Self-Help Groups in Japan : Trends and Traditions
Western concepts of self-help were developed in unique Western culture : in Judeo-Christian, individualistic, and pluralistic culture. To use these concepts in Japanese culture effectively, we remove peculiar cultural factors from them, and identify basic elements and processes of self-help groups which are universally effective in various cultures. They are sponteneous sharing [wakachiai], individual independence [hitoridachi], and emancipation from suppression [tokihanachi]. However, Japan's long history of isolation and feudal suppression generated peculiar groupism or group-oriented culture. The basic elements and processes of self-help groups are prone to be distorted by Japan's group-oriented culture, which values emotional cohesiveness, non-individualism, homogeneity, hierarchy, and the particular patterns of their social behaviors. Additionally, we identify political obstacles to the development of self-help groups in Japan-they are lack of pluralism and centralization of administrative power. People avoid becoming political minorities under the cultural pressure, and they have respect for the governmental authorities.