Tuesday, December 13, 2005


KATA--The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese, by Boye Lafayette De Mente

Book Review:

Author Says Kata (kah-tah)
Are Japan’s Secret Weapon

KATA: The Key to Understanding & Dealing with the Japanese, by Boye Lafayette De Mente. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN: 0-8048-3386-9. Quality trade paperback. 168 pages. $14.95. Available from Amazon.com and from other book distributors and booksellers worldwide.

There are now many books that explain how the Japanese do things. This is the first (and only) book, ever, that explains why the Japanese think and behave the way they do.

Veteran Japanologist Boyé Lafayette De Mente, author of more than 30 books on Japan, says that the attitudes, behavior and character of the Japanese have traditionally been shaped by kata (kah-tah), which he defines as “cultural molds.”

De Mente says there is a precise, identifiable kata—which means “process” or “way of doing things”—for virtually everything facet of Japanese behavior, from eating, reading, writing, speaking, walking, sitting, drinking, thinking, to you name it, and there is a specific Japanese way of doing it.

These dozens of kata, De Mente says, are directly responsible for virtually all of the traits and talents that make the Japanese different from other people, and for the incredible economic success tiny, resource-poor Japan achieved in less than thirty years after suffering a devastating defeat in World War II.

De Mente says that just one of these cultural molds—kaki-kata (kah-kee-kah-tah), or “way of writing,” has had and continues to have a profound influence on the traits and talents of the Japanese.

In this case, kaki-kata refers to the way of writing the several thousand ideographic characters with which the Japanese write their language. These characters consist of one to as many as 17 precise lines or strokes that must be done in a precise way and in a precise order to be correct.

The Japanese learn how to write (draw is a better word) these characters as children—a process, De Mente says, that compels them to learn patience, diligence, precision, form, order, makes them acutely aware of spatial relationships, and hones their manual dexterity.

De Mente adds that kangae-kata (kahn-guy-kah-tah) or “way of thinking,” is another of these precise “molds” in which the Japanese have been “cast” since ancient times. He says that Japanese who do not follow the precise patterns of behavior established by the traditional kangae-kata stick out like sore thumbs, and if they persist, may be ostracized.

Simply stated, KATA—The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese is the most insightful and useful book ever done on the Japanese way of thinking and doing things—and should be in the hands of everyone who has or plans to have anything to do with Japan.

To see a full list and descriptions of the author's books, go to: www.phoenixbookspublishers.com.

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