via Daily Prompt: Culture

Human species is extraordinarily diverse. Not just in terms of genetics and ethnicity, but also in terms of ideological, social, economic and cultural  approaches. However, beneath all the obvious, superficial differences lie a few striking similarities that run as common threads among various civilizations. These shared commonalities may be due to long history of mutual support and communication, or might have developed separately in parallel, without any particular outside influence.

Thus, we can always find some resemblance between two distinct cultures.  Here, I shall point out five striking similarities I’ve observed between the culture of my motherland, India, and that of one of my favourite countries – Japan.

Itsukushima Shrine torii gate

Image from Public Domain : Itsukushima Shrine torii gate by Joe deSousa

Before I explain further, I have a confession to make. Almost all of my existing knowledge about the Japanese culture is from the anime/manga I’ve watched/read. Therefore, I cannot claim to have accurate awareness about the culture of ‘The Land of The Rising Sun’. Hence, kindly excuse me and point out any wrong conclusion I make here. 🙂

Ganga River, Varanasi, India

Image from Public Domain : Ganga River, Varanasi, India by  PIVISO

Similarity # 1 : Honorifics

The Japanese have a well- developed system of hierarchy and use of honorifics, such as ‘-san’, ‘-sama’ for a noble person, ‘sensei’ for teacher, etc.. India too has a system of using honorifics. However, the main difference between the two cultures in this regard is that unlike the Japanese who have an established, common system throughout the country, the use of honorifics vary across the length and breadth of India. This is mainly due to the existence of numerous vernacular languages. Some examples of Indian honorifics include ‘Shri’ for a man (Sanskrit), ‘ji’ for all (Hindi) , Pandit for a scholar (similar to Sensei) , and ‘Sadguru’ for religious leader.

Similarity # 2 : Respect to elders

Both the cultures give a huge emphasis on expressing respect to elders, especially senior citizens.  In India it is expressed by touching the elder’s feet for blessings. In Japan, the expression is through deep bows, care and words. Joint family systems are common in both, and the oldest member is often the head of the family.

Similarity # 3 : Conservative society

The Japanese and the Indian cultures might seem pretty conservative to the western world. And they are. Public displays of affection is often scorned at in most parts of India, and not so welcome in Japan. Hugs and kisses (between opposite genders) as casual greetings  are a big ‘NO – NO’ in both countries.

Similarity # 4 : Martial arts

The Japanese connection to martial arts is very obvious, considering how the Samurai culture is well known across the globe. What is not known much to the western world is the rich martial history of India.  While the Japanese have kendo , judo and karate (and many others ), the Indians have ‘kalari’ (often called the ‘Mother of Martial arts’ ) , silambam and gatka (and many others as well ). The interesting part here is that the martial art forms of both cultures share a lot of similarities, owing to cultural exchange that mainly happened through Buddhist monks.

Similarity # 5 : Local deities

Wherever you go in India, you would find a new God or Goddess. Local shrines and deities are part of Indian society. So it is for the Japanese. Both cultures have a rich history of worshipping nature, attributing divinely qualities to rivers, mountains, trees, etc.., often personifying them.