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Cultural Differences Between Japan and America in The Movie Gung Ho

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Cultural Differences Between Japan and America in The Movie Gung Ho Essay

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Cultural Biases
  3. Analysis
  4. Conclusion
  5. Suggestions


Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are nuisance at best and often a disaster. These cultural barriers affect the ability of doing international business. Many of the challenges can be seen throughout the Gung Ho. The movie gung oh analysis demonstrates a cultural difference between Americans and the Japanese working together towards achieving the goal of reviving an American car manufacturing. The connections and exchanges between the Japanese management team and the American workers throughout the film present examples for each of the five dimensions of Hofstede’s cultural dynamics analysis.

In addition, we must keep in that the cultures have changed since them as the movie is based on 1986. Hunt Stevenson is a 35-year old American who works for a car manufacturer that has just been acquired by a Japanese company. As the beginning of the film, the Japanese managerial staff arrives in the US in order to set things as they want them to according to their own cultural standards. However, conflict arises due to tremendous difference in culture and work ethics between the two groups. In this analysis we will examine this movie from a multicultural perspective and analyze the movie of different multicultural theories and concepts.

The movie may have been a success but not without its share of criticism. The weakness of the both the cultures is often pointed out by critics. Emphasized were the American inefficiencies and the inscrutability about Japanese. The film despite the criticism received critical acclaims from the academics for portraying dynamics of a work cultures in a multicultural environment. Implementing the theories Japanese tend to have the polychromic culture however the Americans have a monochronic culture. While the former specializes in continual improvement and multitasking, the latter would tend to best practices and specialization. We will see various theories to see the affect by applying it to the movie and mitigating conflicts arising in modern organizations to complement the theories.

When comparing the two we see that the Americans have slightly individualistic, male reinforced, ambiguous, society with a slight hierarchy with a strong connection to tradition. Japan is highly reinforced, high structure, hierarchy with a strong connection to tradition. The two are on opposite ends of the scale in each category, except for the power distance where they differ slightly.

Hofstede says that uncertainty avoidance dimension measures the extent to which members of a culture want structure over being unstructured. It is the comfort level in a “free” situation where there are no guidelines or agenda. In the movie we observed that the Japanese rigorous structure of the management team whereas Americans are “just go with it” feel is more prominent. The softball game demonstrated that Japan is highly uncertainty avoidance and Americans have low uncertainty. When hunt invited Kenji’s team to play softball, The Japanese wearing something different. The concept of uniformity is also seen in various scenes showing plant employees al wearing the same work uniform. Blue for Americans. And white for Japanese. Morning stretching and exercising involves all employees.

Long-Term Orientation aims to interpret how societies value traditions and their ability to make adaptions. This dimension center on long-term devotion to traditional values. After the arrival of the Japanese team, the manager set out to implement new rules and restructure the work on the assembly line. The assembly line scene shows that the Japanese managers want the worker to learn new skills and be able to perform more than one specific task. Americans were adaptive and easily convinced and willing to along with Japanese take over. The Japanese display their cultural trait by refusing to operate differently and insisting on doing things their way. They focused closely on the way production was done and on efficiency.

The individualism/collectivism dimension essentially determines where a culture balances, they’re relationship of personal life and work or similarly the balance of the group opposed to individual. By examining this aspect, its quite clear that two cultures couldn’t be more opposite. On the first day of the joint venture, Kazihiro addresses the American workers: we must build the spirit. We must be a team, one, with one purpose only. Everyone thinking only of the company.” He hopes to build this spirit by having them exercise together. The workers resist until hunt begins doing calisthenics. Eventually they join Hunt, but in their own exercise styles rather than according to the Japanese regimen. The workers want to be treated special, and differently.

Another conflict arises when Soito (shimono) tries to show Buster, one of the workers, a different way to paint the car. Frustrated Soito replies, every man learns every job, then we are a team. No man is special. Hunt steps in to resolve the problem. He explains to Soito,” see, here’s the deal on that. You’re in America now, you know, and the thing s Americans really like to feel special.” When hunt requests that he works be returned tot here familiar jobs, Soito firmly says,” there is one way to turn this factory. One way.” The episode illustrates differences in valuing the one versus the many and the part versus the whole. Willie, one of the workers, takes the afternoon off to be with his son who is having his tonsils removed. Willie is upset because he is docked for the time off. Hunt tries to smooth things with Kazihiro by explaining “the guy just lives for his kids”. Kazihiro says.” But work suffers.” For Kazihiro, the individual must sacrifice for the larger good., while Willie values individuals nurturing over collective achievement. The factory and work come second to the Americans, behind their family lives and individual agendas.

When the movie begins It shows Japanese being treated unjustly be being beaten, screaming and forced to participate in the management boot camp. The management members who had previously failed were introduced into this program. They were forced to wear ribbons of shame and were humiliated because they had let down the other members of management, workers underneath them, but more importantly the company. By doing this they emphasize their value to the group. They disregard individuality and refuse to meet needs for workers, such as the Japanese management member’s wife in labor.

Americans tend to use direct communication style in comparison to the high context (INDIRECT) style of the Japanese. Hunt uses low context straight walk several times in the movie, even though he often begins by “beating around the bush.” An example is when he goes to Japan to sell the presentation, notice he isn’t getting much of a response, then decided to cut to chase. Hunt explained by saying Hadleyville needs the Japanese and that the Americans will work hard if they come over. The Japanese don’t say anything (silence if, so Hunt thinks he has failed. When Assan decides to come to Hadleyville, hunt is shocked: a case of intercultural misunderstanding.

The high context style of the Japanese emphasize harmony and “saving face”. An example in the film is when the American challenge the Japanese to a game of softball. Buster cheats when he intentionally knocks one man down. Rather than contest the incident, the Japanese accept the loss and leave. Another time high and low context styles clash is when Audrey and Hunt go to Kazihiro’s for dinner. After the meal, Kazihiro want to discuss the business. This is cue for the women to leave, but Audrey stays. Hunt directly, asks her to leave. She has no intention of doing so and say,” Well actually I’m kind if interested in what’s going on at the plant. Nobody minds if I stay right?” The Japanese men, who clearly don’t want her, say nothing. Both Hunt and Audrey exhibit low-context style in high-context situation.

The American workers, exhibiting a low power distance style, believe they should have a say in decisions at the factory. The Japanese managers, exhibiting a high-power distance style, believe that those in authority should make decisions and be obeyed without question. This inevitably causes conflict between management and workers. When the workers challenge the management, the Assan managers regard it as a sign of disrespect, while the American simply believe they are standing up for their rights. In this and every conflict in the movie, each side sees its values as correct and the other cultures as “wrong.” This ethnocentric exacerbates the communication problems between them.

In this movie, we can see individualism/collectivism dimension. A single person may represent a company in its negotiation and organizations with individualistic cultures likely empower their negotiators to make decision without consultation from the home office. For the collectivism culture, a group of representatives would likely be involved in negotiations and require consultation among the delegation members and with the home officer at each step in the negotiations process.

Cultural Biases

There are six components in cultural Biases. In this report, the writers only use ethnocentrism and prejudice to analyze the case. Ethnocentrism is the notion that beliefs, values, norms, and social practices of one’s own culture are superior to those of others. Ethnocentrism tends to highlight and exaggerate cultural differences. Prejudice is negative attitude toward other people that are based on faulty and inflexible stereotypes. These attitudes include irrational feelings of dislike and even hatred for certain group. It is essential for members of management to be able to understand this and then position they’re objectives without disrespecting or disregarding cultural differences or values. Some of the main obstacles management faces when dealing cross culturally can develop from differences in communication practices.

By the end of the movie, Kazihiro would like to be more like Willie, regrading nurturing as more Important than achievement. As the movie progresses, he stands up for one of his workers on this issue. Kazihiro wants to give the worker time off because his wife is in labor, but Mr. Sakamoto, Kazihiro’s boss intimidates the worker into staying. This is a turning point for Kazihiro; he stands up to his boss and says, we work too damn hard. This is not our lives; this is a factory. Our friends, our family should be our lives. We re killing ourselves. None of his Japanese worker support him as he stands alone before Mr. Sakamoto. In this moment of decision, he values individualism over collectivism and low power distance over high power distance.

Hunt also goes through changes. In the beginning of the movie, he tells a basketball story to persuade the union to work for the Japanese without a contract and at lower wages. The moral of his story is that one man saves the team. He promises to hand the Japanese for them. He takes on the role of town hero, feeding his ego and his individuality. His girlfriend, Audrey tries to persuade him that the town needs a more collectivist approach: “they don’t need some guy who’s trying to make the winning play all by himself.” Hunt eventually recognizes what he is doing and apologizes to everyone at the festival: “I put myself in front of the town and I’m really sorry.”

Both Hunt and Kazihiro are upset about the failure of Assan Motors in Hadleyville. As they sit on the riverbank, they discuss their regrets. Each realizes that his ethnocentric tendencies are counterproductive to their joint venture. Rather than focusing on their differences, they decide to focus again on their shared goal. Yes, I feel like you,” Kazihiro says to hunt. “I would love another chance. I know we could do better. “The two decide to go back to the factory to build 1000 more cars together. Their teams work is a model to the workers and the managers who ultimately return to help Kazihiro and Hunt Achieve their goal.


The first problems of hunt Stevenson in this movie is he never learn Japan’s culture before, so he does not know that japan technology more developed and get difficulties in communicating. He used body movements to express his point. This kind of body movement related to nonverbal communication codes. Americans tend to use a low context communication style in comparison to the high context style of the Japanese. Hunt uses elaborate style “straight talk” several times in the movie, even though he often begins by “beating around the bush.” He starts with a slide presentation, notices he isn’t getting much of a response, then decide to cut the chase. He says, “look, here’s the deal, “explaining bluntly that Hadleyville needs the Japanese and that the Americans will work hard if they come over. The Japanese don’t say anything, so Hunt thinks he has failed. When Assan decides to come to Haleyville, Hunt is shocked: a case of intercultural misunderstanding.

Based on this movie, Japanese and American alike ethnocentric, just want others to know their culture, but they do no want to know other cultures. Ethnocentrism means one’s own cultures are superior to those of other, thus people from other cultures who do things differently are wrong. This case raises the clash between two cultures. Japan including collective culture, so the group is the major elements. That is why their spirit to work is the company must be on top of everything, team become priority. This case really contrasts with America which has individualistic cultures. American thinks they are special, so they don’t care about a team like Japanese do.


From the movie, we can conclude that cross cultural study is very important, not only in having relationship but also in economic and business. Both American and Japanese have difficulties on making deals, it is caused by misunderstanding. We must know about the cultures of our partner in business or workplace, it is very helpful for our success. For example, when the Japanese do exercise every morning, the Americans have also do so.

Besides learning about how to deal, we must learn about how communicate each other formally and in well manner. The Japanese use indirect language to show their opinion, while American use direct language, they say what they want to say in the real meaning. When the Japanese nod, the Americans think that they deal with them. But it means that Japanese’s understand what American Say, it does not mean “yes”. And other misunderstanding in communication can cause some problems.


This movie good for us to know how difficult to do a business with different culture. Culture can affect our attitude and perception to evaluate something. We can learn from that movie that we have to appreciate every culture and don’t think that out culture is the bets. As we can see from the date released, this movie has already released long time ago, so it Is possible if there’re cultures, how to make a deal, how to use the space in communication, how they use non-verbal and the meaning, and how they run their business are very important to be understood. And in some cases, we must follow their way so we can get success in business.

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