A Conversation for 'Tatemae' and 'Honne' in Japanese Society

Born of necessity...

Post 1

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

I found this fascinating. Thanks very much for enlightening me about a better way to conceptualize human interaction.

I just thought I'd mention that Japanese society has probably formulated this view out of necessity. The country's population per square mile is enormous, and people are often concentrated in business centers and cities.

In my opinion, the society has a number of concepts and mores that encourage polite interactions because Japan would otherwise be a very chaotic place to live. (Imagine New York City, but ten times worse.) Instead, the violent crime rate is exceptionally low and the level of common courtesy is very high.

Perhaps a recognition that one must bow to social reality is part of their very important coping mechanism. I think so!

Born of necessity...

Post 2


Perhaps if more people adopted this view in Western society there would be fewer problems here as well.

Born of necessity...

Post 3

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

Hmm... I don't think the japanese way has less problems than ours. Different problems, and less visible to the outsider, yes, but the society has, for sure, its burdens.

Born of necessity...

Post 4

Source of all Evil

Alot of things in Japan are more troublesome than they are here. For instance, the suicide rate is much higher, high levels of alcohol (ie. public drunkeness) is considered the norm, and there are many more ways to break with social tradition, dishonoring one's family could be considered grounds for disowning that member of the family! Therefore the necessity of keeping one's family honor may be a factor in the development of tatemae and honne in such an extremly cloistering society. Bodily functions, such as sex or waste disposal, are not considered taboo in Japan (porn in doctor waiting areas) as they are here, but controllable emotions are expected to be kept under control, its all very facinating...sorry if this is too rambling....

Born of necessity...

Post 5


First of all the suicide rates in Japan are no way higher than they are in Europe, it's because there is so much focus on them in the media that many people think this but it is NOT TRUE. When you write something you should check statistics first, and they teach us that for example Belgium has a much higher suicide rate than Japan, as do other (European) countries.
Why do so many people share this stereotype? Because of above-mentioned media attention, the known practices of harakiri or seppuku from the bushidou myths (where there are a lot of stereotypes about too) and lastly the fact that it is not considered a sin culturally. In the West, coming from christian beliefs, it is considered wrong to take your own life as it is a sin in the christian religion. In Japanese beliefs this is not so much the case, hence the less stigmatized status.
Also the taboos surrounding sex are much less in Japan, this also comes from Japanese beliefs, especially Shintou (the indigenous Japanese 'religion'). In christianity sex is associated with sin, in shintou it is seen as something natural and part of human nature (wich it is in my opinion). So therefore having porn in the doctors' waitin room (wich is a bit of an extreme example) can be considered not so 'wrong' as it is here, altough i've never come across this myself.
I've noticed there are a LOT of stereotypical comments being made in these forums as it seems that everybody has one about Japan. People wanting to learn about Japan should also note that mr Van Wolferen (referred to in previous comments) is a known 'Nihonjinron' thinker, these are socioligists that try to explain the whole japanese culture by focussing on one keyword or limited concepts and tend not to take cultural diversity in to consideration. I think you should actually live in Japan before commenting in a negative way about it and stereotyping in forums tends to give a lot of people negative preconceptions.

Born of necessity...

Post 6

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

It's funny how a relatively simple article about words not available in our language has turned into a rather broad charge of racism via the forums. I'm sorry to see it and hope my early post didn't contribute.

For what it's worth, the Asia Times has an article on the Japanese suicide rate that I feel is worth reading. "Japan's current ratio of suicide to population size is about double that found in the United States or most European Union countries... approaching levels normally witnessed in countries suffering severe economic hardships such as Russia, Latvia or Lithuania." The data comes from 2003.


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