The Mind of a Japanese Person


A while ago I was going through Gakuranman’s blog and found out that he’s instructing people to write something about some strange, unusual or crazy about Japan, so I’ve decided to write about how Japanese people think and act that I’ve found out since I began studying Japanese. Now I’m not an expert into how the Japanese think and how their society functions but I have noticed since I began studying some that the Japanese people have different way’s of communicating and doing things to other cultures. And here are some examples.

The Sun is Hot….. I Think.

I’ve been studying for only 6 months but I have noticed that you can never be direct, I don’t mean like insulting someone or pointing out poeple’s flaws I mean, you can never be certain about anything unless it’s an absolute certainty. So at the end of sentences I always hear ~と思います or which means “I think” or ね, which sort of means “isn’t it?”. I first noticed how bad it was when I was practising Japanese and I tried to say 太一はギターが上手になりたい which means “Taichi wants to become a good guitar player”. But that’s wrong, you have to drop the final ~い in the ~ たい form and add ~がっている,  which basically means, “appears to be” when talking about what someone else wants to do, this is because you don’t know what someone’s true intentions are. So even if my freind Taichi had said to me exactly “He wants to become good at playing the guitar” and practises every day for 5 hours, I still am technically unsure.

Yeh, I wrestled a bear to the ground…. It was nothing…

Another thing I found in my study is how hard it is for a Japanese person to accept a compliment and how easy it is to get one. I know that with your freinds you can be a bit vain and big-headed but for the other %99 of the population you’re going to have to give and reject all of them. I know if you’ve ever just met and talked to any Japanese person ever, they’ll in every case reply “wow! your japanese is great!” and if it’s a girl they’ll look at you with a shocked expression of pure amazement. And have you ever tried to compliment a Japanese person, if you have, you know it’s one of the hardest things to do in the world! No matter how hard you try you will never get a yes, I have never had one Japanese person ever accept a compliment or ever admit defeat when I try and be humble about it because it’s all about making yourself feel less superior to the person you’re talking which is as a way of respecting them.

Before we get down to business, let’s spend 3 day’s talking.

Have you seen a movie in which a powerful business guy storm’s into a meeting saying what he’s going to give and what he wants, and the whole process takes 12 seconds. In Japan, you can’t do that. It’s all centered around the idea of 根回し(nemawashi) which literally translates to “going around the roots”, before a big change can happen there has to be preparation, and lot’s of it.


In Japan before a big business deal is done, the people involved will talk, get to know eachother, If one participant is from another country, he would be taken around the city and shown many places all the while still getting to know the eachother. This is all done so that by the time when they all finally do sit down to speak business, the people know eachother on a personal level and are able to make decisions, knowing what everyone wants so there’s less confrontations and disagreements over the plans to come.

These are just some of the way’s that the Japanese differ in an awesome way to Western cultures. Basically all the things that I’ve mentioned have led me to beleive that Japanese poeple are respectively cautious, humble and want to be prepared. So if you have any other insight’s into the Japanese culture please leave a comment, or if you disagree with anything I’ve said also leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.



Filed under Beliefs, Culture

7 responses to “The Mind of a Japanese Person

  1. eyu

    I have seen actually the man in photo!
    The place is Harajuku in Tokyo.

  2. Love the concept of nemawashi. It means that all critical decisions are made over a sake or two. I have been in this situation myself. A critical decision needs to be made… you could spend 3 days in a formal meeting going backwards and forwards… instead, take the stakeholders out for a few sneaky ones and the next days meeting becomes a formality of acceptance, decision made.

    Personally, I put it down to the structure and rigidity of the Japanese business domain. After a few sake’s you can have an emotional discussion and hear people’s true feelings, feelings that would normally be surpressed in a business forum. Sometimes people are just glad that their opinions are heard.

    But this is all of the track, good post.

    • headingforjapan

      I know, I was thinking of going into the idea of honne (true feelings) and tatemae (facade) but it’s a bit too deep into the idea of the rigidity of the Japanese and how they express themselves. Anyway thanks for the compliment and the informative comment.

  3. Pingback: Sex, Lies and Japanese Women « Rural Japan's Blog

  4. I’m not sure that “ne” is related to not asserting yourself too strongly or concretely. In English, we use tag questions all the time for similar purposes (“it’s hot, isn’t it?”)

    The main thing I’ve noticed about Japanese is that it is what I’d call a very “insecure” means of communication. That is, you have to constantly be reassuring the person who is speaking to you that you are listening and understanding them either by saying “so, desu, ne”, “ne”, or grunting in affirmation. When you teach English to Japanese people, you can see that they sometimes stop and wait for you to understand or ask, “do you understand” when there is no cause for asking such a question.

    There’s definitely a different psychology at play in interactions.

  5. Yorinaga

    がる does not mean “I think”, I learnt it as “appear to” but my Jp-Jp dictionary gives it as “思う” or “様子をする”

    Notice that in your example sentence, “太一はガターが上手になりたがっている。” that Taichi is the topic of the sentence, it is Taichi who thinks he wants to be good at guitar, not you who thinks he wants to be good.

    Finally, when learning a new language, you must understand that even words that seem to translate directly can carry a different nuance than in your native language.

    While English uses “I think” to indicate that one is unsure of something, this is not a necessary element of the basic verb.

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