Japan Trivia 2: Honne (本音) and Tatemae (建前)
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
You plan to visit Japan for the first time to discuss a sensitive issue there with a prospective business partner. You randomly pick one from among innumerable Japan experts to seek his advice. Your selection can't be wrong; anyone who claims to be well-versed in this country will tell you one and the same thing.|
He warns you that it's key to effectively dealing with the Japanese to distinguish tatemae from honne.
There is an English entry to Wikipedia that discusses this topic. The Wikipedian defines these words as follows:
I have no idea about who the Wikipedian is. But I know it's these shallow minds that "promote" transcultural understanding in the wrong way. A Westerner who looks at this entry feels relieved to have his stereotypical view of the Japanese confirmed for the hundredth time. But actually he is looking at the mirror reflection of the liar that he actually is.
Actually, Japanese honne is almost 180-degrees different from Westerners'. Take the war-renouncing Constitution of Japan for example.
You tend to take it for granted that underneath nice words pro-constitution peaceniks keep disseminating, there must be animosity against foes or desire to vanquish them. To them it's a universal truth that man's honne is war and diplomacy is nothing but tatemae with which to gloss over the underlying enmity.
You are completely mistaken, however. It's always the other way around here.
MacArthur's Constitution has sealed off military options "as means of settling international disputes," as if there were no adversaries surrounding Japan. Under a normal circumstance, it would have been totally unrealistic to assume the fundamental law would work in a turbulent world such as this one. But actually it has worked so well since it was enforced 63 years ago. Why is that?
The primary reason is because the Japanese had already been the world's most effete and domesticated people since the 7th century when Shotoku Taishi (Shotoku Prince) promulgated his 17-Article Constitution.
Its Article 1 reads:
"Harmony should be put before anything else and quarrels must be avoided."
The Prince is believed to have said this almost 1,400 years ago, but you will find it appalling if you learn today's Japanese still think there's nothing more important than keeping harmony. They have absolutely nothing to fight for - let alone defend at the cost of their lives. That is why they haven't had a civil war, an independence war or a major conflict between religions in the last 14 centuries.
The seismic explosion that had to take place in Pearl Harbor 68 years ago is a different story.
Twenty years ago Shintaro Ishihara wrote a book titled The Japan That Can Say No. It is as though the moron, now at the helm of the metropolitan government, thought that just by speaking out its honne to Washington, the Tokyo government can stand on its own feet.
He is known to be an adamant pro-amendment advocate. But I know for sure what his honne is really like. Deep inside the retarded Governor appreciates the two pacifist constitutions because without them, he would never have been what he is now. Neither would he have made a fortune by authoring tons of rubbish as a scribbler.
It's a shame to know that even in the West, quite a few Japan experts are using the same trick of constantly mixing up honne with tatemae. Some of them have already become aware that Japanese honne always lies with their morbid desire to get along amicably with everyone in the world, be it Osama bin Laden or Kim Jong-Il. Yet they find it really irresistible to use Ishihara's recipe which promises them a lucrative business here.
The invertebrate, creepy animals living in this country will remain Americans' pets, most probably for good, because these Japanologists inside and outside of the U.S. administration have no guts, and/or brains, to realize that they are just seeing their own selves in the mirror.
Small wonder that they keep saying:
"After all, we all look alike." ·