The Japanese Language as a Vehicle of Dynamic Japanese Culture
Japan is a modernized and Westernized country; at the same time it is developing a distinct indigenous culture that is unique and different from other countries. Japanese modern culture is known as a mixture of Shinto, Buddhism, Confucian ethics, and Western ideologies. With its sophisticated cultural presuppositions, Japanese verbal and non-verbal behaviour is often considered hard to comprehend. Canadian students are often fascinated by the Japanese religious beliefs of both Shinto and Buddhism, in ethics by the practice of frugality in a materially abundant society, in economy by the huge price gap in sales from high priced thick silk kimonos to the one-dollar sale of a cotton dress of Paris fashion, in popular culture by the life of geisha girls in Kyoto and other big cities. The Japanese pop culture that enters the Western world known as soft power is ubiquitous, such as sushi, Sapporo beer, manga, Hello Kitty, etc. Vice versa, more and more English words have entered the Japanese modern language in katakana transcription. However, there are Japanese expressions that do not find an equivalency in English, French and other European languages, such as the 4-kanji word Mizuko Jizō (guardian deity of the unborn). One of the characteristics of Japanese language communication is communication by just silence, i.e. saying very little, or even nothing. Such communication style can be understood in the sense of "silence is golden". In the context of language and literacy education, this article discusses the understanding of Japanese culture as sophisticated and changing over time - an important concept for guiding the research, teaching and learning about modern Japan and the Japanese people.