The happiness-income paradox has been a topic of research for many years, yet it still remains a mystery. Japan is a country that is of great interest in this concern. Over the decades per capita income has risen many times; however this has not resulted in similar increases in happiness or satisfaction of its citizens. In other developing countries we can see similar developments; Japan, however, was the first non-western country to enter into the group of developed countries. Even though we repeatedly concede that happiness is dependent on many factors, theories about happiness are typically anchored in western ideals of progress and self-fulfillment. Ever since the American and French revolution we take it for granted that happiness does not just happen on its own accord, rather it must be acquired through hard work. Does this also apply to other cultures such as Asian cultures where personal happiness is not as emphatically valued as it is in European culture? How important are material possessions and wealth for the members of a society, and how do they influence our subjective well-being?
The commonalities that Japan shares in social and economic development with western countries makes Japan with its different cultural background a particularly well-suited case study to determine the role cultures have in the concept of happiness. The German Institute for Japanese Studies (Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien) has appointed “happiness” as one of their research foci for the next year. Academic members of the Institute and German and Japanese experts from very different areas such as economics, sociology, cultural anthropology etc shall discuss how happiness functions in an intercultural context.