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    Osekkai ("Mind Your Own Business")

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    Kyouri Kai
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    Osekkai ("Mind Your Own Business")

    Post by Kyouri Kai on Fri 22 Feb 2008, 2:33 pm

    Japanese society has two concurrent streams that frequently bump heads and the result as you can guess is tension and stress. One current is protecting your own privacy, following your dream, and doing things your own way at your own pace. Facing this is the overwhelming social pressure to conform, follow the rules, and make sure everyone else is in the same boat as you. With big Japanese cities having extemely high population densities, personal space is scarce, and with little space in front of you many Japanese retreat to the only space they can; inside their heads. Becoming introverted, shy and withdrawn is not atypical. There are exceptions to this of course; some young people love to associate with westerners because of this and they can more freely express themselves and not have to worry about being looked down as too gregarious. Liquor consumption is also high in Japan and used as a social lubricant to loosen up. But privacy in Japan is a precious commodity, more for cultural than demographic reasons, and nobody likes someone to butt into your life.

    Unfortunately pushing everyone to conform often does just that, and many Japanese take it upon themselves to make sure everyone is in lock-step with one another. Most often, like many things in Japan it is done indirectly, such as through gossiping, backbiting and meddling. Hence in Japanese there's a plethora of terms referring to a nosy busybody, such as osekkai, sewa yaki, kansho-zuki, yakkai na sewa, and deshabari. This is viewed in different ways of course. In the ivory tower books on Japan there is the company superior who is also your counselor, paving your way to a better future, getting that reservation at a popular place or bank loan for you, etc. But there may also be the company autocrat who tries to know everything about you to manipulate you or run your social life, and for women can even cross the line into sexual harassment (seku hara).

    taken from Japanese Culture: A Primer for Newcomers