Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My thoughts this week.

It's a dreary Wednesday here in Okinawa Japan. The sun is not shining and it looks as though we are going to get another day of heavy rain. These are the days when I like to set myself down in front of my computer and enjoy learning a little bit about Japan by reading blogs and watching VLOGS. I have always loved Japan but recently I have had a particular interest in some JVLOGGERS who are not new to YouTube but are new to me. Being that they are from various parts of Japan I hear about how Japan differs from city to city which I personally find fascinating. It is to be expected that different parts of Japan would have differences but it is still fun to learn about and hear first hand accounts from those who work, live and travel there. One of the things that I find so very interesting is that each part of Japan almost has a different culture. Everything from the style of food to the language to the style of dance is different in some places and that is just something I find extremely interesting.

With all of these differences there are bound to be some similarities and one of these similarities is "tatemai and honne". If you have been watching videos and trying to learn a lot about Japanese life and culture I am sure that you have heard these words once before. There are a great deal of people who are on YouTube who have tried to explain what "tatemai and honne" is but always seem to struggle because it is a difficult concept to understand. Many time Japanese people as well as some foreigners will say that this is a concept that is unique to Japan and that is part of the reason that it is hard to explain. I don't think that this is the case though. I would agree that the Japanese have coined a phrase for this concept but it is not as foreign to us foreigners as some Japanese people think. If I were asked to define these two words what I would say is that "tatemai" is the way that you present yourself in order to cause the least amount of friction possible and "honne" is the way that you really feel. You might find yourself speaking with a family member, friend or coworker and responding to them in a way that is not in line with what you believe because you do not want to cause an argument or say something that might have a negative affect on you or your work. If you are a man an example of this would be your response to "do I look fat in these~". I am sure that when a question like this comes along you go into overdrive trying to ensure that you are not giving an answer that might "cause friction". The Japanese have a slightly more intense approach with this concept due to the nature that they have for being non confrontational. You might not realize it if you are only here for a short time or if you do not have active relationships with Japanese people but the fact of the matter is that the Japanese are people who do not like to cause waves. In some cases they would even suffer through something difficult to deal with than try to resolve the issue. Again, this might not always be the case but I have experienced it enough times to say  that it is something that happens. This makes some people extremely hard to work with just because of the subservient stance that they can take. In some cases (and yes this has happened to me) they will expect you to go along with the situation they have created by not speaking their mind causing you more work and more stress. There is also a flip side to this and that is when "tatemai and honne" are used as a way to try and get you to chance your stance on something or indicate that you are doing something wrong. For example rather than saying "Could you please get me some milk" they would say something like "I would absolutely love a cold glass of milk". This again makes some people extremely difficult to work with. To be completely honest this is one of the things that I dislike about the way that some Japanese people handle themselves because for me this concept of trying to say something without saying something is a waste of time. In some cases you may even find yourself the target of some anger because someone said they would like some milk but you didn't get any for them. For my strong personality it is the most difficult thing that I have to deal with because I am not afraid of conflict nor am I afraid of confrontation.

The last thing that I wanted to talk about was language and I didn't end up talking about this in today's JVLOG video because the video's audio got messed up and to be honest I am not going to talk about it right now either because I do not want to cut this topic short of what needs to be said and I feel that right now I just do not have the endurance to write everything that needs to be said. Thanks so much for your understanding and keep posted and I will make sure I get that post up soon. Thanks for reading.

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