Hey guys, welcome to another online lesson from BondLingo. Today we are going to be talking about Honne and Tatemae which is a concept surrounding the behaviour and thinking of the Japanese society. We hope that today’s article will give you some insight on the more intricate workings of Japanese culture and society. We will break today’s article down in the following ways: 

First we will discuss what exactly honne and tatemae is. Next we will discuss the effects this has on the Japanese.

After that we will look at how this clashes with other cultures and why it’s common in Japan specifically.

We will then look at the concept of true sincerity in Japan.Lastly, we will finish off with a small summary. 

So if you are interested in learning about hoone & tatemae today, be sure to stick around and enjoy today’s article. Let’s jump right in! 

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What exactly is Honne & Tatemae? Discovering the meaning.

First lets look at the kanji and definitions.

honne (本音) For the first kanji we have the meaning of authentic and the second kanji we have the meaning of sound. So together this means Authentic sound or the true voice of a person. 

In contrast, Tatemae (建前) is translated into something along the lines of “public mask” or public facade. This mirrors what is socially / publicly accepted rather than expressing true emotions, thoughts and feeling. 

Honne, is usually what is kept hidden from the world of social norms. True feelings and thoughts are kept from strangers, acquaintances and authority figures to maintain a valued reputation. Honne (True feelings) can be more expressed towards friends and family, however this is also not always the case.

Tatamea is based on the expectations of society. How society expects you to act and think which in most cases does not match honne, the true inner feelings. In some cases to conceal honne it may lead to deceit and untruthfulness.

This concept is seen to be of huge importance in Japanese culture.

The key route of this comes from the idea of shame and dishonor. The Japanese will do almost anything to avoid conflict and uneasy situations. That type of behaviour would bring about disapproval by society and so is avoided at all costs. 

The Effects of Honne and Tatemae on Japanese society. 

Hikikomori is the phenomenon of acute social withdrawal. Japan is increasingly seeing the younger generation withdraw inward and isolating themselves from the outside world. This is said to be due to the complexities of honne and tatemae and individuals not being able to handle this unnatural duality within the self. 

It could be said that tatemae is actually pretending to be happy or pretending to be satisfied with life and the various situations people are involved in every day. This can cause a huge amount of stress as the individual is not being authentic with their true self. 

We are now going to look at how other cultures would see this and why the concept is so prominent within Japan. 

Why is this concept so prominent in Japan and how does it clash with other cultures? 

There is a massive group mentality in Japanese society which is much more important than the individual. Almost like a hive mind! Japan is an incredibly populated place and in tokyo especially there are around 9000 people per  km². With this type of population density it is imperative that society can function extremely well like a machine. Rather than risking offence and inconvenience, the Japanese society would rather comply with a more formal approach for the good of the people. 

So how does this concept clash with other cultures? Well, mostly in the western world, we would think of honne and tatemae as being fake or two faced. However, that is only because we feel that this way of thinking is done with bad intentions. In Japan there is a bigger picture which puts the priorities of the masses before the individual. It is about management of citations and relationships, not being selfish and putting others first. 

The meaning of true sincerity in Japan 

So is it possible for Japanese to be really sincere? 

Now it may sound like this style of living would almost make you want to explode. How would you authentically unwind and express your innermost feelings? The drinking culture in Japan is one of the answers. Meeting with friends / workmates after a long hard day of keeping up appearances to let loose and release some of that pent up pressure is a very common event. 

Japanese are majoritively group minded. This means that there also may be some sincerity within tatemae as they are choosing to act a certain way for the good of the people and thus, in a way, are being sincere and true to themselves and their own beliefs for a greater cause. 

With close friends and family, honne is very much at the forefront and gives that all important time to vent and be comfortable. 

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So in summary, although honne and tatemae may seem somewhat “fake” or “two faced” in western society, it is actually used for a greater good which links to the group mind mentality. People are putting a greater cause over their personal needs which admittedly can have both positive and negative impacts. In the end it’s also about keeping traditions alive and the spirit of a culture and society.

So guys, we hope you have enjoyed today’s article on Honne and Tatemae. We always encourage you to keep striving to learn not just about the Japanese language, but the culture as well. This will help develop your language skills on the whole to give you a deeper understanding of the bigger picture. 

If you have any questions on today’s Japanese article or ideas / suggestions for future content, please make sure you get in touch with us. Until the next time we see you, 頑張ってね。

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