The great samurai warrior Katsumoto would have his work cut out for him today. He is best remembered for his heroic efforts to protect Japanese culture from Western influences, an issue that is prevalent even in the twenty-first century. Increased globalization is threatening many cultures and languages around the world, and Japan is no exception.
By learning to speak another language, you are doing the world a favor. For all its amazing advances in technology, travel, and communications, globalization has also paved the way for unbridled importing and exporting of culture. Residents of the countries being threatened are becoming increasingly aware of how quickly language and culture can be lost. By learning another language, you make your own contribution to keeping it alive and in use.
Japanese, too, is changing to accommodate the homogenization of popular culture. Words from other languages are now part of everyday conversations. Some would call this progress. Others might say it is a necessary evil. Still others will insist that language reflects culture and vice versa. Moreover, some Japanese fear that westernization is making the Japanese language bland or even corrupted. The polite phrases and manners that were once standard Japanese are absent from many young people's speech today.
Here is where you can help: By learning Japanese the way it is spoken now, you will be perpetuating the beauty of this ancient tongue. Not only that, but by speaking Japanese in Japan to Japanese people, you may inspire the natives to start protecting their endangered culture.
Hearing a foreigner use the proper words for presenting a gift, give an eloquent self-introduction, or enunciate a beautifully indirect “no” with ease makes native speakers proud of their language. Seeing a Westerner bow appropriately, hold chopsticks correctly, or relish dancing the local folk-dance at a festival reminds Japanese people of the importance of their history. Who knows, you may inspire a revival of some of the “old ways.”
If you are traveling, it's important to remember that the more you know of the country, people, culture, and language, the more you get out of your trip. Being able to order the best sushi or the house specialty can make all the difference. You may not be able to decipher your friends' tattoos, but you will be able to identify them as
Adopting some aspects of this intricate, amazing culture into your own life can't hurt, either. Who would object to a little more modesty, politeness, and consideration in their daily life? This book is an exercise in the preservation of some of those phrases that make life a little more pleasant. You may be surprised how much learning and speaking Japanese can influence your thoughts, behavior, and communication style. So what are you waiting for?