If you are able to understand the "tatemae" and "honne" commonly used by Japanese speakers, you may find it easier and more enjoyable to live and travel in Japan.
In this article, I would like to introduce the "tatemae" and "honne" that are commonly used in the Japanese dating scene in Japan.
Tatemae: また私から連絡するね (Mata watashi-kara renraku surune)
Meaning: I'll be in touch with you.
Honne: あなたからは連絡しないで (Anata-karawa renraku shinaide)
Meaning: I don't want to hear from you.
When you're on a date with someone and they say, " I'll be in touch with you," when you're saying your goodbyes, this is most likely just a "tatemae." What they truly mean is: "I'm not interested in you, and I don't intend to contact you again, so I don't want to hear from you either," so don't expect to hear from them.
A similar phrase, "落ち着いたら連絡するね (Ochitsuitara renraku surune: I'll contact you once everything settles down)," is another "tatemae" used when they have no plan on contacting you.
Tatemae: 仕事が忙しくなったからもう別れよう (Shigoto-ga isogashiku nattakara mō wakareyō)
Meaning: Let's break up because things have gotten too busy at work.
Honne: あなたのことが好きじゃなくなった、もう冷めてしまった (Anata-no koto-ga sukija-nakunatta, mō samete-shimatta)
Meaning: I'm not in love with you anymore, I no longer feel anything for you.
This is used when you're breaking up with someone.
No matter how much they really feel that "they are not in love with you anymore, they no longer feel anything for you," Japanese speakers still feel hesitant about saying it so directly.
This is why they blame it on their busy work schedule to break up with someone by saying, "I've become too busy with work."
Tatemae: 今は恋愛に興味ないんだよね (Ima-wa rennai-ni kyōmi-ga naindayone)
Meaning: I'm not interested in being in a relationship right now.
Honne: あなたには興味がない (Anata-niwa kyōmi-ga nai)
Meaning: I'm not interested in you.
To say "I'm not interested in being in a relationship right now" to someone who seems to be interested in you is almost always a "tatemae"; in reality, what they really mean is "I'm not interested in you, so don't approach me."
Oftentimes, Japanese speakers find it difficult to say outright "I'm not interested in you," and they might even feel sorry for the other person. This is why they try to deter them or try to make them give up on approaching them by saying it in a more subtle way.
Tatemae: どこでもいいよ、何でもいいよ (Dokodemo iiyo, nandemo iiyo)
Meaning: I'm fine with going anywhere / doing anything.
Honne: 私が気に入るならどこでもいいよ、何でもいいよ (Watashi-ga kiniiru-nara dokodemo iiyo, nandemo iiyo)
Meaning: Anywhere / anything is fine as long as I like it.
This is a common "tatemae" used by women in Japan.
You might hear this in a situation when someone is asking their partner, "where do you want to go? Is there something you want to eat?"
Since expressing your own wishes may be perceived as being selfish, some people may say, "anywhere / anything is fine," but in reality, they actually mean "as long as I like it, anything / anywhere is fine."
Tatemae: オシャレなカフェ見つけたんだよね (Oshare-na kafe-wo mitsuketan-dayone)
Meaning: I found a cute / cool cafe.
Honne: そこであなたとデートしたい！連れて行って！ (Sokode anata-to dēto shitai! Tsurete-itte!)
Meaning: I want to go on a date with you there! Take me there!
This is also a "tatemae" commonly used by women.
Many women find it hard to straightforwardly say "I want to go to this cafe with you, take me there!"
So instead, they would say, "I found a cute / cool cafe," but in reality they are actually waiting for their partner to say something on the lines of: "well, let's go there together this weekend."
Tatemae: 恋人は見た目より中身が大事 (Koibito-wa mitame-yori nakami-ga daiji)
Meaning: I think what's on the inside matters more than what's on the outside.
Honne: 実は見た目がかなり大事なんだけど、そう言うと印象悪いよね…？ (Jitsu-wa mitame-ga kanari daiji nandakedo, sōiuto inshō warui-yone...?)
Meaning: Well, actually, appearance is pretty important for me in a partner, but it doesn't sound too good when I put it that way, right…?
No matter how important appearance is to someone, if they explicitly say, "appearance is more important than what's on the inside / their personality," it will give a bad impression, so instead they use the tatemae: "I think what's on the inside matters more than what's on the outside."
Tatemae: 明日の仕事は大丈夫？ (Ashita-no shigoto-wa daijōbu?)
Meaning: Don't you have work tomorrow? Won't it affect your work tomorrow?
Honne: そろそろ帰りたいんだけど… (Soro-soro kaeritain-dakedo...)
Meaning: I'd like to leave already...
After you have finished eating together, a date might ask, "where shall we go after this?" and if they respond with, "don't you have work tomorrow? Won't it affect your work tomorrow?" then this is just a tatemae, and they actually might want to "just go home already..."
This phrase might sound like they are concerned about the other person, but in reality, it is actually used to express that they want to leave.
Tatemae: 怒ってないよ (Okotte-naiyo)
Meaning: I'm not angry at you.
Honne: めっちゃ怒ってるよ (Meccha okotteru-yo)
Meaning: I'm very angry at you.
Even if a Japanese person is very angry, oftentimes they find it hard to straightforwardly express that "they are angry."
So instead, they use a much subtle expression "I'm not angry," but it shows that they want the other person to guess "why" they are angry, and "what" they are angry about.
Tatemae: 週末は何してるの？ (Shūmatsu-wa nani-shiteruno?)
Meaning: What are you doing this weekend?
Honne: デートに誘いたいんだけど… (Dēto-ni sasoitain-dakedo...)
Meaning: I want to ask you out on a date...
If you ask someone out on a date and they turn you down, you would probably feel devastated.
So, to avoid getting hurt, Japanese speakers often avoid asking "let's go on a date" out of the blue, but rather ask in a more subtle way, such as: "What are you doing this weekend?" or "What are your plans for this weekend?"
Most Japanese know what this tatemae really means, so if they are interested in that person, they will respond with something along the line of: "I don't have any plans, how about you?"
On the contrary, if they are not interested, they often respond with: "I'm meeting a friend," "I'm busy," and so on.
Tatemae: どっちも似合ってるよ (Docchi-mo niatteruyo)
Meaning: They both look good on you.
Honne: どっちでも良いから早くして (Docchi-demo iikara hayaku-shite)
Meaning: I don't really care, so just hurry up.
This phrase is often used by men who are shopping with their partner.
If a woman asks, "which outfit looks better on me?" and the man replies with "they both look good on you," they actually mean "I don't really care, so just make it quick" so that they can get the shopping done as quickly as possible.
The number of international couples has increased to the extent that 1 out of every 30 newlyweds nowadays is in an international marriage.
I hope you find this information helpful when you are dating a Japanese person.
In my next article, I would like to show you the "tatemae" and "honne" that Japanese speakers often use when doing business!