are referring to the president of a company, you would say...
Risa: 社長 (shachō). For example, you could say 田中社長 (Tanaka-shachō).
Becky: But, be careful. When introducing someone from your company to people from other companies, you shouldn’t do this.
Risa: Because they are part of your group.
Becky: Just like when you introduce yourself, you cannot add any honorifics or titles to your company. Instead, you should say...
Risa: ...こちらは当社の社長、ブレアです。(Kochira wa tōsha no shachō, Burea desu.)...
Becky: ...which means, "This is our company president, Blair." In other words, you can’t call your president "President Blair" or...
Risa: ブレア社長 (Burea shachō).
Becky: You should just say...
Risa: ...ブレアです。(Burea desu.)
Becky: This is Blair.


Becky: Those are the key facts about three of the most important Japanese cultural values. If you want to find the related Japanese keywords, make sure to check out the lesson notes.
Becky: Okay, that’s all for this lesson. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
Risa: Bye!