Japanese Heritage: Community, Tradition and Discipline

A visit to Japan and an exploration of traditions and values


Photos: Ian Teraoka

Going back to Japan always reminds me of my heritage. Being a Japanese American, I believe it’s important to stay connected with your culture, and the values your family was raised on. As I spent time in Japan, I was reconnected with some of these values that I believe give Japan its unique culture.

Japan values community. In Japanese, the way you often speak to someone relies on the relationship. The concept of community is ingrained in Japanese culture - you’ll often see people taking their jobs very seriously, even jobs seemingly menial. Each person has a part to play, and it’s their job to do the best they can to better the community as a whole. The concept of wa (和) is the feeling of harmony in a group, with everyone doing their part in society.

Japan values tradition. While roaming the streets of Tokyo, you find a wonderful mix of old and new. Skyscrapers and new buildings mesh with the plethora of temples thousands of years old, and you’ll often find small shrines entangled with the modern day urban jungle, dedicated to those now long passed. You see people in traditional attire walking the streets, sitting at modern day coffee shops.

Japan values discipline. Many Japanese stores you’ll find will have little variety to offer, but the one thing they do offer is done almost to perfection. They are proud of what they do, and commit themselves to a self-discipline that is driven by inner strength. From a young age, they are taught to value 頑張る (effort) and 我慢 (endurance) to achieve their goals, knowing that hard work trumps talent.

Ian is a photographer, designer, dancer, and coffee lover. He uses his photography to explore the world, express feelings, and meet people. He strives to elevate creativity, and show the world how design and art can shape communities and see the world in a different way.