When the Titanic was about to sink, the captain let the women and children board the boats first.At that moment the captain persuaded the men to remain on board by saying to the English men, “Gentlemen know that ladies go first,” to the Americans, “Now, you can be heroes,” to the Germans, “This is the rule” and to the Japanese he said, “Everybody does so.”
This is a famous joke, but it accurately depicts the Japanese character. As a homogenous island race, Japanese feel comfortable acting in the same way as others and uncomfortable about being perceived as being different. In other words, they are anxious about how they are perceived by others, even what their neighbors and co-workers think of them, and what foreign people think of Japan.
It could be said that the recent “furikome swindle” took advantage of this Japanese characteristic. A phone call from someone masquerading as a lawyer saying, “Your son embezzled money from his work place, but if you return the money on his behalf right now, it can be settled without going to court,” led to thousands of parents paying the requested money. It is unbearable for Japanese to think that he and his family members may be stigmatized by their neighbors.
It also seems that the reason why Japanese women are very keen on fashion comes from not wanting to be thought of as being unfashionable by others, and that it is this that creates the phenomenon where they flock to buy designer-brand goods.