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The Learning Conference 2003

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Cross-Cultural Communication Experiences and Perceptions of Australian Students Living in Japan. The Japanese Communicative Style: Contexts, Embedded Stereotypes and Transition

Tsuneiko Nawano, John Annakis.

Cross-Cultural Communication experiences and perceptions of Australian students living in Japan. The Japanese communicative style: Contexts, embedded stereotypes and transition.


“Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know”
A Japanese proverb cited by Kaz Okazaki & Suella Mair (1998)

In Japan eloquent and articulate persons are often thought not to be trust-worthy and the Japanese communicative style has been regarded as mysterious by many so-called Japanologists. According to Loveday (1986: 112) “The Japanese have been labelled as ‘inscrutable Orientals’, their communicative world shrouded in mystery, suspicion and supposed impenetrability.” It was described by Irwin (1996) as unfathomable.

The purpose of this paper was to primarily review the literature on cross-cultural communication between Japanese and English speaking cultures and identify sources of differences which are embedded in various contexts such as history, culture, education, business and general society. Twenty-one Australian students and one American student who have lived in Japan more than six months and who can communicate reasonably well in the Japanese language were interviewed and were asked how they perceived Japanese communicative style. The perceptions of the Japanese Communicative Style as identified by mainstream literature as being collectivist, ritualistic and high context in culture correlated closely to the perceptions of students sampled in this research. More importantly this research has identified some contrasting factors to past mainstream literature on this topic, in particular differences in the Japanese Communicative style when you consider formal and informal settings, age factor and geographical regional factors. The authors suggest that the Japanese Communicative style is in transition.


Tsuneiko Nawano  (Australia)
School of Business
Swinburne University of TEchnology

Mr Tsunehiko Nawano
BEd Kyoto University of Education (Japan)
MEd Griffith University

My specialist areas are in Japanese society and culture, in particular bi-culturalism, and foreign language teaching methodology. I lecture in Japanese language and am devoted to improving teaching materials and delivery, including interactive reading and listening packages for the web. I am currently carrying out research in cross-cultural communication, particularly related to the business environment.

Secon Author

John Annakis
BA (Soc Sci) Latrobe
Grad Dip Urb Policy & Research SUT

My areas of teaching and research include cross cultural management, knowledge management, industrial relations and organisational change
My Phd research is in the area of flexibility and surveillance in call centres.

John Annakis

John Annakis – Lecturer in Human Resource Management/Organisational Behaviour
Swinburne University of Technology

  • Japanese Communicative Style
  • Collectivist
  • Communitarianism
  • Ritualistic
  • High Context
  • Wa and harmony

(30 min Conference Paper, English)