Preferred Citation: Kinoshita, Yasuhito, and Christie W. Kiefer Refuge of the Honored: Social Organization in a Japanese Retirement Community. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.

11 Patterns of Social Interaction

New Residents: The Informality of Socialization

Although he did not make a detailed study of the process by which new residents learned community norms, Kinoshita noticed a dramatic absence of formal procedure or ritual that might convey this kind of knowledge. This was important because it both exacerbated and drew attention to the lack of formal structure we have been talking about throughout this chapter. As Rosow (1974:28) says, "The general categories or referents of socialization and [social] integration are the same, so that socialization becomes one major mechanism of integration."

During Kinoshita's stay in the community, six new full-time residents actually moved in, although several others signed the entrance contract. Kinoshita interviewed four of the new residents about their moving-in experience.

The administration did little to introduce these new people, simply listing their names and apartment numbers on the administrative bulletin board when they had signed the contract. This had little effect, partly because there was typically a time lag between the signing and the physical moving in, or at least the taking up of full-time residence. As a result, new residents seemed to appear suddenly and unanticipated, without formal introduction from the management or anyone else.

In more traditional communities, of course, new neighbors occasionally appear as well, and often without formal introduction. There the custom is that one pays a call on the neighbors on each side and on those across the street, offering a small friendship gift.


But the fact that Fuji-no-Sato was not a traditional-style community either socially or in its physical makeup seemed to create some confusion about even this simple custom. New residents typically asked other residents what the custom was here, but the answers were not uniform. There was confusion not only about proper etiquette toward neighbors, but about the definition of a neighbor.

Two of the four new residents interviewed, having spoken to people who had not observed the traditional formal visit, decided that the custom was not observed here and simply introduced themselves informally to those who shared the stairs or walkways of their units. Each of the other two (one a widow, the other a widower) made formal visits to their neighbors, but differently. The widow, on the advice of a nextdoor neighbor, visited all the residents on her floor with a small box of candy. The widower, following the suggestion of a member of the residents association, visited the neighbors on each side and the one upstairs, but did not offer gifts.

Early interactions typically occurred around the problems of moving in and getting settled. Although the staff provided a good deal of help, the new residents had to learn from the older ones such practical information as where to get the best goods and services at the best prices. A certain number of female friendships usually formed as a result of this process between women who were neighbors or who found each other congenial in their chance encounters in public areas like the dining room or the baths.

One might expect that the residents association would have taken on some of the responsibility of introducing new residents, but this was not the case. Building representatives had no such official role, and there was no welcoming committee for the community as a whole. The community was not a formal institution, and the lack of a regular induction ceremony paralleled the attitude of individuality we have discussed.

None of the membership groups (hobby, religious, volunteer organizations) actively recruited new members. Newcomers were on their own in finding out from the bulletin boards, the staff, or other residents what social opportunities there were. They then had to muster the poise to seek membership on their own—something that deterred a fair number from taking part in group activities.


11 Patterns of Social Interaction

Preferred Citation: Kinoshita, Yasuhito, and Christie W. Kiefer Refuge of the Honored: Social Organization in a Japanese Retirement Community. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.