Japanese Culture (文化) Part 2: "Real intention"

A book that was given to me by an unassuming Japanese person revealed deep in the back some interestesting lessons about Japanese culture that I’d like to share with you…

From Japan (english ed) by Toshiya Enomoto

Hon’ne,” or real intent, is the opposite of “tatema’e” (or Diplomatic Language). Japanese often cover up their “hon’ne” when they are still in early stages of a new relationship. They usually think it’s best policy to humor the other person along to better build the relationship. The think it is much more “polite” because their “hon’ne” could make the other person unhappy. A Japanese salesman may tell you he is a “Ham Fighters” fan himself when he finds out you have a season ticket for the “Hams.” But his “hon’ne” may be that he is a hardcore Tigers fan from Osaka and doesn’t give a #&$! about “those miserable Hams.” When a new Japanese acquaintance tells you something nice about what you do (i.e. say you’re good at Japanese), take it with a large grain of salt. I always do when I test-market my phrasebook to Japanese readers. They will say “What a nice phrasebook by such a nice author!” but start to laugh at the typos the moment my back is turned!

I showed this to my host mom and her responce was, “Yeah that’s about right for a lot of Japanese folks” however she was quick to say that the generation is changing and that sometimes Hon’ne leaks out and people are starting to be… well.. more American.

~J out


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