Honne and tatemae

(Wikepedia) Honne and tatemae are Japanese words that describe the contrast between a person’s true feelings and desires and the behavior and opinions one displays in public. Honne 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 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 personally do not believe that honne and tatemae are unique to Japanese culture. It is probably true that Japanese people are more reserved about their private feelings and they are more concerned about how they are viewed by public. But I see people in California do the same…especially at work, you are expected to avoid conflict and bite your tongue. It is true that Americans are a little more assertive than Japanese, but we still have to avoid conflict especially in professional business settings..

Some analysts see honne and tatemae as a cultural necessity resulting from a larger number of people living in a comparatively small island nation. Close-knit- cooperation and the avoidance of conflict are considered to be of vital importance in everyday life. For this reason, the Japanese tend to go to great lengths to avoid conflict, especially within the context of large groups.

This theory is very true..in where I live, I can mess up and get fired from work, I can still seek other opportunities and the country or the state itself is so big that I feel less pressure to get along with people, and I have come to accept that we can’t please everybody. But in Japan, you kind of have to please everybody..definitely more pressure to fit in, be a team player and maintain your reputation and status in order to survive in a very small country.


Contemporary phenomena such as hikkikomori and parasite singles are seen as examples of late Japanese culture’s growing problem of the new generation growing up unable to deal with the complexities of honne-tatemae and pressure of an increasingly materialsit society.

This is very interesting..I have never really heard the term “parasite singles”…but definitely there are much more pressure to conform to the social norms and because of such enormous pressure, many young people are refusing to “fit in” and their issue usually starts in their school years..and some of them experience bullying. “The nails that stick out get hammered down.” As a consequence, they feel so much anxiety and fear. They are less prepared for a real world, and Japanese corporate world is a lot more stressful, and I feel sympathy for Hikikkomori. 


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