Ganbatte is a common phrase in Japanese that means “do your best!” Japan has great respect for effort and pushing oneself. This can be seen in the way that people work or in Japan’s passion for physical challenges such as carryingmikoshi at festivals that can weigh several tons.
Shoganai is an important idea in Japan that can be translated “it can’t be helped.” It is the philosophy or strategy that some things are out of your control and it’s best to focus your efforts on things you can change. Shoganai is used to explain a wide range of social phenomenon in Japan including the country’s ability to bounce back from hardship. People don’t complain muchand press ahead under duress. It can also be used to explain negative things such as people’s disinterest in politics that allows politicians to implement things that are wildly unpopular.
3. Giri & Ninjo
Giri & Ninjo can be loosely translated Duty & Emotion. Giri is a duty you have due to work, family and interpersonal relationships. For example, a waiter has a duty to be provide a high standard of customer service. If a customer is difficult, the waiter may feel emotions of anger but duty is always supposed to come first. This difficult prioritization of duty over emotion is the theme of many Japanese dramas. It’s also a real problem that people face on a daily basis.
Genki is a common word in the Japanese language that can be translated as health, enthusiasm, spirit or energy. It encapsulates the idea of health and enthusiasm in a single concept.
Mottainai is a feeling of regret about wasting something. As a highly populated island with few natural resources, the Japanese historically had a strong aversion to waste. This ethic is arguably fading as its easy to spot wasteful habits in modern Japan. Nevertheless, mottainai is a still a potent idea in Japan even if its practice is fading. Most people can tell a story about how an older relative such as a grandparent avoided mottainai by repairing possessions and recycling things such as kimono.
Kawaii is the Japanese word for cute. Japan has a unique sense of the cute aesthetic.
Yakudoshi is the Japanese superstition that particular ages are unlucky. In Japan, superstition tends to be viewed in a lighthearted way. Nevertheless, people take these things somewhat seriously and many people buy lucky stuffat their local shrine in their unlucky years in the hopes of avoiding tragedy.
Kami are Shinto deities. According to Shinto traditions there are eight million Kami. However, this number is the ancient way that Japan represented infinity. This large number of deities has given Japan a sense of religious flexibility. For example, it’s common for Japanese people to identify with both Shinto and Buddhism. It is also common for couples to choose a Christian style wedding in Japan.
9. Honne & Tatemae
Honne & Tatemae can be translated “true opinion” and “public face.” Tatemae is the idea that it’s often necessary to hide your true opinion in order to ensure social harmony. This a fundamental building block of Japanese Manners. It is unusual to directly criticize someone in social situations. As a result, the Japanese tend to deliver criticism in roundabout ways and you need to read between the lines to see it.
Jishuku is a type of mourning that’s often translated “self restraint.” It is a period of reflection after loosing a loved one that may last several months or more. During Jishuku people refrain from self indulgence and self promotion. For example, it’s common to refrain from joining nomikai during Jishuku. Japan is also known to go into Jishuku at the national level after a major tragedy such as an earthquake that claims many lives. At the national level this usually means cancellations of festivals and other joyous events.
11. Mono No Aware
Mono No Aware is a Japanese aesthetic that can be translated “the impermanence of things.” It suggests that things are more attractive because they don’t last. For example, cherry blossoms bloom brilliantly in the Spring and quickly fall. Mono No Aware suggests that cherry blossoms would be less attractive if they were long-lived flowers. Although it’s an attractive aesthetic, Mono No Aware has a somewhat dark history. For example, it was used leading up to WWII by the Japanese government to convince young people of the glory of war.
12. Otsukaresama Deshita
Otsukaresama Deshita is a common way to say goodnight at work in Japan that can be translated “you’re tired sir.” In Japan, it’s considered a compliment to tell someone they’re tired since it implies they’ve been working hard.Otsukaresama Deshita is also a common way to say cheers in Japanese.
Bureiko is a Japanese term for the break down of rules that tends to happen at company parties known as nomikai. Japanese companies are traditionally managed with rigid hierarchical structures that don’t allow for free flowing ideas. As such, a break down of rules is considered valuable for building stronger teams.
14. Pasonaru Supesu
Pasonaru Supesu is the Japanese term for personal space. In Japan, personal space is something of a skill. That is to say that people have developed various strategies to establish a little personal space in the most crowded of conditions.
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