while people often complain of the difficulty of human relationships, it seems to me obvious that the greatest asset of any human being is their ability to connect with other people, develop relationships, enter institutions, etc.
yet all along independence has been taught to me as a core value, an essential character trait. the importance of being unique, thinking differently, doing what you think is right in spite of others seems to have been stressed over things like cooperation, teamwork, interconnectedness, friendship, etc. my workplace in the u.s. definitely stressed the latter attributes, but i never could fully accept their methodology. after all, in my mind, we were all sell-outs. most of us felt like were meant for something better, something more important.
japan is quite the opposite. people still complain about the difficulty of human relationships (probably even more), but fitting into society is highly valued. people admire the person who can fit in and get along with others smoothly.
i think it has been good for me to actually try to fit in, since i have spent so much time trying to set myself apart from everyone.