Hokkaido people are outgoing and hospitable; Niigata folk may not say much but they’ll stand by you in a crisis. Iwate breeds patience and endurance; Nara, pessimism and conservatism; Hiroshima, cheery optimism. Tokyo? Full of country bumpkins giving themselves big-city airs.
Tell me where you’re from and I’ll tell you who you are. This is not folklore, in Japan, it’s science.
“Kenminsei” – the peculiar character that each of Japan’s 47 prefectures tends to inculcate in its native sons and daughters. It’s a good subject to be versed in if you’re in business, or in love, or concerned with the fate of the country. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, for instance, is from Yamaguchi Prefecture, home to the Choshu warrior clan that was instrumental in launching the epoch-making Meiji Restoration of 1868. Pride and temper are local character traits. Kan’s nickname is “Ira-Kan,” a reference to his famous irritability. Now you know where he gets it from.
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A recent survey of 2,000 businesspeople, aged 20-something to 60-something, to discover which prefectures breed the best bosses and best subordinates. Who would have guessed that the most popular bosses hail from chilly, hardscrabble Aomori? Stubborn they certainly are, in keeping with the local image, but at least you know where you stand with them.
Bosses, meanwhile, prefer underlings from the opposite end of the country – Kagoshima. Like Yamaguchi, Kagoshima boasts samurai virtues, notably bravery and a strong sense of hierarchy. These keep obedient noses to the grindstone. Miyazaki Prefecture, though next door, has an altogether different ambience – warm, easygoing, optimistic. That’s good, too, in its way, and Miyazaki comes in second in rearing good subordinates.
The bosses from hell are likely to come from either Tottori Prefecture (worst) or Kyoto (second worst). Tottori has long winters, Kyoto a long history. The one induces stolid, blunt-spoken endurance, the other arrogance.
In business or love, compatibility – hard to define but you know it when it’s there – goes a long way. That, too, can depend on prefecture of origin. The two most mutually compatible prefectures in the country, says Yano, are Kanagawa and Hyogo, owing largely to the international character of their main cities, Yokohama and Kobe respectively. The two least compatible are impatient, egocentric, effervescent Osaka and taciturn, haughty Iwate.