By Steve Purdom, MD (Type 3, SP/1:1/SC)

I have spent a lot of my adult life in Japan (see “about the author”).   My wife is Japanese and we have been together for 15 years.  She also fully understands the enneagram.  I love the culture, language, and lifestyle, but I also understand that every situation has a “Shadow”.  I am not going to discuss Japan’s shadow, but rather look at Japanese behavior to try and understand their enneagram type.

First, let’s review the Hornevian Triads.  Karen Horney was a German psychological analyst who immigrated to the U.S. in 1932, at age 47, and lived the remainder of her life in the U.S.  She described three types of social interaction: Assertive,  Compliant and Withdrawn.    The enneagram was introduced into the United States in the 1970’s and she died in 1952, before its introduction.  The enneagram community took her descriptions of behavior and applied it to the enneagram.  They are a perfect fit.  The assertives are types 3, 7 and 8.  The compliant are types 1, 2 and 6.  The withdrawn are types 4, 5 and 9.

From Wikipedia:

Three categories of needs

Upon investigating the ten needs further, Horney found she was able to condense them into three broad categories:


Needs one and two (affection and approvalpartner) were assimilated into the compliance category, also called moving toward people. This category is seen as a process of joining, submitting, or self-effacement. Under Horney’s theory children facing difficulties with parents often use this strategy. Fear of helplessness and abandonment occurs—phenomena Horney refers to as “basic anxiety“. Those within the compliance category tend to exhibit a need for affection and approval on the part of their peers. They may also seek out a partner, somebody to confide in, fostering the belief that, in turn, all of life’s problems would be solved by the new cohort. A lack of demands and a desire for inconspicuousness both occur in these individuals.


Needs three through seven (powerexploit otherssocial recognitionpersonal admirationpersonal achievement) were assimilated into the expansion category, also called moving against people, or the expansive solution. Neurotic children or adults within this category often exhibit anger or basic hostility to those around them. That is, there is a need for power, a need for control and exploitation, and a maintenance of a facade of omnipotence. Manipulative qualities aside, under Horney’s assertions the expansive individual may also wish for social recognition, not necessarily in terms of limelight, but in terms of simply being known (perhaps feared) by subordinates and peers alike. In addition, the individual has needs for a degree of personal admiration by those within this person’s social circle and, lastly, for raw personal achievement. These characteristics comprise the “expansive” neurotic type. Expansive types also tend to keep people around them. On the other hand, they only care about their wants and needs. They would do whatever they can to satisfy their needs and wouldn’t desist from hurting anyone in the obtainment of them.


Needs eight through ten (self sufficiencyperfectionrestrict life practices) are assimilated into the detachment category, also called moving-away-from or resigning solution or a detached personality. As neither aggression nor compliance solve parental indifference, Horney recognized that children might simply try to become self-sufficient. The withdrawing neurotic may disregard others in a non-aggressive manner, regarding solitude and independence as the way forth. The stringent needs for perfection comprise another part of this category; those withdrawing may strive for perfection above all else, to the point where being flawed is utterly unacceptable. Everything the “detached” type does must be unassailable and refined. They suppress or deny all feelings towards others, particularly love and hate.

Horney delves into a detailed explanation of the above needs (and their corresponding neurotic solutions) in her book ‘Neurosis and Human Growth’.


    As you can see, that would give Japanese people two of the compliant types.  Compliance is the hallmark of Japanese behavior.  Type 6 and Type 1 share so many similarities that in my discussion I will group them as simply compliant.  In individuals they are, however, very distinctive.  That compliant nature presents itself as dutiful, responsible, rule-following, and community oriented.  Most, if not all societies definitely have rules, but the willingness to follow those rules is what is so striking in my interactions with everyone in Japan.  Yes there is the occasional anti-social type 6, the “Do it my way” type 8, or the self-promoting type 3, but these behaviors are suppressed to some degree.  I especially notice the difference with type 3s, who try very hard to be humble.

So where do I see this compliant behavior?  It starts in the home.  Everyone takes their shoes off before entering the home.  I have never seen a Japanese person enter their home or someone else’s home without removing their shoes.  It is so ingrained that it doesn’t even seem to be a conscious effort.  Our apartment in Tokyo comes with housekeeping twice a week, and the housekeepers go in and out of our apartment to their cleaning cart; for each trip they take off and put on their shoes.

the entrance to a Japanese home






When Mika and I go to the gym, we are required to wear shoes that have never been worn outside.  If you don’t have these shoes they will rent them to you.  You cannot wear outside shoes on the gym floor and you cannot wear any shoes, except for the slippers that they provide, in the locker room.  The floor in the gym is as clean as the one in our house.  In addition, they provide a cloth to wipe each machine after you use it, and they expect (and again we all comply), that we will put up our weights after using them.  See photos of gym—notice how clean the floor is and that every weight is in its correct place.  There is no mixing of dumb bells or different weights.




Compliance transfers to the school system.  Even in kindergarten, the children wear color coordinated caps so that the teachers know which child is in their class.  (see photo).  I think this would be difficult to accomplish in the U.S.




Then in middle school and high school the students wear uniforms which keep them on equal footing and discourage behavior outside social norms.  They are required to buy uniforms, which includes shoes, from the same vendor.  I was surprised to learn that their shoes (black loafers) are identical. In addition, there is a limit on hair length, which you can perhaps appreciate in the photo below.




Compliance is also present on the subway, where people are expected to stand in the middle and face the people who are seated. The rule of law is strictly enforced.  Another rule that is strictly enforced: the first DUI offense is punishable by a $10,000 fine.  There are almost no DUI’s in Japan.

There are numerous other examples but in addition to the rules that are to be followed, there is a sense of community and belonging that I think is partly the result of a homogeneous society.  They live on a small island (smaller than the state of Montana) that is densely populated with almost no diversity (98.5% Japanese). The population has almost the same skin color, hair color, height and weight.  They identify with the members of their large village.

An example of the sense of community is that when the clean up for the nuclear disaster in Fukushima happened, older males volunteered to do the cleanup so that young males would not be exposed to the radiation.  The following is from an article discussing the “Skilled Veterans Corps”.


“A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.

The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60.

They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.

It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up.

No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him.

For weeks now, Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends, sending out e-mails and even messages on Twitter.

Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical.

“I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live,” he says.

“Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer.”


They recognized that the exposure to radiation causes cancer decades later and therefore if you are over 60 then your risk is much lower.  I find it amazing that 200 men over the age of 60 would volunteer for such hazardous work.

In my next article, I will expand on the “4” part of the Japanese culture.

Dewa Mata (see you soon)



About the author:

Steve Purdom trained as an Internal Medicine physician and practiced medicine for 18 years.  He was the Medical Director and subsequently COO of the U.S. operations for Aflac, responsible for Claims and Underwriting for Aflac in Japan.  Steve has traveled to Japan for 30 years and now spends 4 months of each year vacationing in Tokyo with his wife Mika (who is Japanese). He has studied and taught the Enneagram for 20 years.

Editor: Illania Edwards