It is a commonplace today when people not only openly perceive someone else's cultural experience, but at the same time are ready to share their own culture with others. This curiosity and natural interest in different cultural backgrounds is progressively labelled as “interaction of cultures,” or “intercultural communication”.
What is Intercultural Communication?
The paradigm of “intercultural communication” was firstly created by George L. Trager and Edward T. Hall in their work “Culture and Communication: a Model and an Analysis” (1954), who considered intercultural communication as a perfect end goal to which a person shall strive in their desire to better and more efficiently adapt to the world around them. In its essence, intercultural communication is an interpersonal communication in a specific context where stakeholders recognize cultural variables between them.
The two researchers have advanced impressively far in their theoretical advancements of this phenomenon. In particular, they identified its most characteristic features:
1. The FSI (Federal Service Institute) scholars focused on intercultural communication, rather than on macro-level monocultural study, which Hall originally (and unsuccessfully) taught the FSI trainees. Although intercultural communication had roots in anthropology and linguistics, it became quite different from either in the decades following 1955.
2. Nonverbal communication, defined (by Hall) as communication that does not involve the exchange of words. Hall, Trager, and Birdwhistell created the empirical study of various types of nonverbal communication (proxemics, chronemics, and kinesics), setting forth the leads that were followed up by later generations of nonverbal communication scholars.
3. The emphasis, especially in nonverbal communication, was on the out-of-awareness level of information-exchange. Here Hall was influenced by Sigmund Freud, Erich Fromm, and Harry Stack Sullivan (Hall, 1992), and by Raymond Birdwhistell.
4. The approach to intercultural communication accepted cultural differences and was nonjudgemental, reflecting a perspective from anthropological research and training. Here, Hall followed in the footsteps of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict in strongly supporting cultural relativism, the belief that a particular cultural element should only be judged in light of its context (Modell, 1983; Herskovits, 1973).
5. Participatory training methods were necessitated in part because intercultural communication was taught in all-day workshop sessions at the Foreign Service Institute to midcareer trainees who already had extensive experience in the field. Hall and his fellow trainers at the FSI used simulation games, exercises, and other participant-involving methods of experiential instruction.
6. Intercultural communication began as a highly applied type of training, intended to ameliorate the lack of skills of U.S. American diplomats and development technicians.
These six main elements of the paradigm worked out at the Foreign Service Institute generally characterize the field of intercultural communication today as it is taught at U.S. universities (Gudykunst and Kim, 1984/1997), and to some degree in Japan.
The Land of the Rising Sun
While law and morality are the two most powerful regulators of public law and order, in Japan, due to its distinguished socio-cultural context, law has never been considered as the motivational factor in regulatory decision making for both, private and public behavior - in sharp contrast with, for example, the United States, where a legal norm is subject to direct compliance, as a reflection of public values and public control.
Hence, in the U.S. many social problems and disputes will almost inevitably find their solution in court. Business-related corporate and commercial disputes, one way or another, will be filed to a competent court. Lawyers have literally monopolized dispute resolution field, and their influence only expands and extends to all spheres of society, including moral and social aspects: they often look for the legal justification for the execution of certain moral requirements.
In Japan, there is practically no mechanism of mediation, i.e. mediation between private individuals, without judicial intervention. Japanese society is characterized by unwavering trust in its state, therefore the phenomenon of “mediation”, even in a civilian context, is inextricably linked with the formal judicial system. So, all state courts have lists of mediators controlled by national court system.
Another significant distinction is that, unlike solicitors in the UK, for example, lawyers in Japan are not supposed to provide any business advice according to the country’s Attorney Act (Bengoshi-ho). Article 3 of this act specifies an attorney’s role as solely dealing with litigations, legal disputes and “other general legal services”. While the term “other general legal services” is vague, it is generally construed to mean legal work concerning disputes, rather than that involving the giving of business advice.
Most Japanese lawyers lack the skills to provide such business advice. In fact, the mismatch between the legal systems of Japan and other countries has caused many inconveniences, including the limited number of lawyers who meet international requirements.
Symbolism in Legal Profession
On a separate note. Eastern legal culture would not be Eastern culture if it were not paying due attention to symbols and cultural attributes. Japan is well known for its cherished love for symbolism. In this regard, the legal profession has developed its own legal lapel pins for all types of lawyers, from lawyers and prosecutors to judges, administrative and judicial clerks, patent lawyers, tax lawyers and lawyers specializing in labor law and social responsibility.
Labour Law and Social Responsibility