As I said in my last post, about the Japanese system very much working on a vertical level (from old to young, or mostly time working somewhere which is usually along the general guidelines of old to young), and from this next bit you can conclude that his usually seems to be very similar to feudal relationships, and therefore no matter how modern they may seem on the outside, they are still very traditional on the inside. This is very deceptive to most people!!
To take this vertical relationship even further, in most companies and organizations there is a ^ shape with the boss (a) communicating with subordinate 1 (b) or subordinate 2 (c) but b and c never really communicate with each other, like a bottomless triangle.
This means that there can only ever be 1 leader – there is no such thing as parallels or joint leaders. At this point the book goes into detail about oyabun and kobun.
Most Japanese have many sempai – the name for older people they respect and look up to. But out of these someone will usually become an oyabun – someone who guides the younger person though their life and will make difficult decisions for them. If the oyabun doesn’t agree the kobun (younger counterpart) will not do it either. Not everyone is an oyabun, and it doesn’t mean too much if you don’t have one, but very few have don’t have an oyabun (but there is only ever 1 oyabun, never more). Being such a lone wolf (called ippikikan) is very difficult in Japanese society.
So back to the image of the triangle without a base. The supreme importance of the leader in this figure is to prevent it from breaking. This triangular shape without a base is very prone to instability and subsequent fission. Once the leader goes away (leaves, or passes away) Each leg, i.e. b and c, usually breaks away and takes their kobun with them – b or c, based on seniority in terms of years working for the company will take the lead and one will leave.
Another reason fission could occur is because a part is displeased. In Japan, a man gets on top by seniority, and unless you are on top, it is very rare to get public appraisal – to get on top you either wait your turn or you leave. No individual popularity from outside the company (e.g. for being really good at something, popularity from another school or company etc) should exceed that of your senior or boss.
Enlargement of a company will lead to vertical attachments – keeping the same structural characteristics as before. The bigger the company, the more the effectiveness is decreased as the on at the top of the baseless triangle will have more subordinates to work with – for b to get to c, it must go through a first, so with more legs this becomes very hectic. The book claims that this system still survives as the inefficiency is compensated by the efficiency of sending news from top to bottom, but as far as my experience goes, it still remains extremely inefficient by comparison!
The locus is the group instead of personal merit – and oyabun often try to bring kobun along with their success. The protection the kobun give the oyabun is repaid by dependence of oyabun on kobun, affection and loyalty – sometimes called ‘paternalism’ – so the relationship between these people has a greatly enlarged emotional element. A good chief is indicated by his perceptiveness and permission to his kobun. It is also said that it’s better if the man on top is not brilliant because if he were, he wouldn’t be so dependent on his subordinates for help and information thereby losing part of their essential function.
This means there is no clear cut in the divisions of labour – the entire group is amalgamated into a single functional body.
One of the most popular Japanese lovestory is one called: The Forty-Seven Ronin. Oishi Kuranosuke was the leader, and as he was very paternalistic, he had utmost devotion from his 46 followers, so much that they left their families on a course that would end in a suicidal deed, in order that they might assist Oishi’s revenge on his own master.
Men so involved as this have little room left for a wife/sweetheart – if he were to be so involved in a man-to-man relationship there would seem no necessity for a love affair with a woman. His emotions would be completely expended in his devotion to his master – this was most likely the real nature of samurai mentality and is sometimes still true of the modern Japanese man.
Sorry for the long entry but I felt it would be best to explain this all in one!
Hope you find it interesting.
I’ve also attached a photo of a work done by one of my kids at school, I think it’s hilarious English: