Japanese Culture


Literally "theories/discussions about the Japanese"

Nihonjinron (日本人論) (literally "theories/discussions about the Japanese") is a genre of texts that focus on issues of Japanese national and cultural identity and how Japan and the Japanese should be understood. The literature is vast, ranging over such varied fields as sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, linguistics, philosophy, biology, chemistry and physics. Though published predominantly in Japan by Japanese, noted examples of the genre have also been penned by foreign scholars, journalists, and residents, and works from this genre have appeared in non-Japanese texts without the context of the trend of which it is a part in Japan.

The concept became popular after World War II, initially including books and articles aiming to analyze, explain, or explore peculiarities of Japanese culture and mentality, usually by comparison with those of Europe and the United States (though other Asian countries increasingly figure in recent works). Such texts share a general vision of what constitutes the uniqueness of Japan, and the term nihonjinron can be employed to refer to this outlook. One may also speak of books written by non-Japanese authors as nihonjinron, insofar as they share, contribute to, or reflect the vision, premises, and perspectives characteristic of the Japanese genre.

In addition to the common generic word nihonjinron, a variety of topical sub-genres exist, divided up by specific theme or subject-matter. For example:

shinfūdoron (新風土論): "new theories on climate" (implying the influence of climate on peoples)
nihonbunkaron (日本文化論): "theories on Japanese culture"
nihonshakairon (日本社会論): "theories on Japanese society"
nihonron (日本論): "theories on Japan"
nihonkeizairon (日本経済論) "theories on the Japanese economy"

According to a survey conducted by Nomura Research Institute (野村総合研究所), 698 books on nihonjinron were published in Japan between 1946 and 1978.