Honne (本音?) refers to a person’s true feelings and desires. These may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends.
Tatemae (建前?), literally “façade,” is the behavior and opinions one displays in public. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s honne.
I saw a movie called “Freakonomics” last night and I felt like talking about an interesting fact about the Japanese culture.
The words above are single words that represent important concepts of human nature. Interestingly enough, the Japanese hold these words to a significant importance within their culture. Western civilization does not attach the same importance to these concepts, and I feel that there is something to be learned here.
It seems as though, for whatever reasons (because I am sure the evolution of their culture contributes to the reasons), the Japanese understand something deeper about humans than we have yet to accept. By accept, I don’t mean know, I mean deal with.
From what I understand, these words are of such high value that the Japanese are actually attuned to know which word they are displaying and what times. In other words, they know and admit when behavior is considered “honne” and when it is considered “tatamae”.
For example, if someone invites you out to dinner and you don’t want to go, “honne” would be saying that you don’t want to go and “tatamae” would be saying that you have something else to do.
But the difference between the Japanese and Western civilization, is that the Japanese expect ” tatamae” behavior in various situations and don’t take it personally. In other words, “tatamae” is expected in the situation above.
So what, you ask…..
It seems that the Japanese have developed this tool as a way to limit misunderstanding, which limits tension, which limits aggression, which limits war.
There is no misunderstanding in the Japanese culture. If you ask me to come for dinner and I tell you that I have other plans, that means I don’t want to go to your house for dinner. No one analyzes the situation and says to themselves…I bet they didn’t really want to come for dinner that’s why they told me they had other plans….
No. It is automatically understood that I don’t want to come for dinner and it doesn’t matter why. Nothing personal. Finished. No insult……no injury.
……….Now I feel like moving to Japan :)……
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