Honne and Tatemae

By Kenny Nguyen

Honne and tatemae are Japanese behavior. Honne is the true feelings you have and wish to express but tatemae is the obligation to withhold your opinion in order to seem respectful. An example of this is in a Japanese work place, when you are at work you would want to be as respectful as possible and withhold any negative comments about a co-worker or boss. This is tatemae, when you do have a problem, but can’t express it since you are trying to hold social obligations. A way that the Japanese would then express their true opinions is whenever there is a nomikai (party), and coworkers would go to an izakaya (Japanese traditional bar). These occasions are where you are able to let loose and talk about all the troubles you’ve had at work or at home, honne. This is also because of the beer and drinking, which lets them let loose.

I find the honne and tatemae concept very different from American society. In America we can say and express whatever we want and not care about what others think, or how they would feel. Whereas the Japanese are withholding their true feelings in order to maintain social obligations. At an American workplace or school, we would complain if there is anything that upsets us. For example, at my school, whenever there is a project and someone isn’t really doing work, we would complain and criticize him or her, while the Japanese would have concealed this truth and would have just tried encouraging them to pick up the pace of their work.

Before joining this program, I never thought that such a concept would exist. I always thought that people would just express whatever they want in order to have people understand them. But now I know just how different America can be from not only Japan but from other countries as well. I look forward to learning more about the different aspects of the Japanese culture and just how different we are compared to them. Jyaa nee!

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