2013-01-11

Japanese vs. Israeli/Jewish modes of communication

Several incidents of the same kind I experienced both directly and indirectly this week have made me realize anew three things: 1) how different and opposed the Japanese and Israeli/Jewish modes of communication are, 2) I definitely prefer the latter, and 3) how happy I am that I do not have to live in a society where the Japanese mode of communication is the norm. Although I was born and brought up in Japan, I never felt at home there in this and other respects. On the other hand, I really feel like a fish in the water, at least in terms of communication, in Israel, regardless of which language I speak.

Differences between these two cultures are so profound and found in virtually every aspect of communication, be it verbal or nonverbal. I would define the most fundamental opposition between them as mutual gratification for fear of being ostracized in society vs. confrontation in search of truth or better understanding for oneself. The difference is probably mutually exclusive and seems to leave little or no room for compromise, i.e., people from these two modes of communication could seldom or never communicate with each other beyong the level of basic daily conversations without being misunderstood and/or offending or being offended.

This difference can be exemplified, among others, by the way someone reacts to his or her interlocutor typically. In the Japanese mode of communication they react by agreeing constantly with each other and even by making every effort to evade any controversial topic which is liable to lead to confrontation, while in the Israeli/Jewish mode of commutation they constantly try to refute each other logically.

The Japanese mode of communication might be pleasing to the ears, but generally speaking, it is often so unbearably boring for me with few or no intellectual stimuli. On the other hand, the Israeli/Jewish mode of communication must be very harsh for someone who has never experienced it, but for someone deeply steeped in it other modes of communication, especially the Japanese mode of communication, seem so "bland".

This mixed sense of boredom with the Japanese mode of communication and of reappreciation of the Israeli/Jewish mode of communication seems to have been intensified as a result of my study of the Talmud at the yeshiva now, in which I am constantly engaged in arguments, counter-arguments, counter-counter-arguments etc. by our Mishnaic and Talmudic sages and my classmates. Although I have studied the Talmud only for three months, I can now detect so easily logical flaws in any argumentation of someone else, especially of those who use the Japanese mode of communication, which is antipodal to the Talmudic method of reasoning.