Many studies of Japan have used the ‘sociocentric’ (i.e., contextual, collective and empathic, etc.) framework of analysis to contrast Japanese culture, people, or behavior with their arguably individualistic counterparts in America (or ‘Western societies’). This article argues that the individualism-sociocentrism dichotomy as applied uniformly (e.g., all or the majority of Japanese are sociocentric) and exclusively (e.g., Japanese are sociocentric but not individualistic, unlike Americans who are individualistic, but not sociocentric) to a group of people such as those in Japan is methodologically limited and conceptually inadequate to understand private experiences of its individual members. Placing case studies of three adolescents in the ontological perspective of Heidegger and Paul Tillich, I will show that the two orientations are mutually dependent and dynamically constituting elements of their personal experiences.

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