Animism is a component of the Shinto faith, the religion that preceded the introduction of Buddhism to Japan and remains an influential part of the country's culture. Animism is the notion that all objects have a spirit - even man-made objects. Here's social scientist Naho Kitano in Animism, Rinri, Modernizationp; the Base of Japanese Robotics (pdf)
The sun, the moon, mountains and trees each have their own spirits, or gods. Each god is given a name, has characteristics, and is believed to have control over natural and human phenomena. This thought has continued to be believed and influences the Japanese relationship with nature and spiritual existence. This belief later expanded to include artificial objects, so that spirits are thought to exist in all the articles and utensils of daily use, and it is believed that these sprits of daily-use tools are in harmony with human beings.
In the West, in contrast, creating life inevitably leads to destruction of the creator -- a notion that is hardly original to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as author Rui Umezawa points out.
In order to understand fully religion's influence on the West's attitude toward robotics, we also must remember that Judeo-Christian monotheism also adheres to the doctrine that only God can give life, a popular interpretation of Genesis in which there is only God in the beginning and all living things are His creations. Exodus also decrees that idolatry is a sin. Thus, any human who breathes life into an inanimate object is assuming the role of God and thereby becoming a false idol. Such a blasphemer deserves punishment, and in the conventions of science fiction, this usually comes in the form of betrayal by the robots. From the 1920 work R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Czech playwright Karel Čapek - who is credited with coining the term "robot" -- through The Terminator movies to Battlestar Galactica, such human vanity is constantly met by rebellion by its creation.
In a feedback loop initiated by these preconceptions, culture influences not only the perception of robots, but also the design of robots created by Japanese and American engineers. Sally Augustin, a journalist writing for Miller-McCune, argues that Americans value emotionally expressive robots, while Japanese are content with inferred emotion conveyed by robots whose faces are obscured in the same manner as actors in Jap.... More concretely, Americans have directed much of their research toward robots with military applications, while the Japanese "are investing billions of dollars on consumer robots aimed at alte...