Hello! Thank you for joining us for a discussion about topics covered during our third class studying abroad here at Reitaku University! My name is Solara Key, and today we looked at various perspectives on the uniqueness of Japanese people. Subjects included tatemae, honne, iki, wabi-sabi, amae, relationships, and other such ideas.
Tatemae is the way in which Japanese people do not overtly express their true feelings all the time in order to maintain face and diminish any opportunity for conflict. Honne are the true feelings that might be covertly hidden behind tatemae. This includes not saying something that might disturb the tatemae of the person you are talking to. In a certain light, it seems Japanese people like to avoid awkward moments as often as possible, and I’m certainly one to relate. There is something about the energy of a jumbled and possibly even frustrating conversation that makes me cringe. It is unnecessary, and as such considered yabo, or unsophisticated. Yabo is essentially the opposite of iki, which aims to describe a higher understanding of life that focuses on the smooth, subtle, sophisticated, and yet, not concerned with perfection or complexity. We find this ideology within the framework of a tea ceremony, geisha, ikebana, etc. Simple, yet detailed, this concept is a difficult one to understand, because it almost acts as a Zen koan – preaching mindfulness, but also not pushing or striving. The iki, to me, seems to walk the path nonchalantly, taking care to notice the beauty and details. It embodies grace in the way that it carries imperfection, just as wabi-sabi shows us that the imperfections in life are what teach us and helps us grow. The only thing constant is change, and wabi-sabi, meaning “apology for the melancholy,” represents the way that something is perfectly imperfect.
When it comes to relationships, we see a similar theme. Whether it is romantic, teacher/student, or mother and child, often one member of this dynamic might need to depend on the other. There is humility woven throughout the experience of receiving the help, and thus strengthens the bond. This submissiveness and willingness to relinquish a certain degree of independence reinforces the idea that Japan is a collectivist society rather than individualistic. However, in my humble opinion, this is not to be confused with having a lack of creativity or a mind of one’s own. On the contrary, it seems Japan has mastered the idea of many creative and intelligent individual minds coming together to weave a beautiful culture.