I think that most of you reading this article may be interested in living in Japan or are already living in Japan.
In this article, I would like to introduce the "tatemae” and "honne" that Japanese people often use in their daily lives.
Tatemae: (トイレの貼り紙に)いつもきれいにお使い頂きありがとうございます(Toire no harigami ni itsumo kirei ni otsukai itadaki arigatōgozaimasu.)
Meaning: (On a notice in the restroom) Thank you for keeping the restroom clean.
Honne: きれいに使ってください(Kirei ni tsukatte kudasai)
Meaning: Please keep the restroom clean.
If you have ever been to Japan on vacation, you have probably seen a notice like this one in a restroom: "いつもきれいにお使い頂きありがとうございます(Thank you for keeping the restroom clean)"
Don't think that you are literally being thanked for.
As we have seen in my previous articles, the Japanese, who do not like to express themselves in a straightforward manner, are asking people to "please use it nicely" in a roundabout way.
Tatemae: (美容院でシャンプー中に)かゆいところはございませんか？(Miyōin de shanpū-chū ni kayui tokoro wagozaimasen ka?)
Meaning: (During shampooing at a hair salon) Do you have any itchy spots?
Honne: そろそろシャンプーを終えますね。(Sorosoro shanpū o oemasu ne.)
Meaning: I'm about to finish shampooing.
If you have been to a hair salon in Japan, you may have heard this phrase before.
When he hairdresser asks, "Do you have any itchy spots?" Of course, you can tell them if you have, but they would usually use this phrase to let you know that they are about to finish shampooing.
Tatemae: (洋服屋さんで店員が)こちらもお似合いになると思いますよ。(Yōfuku-ya-san de ten'in ga kochira mo oniai ni naru to omoimasu yo.)
Meaning: (Clerk at the clothing store) I think this one will suit you too.
Honne: 今選ぼうとしている服は似合わないから、こっちにして！(Ima erabou to shite iru fuku wa niawanai kara, kotchi ni shite!)
Meaning: The clothes you are about to choose now don't suit you, take this one instead!
No matter how bad it looks on you, they can't say, "その服は似合いません！" (That outfit doesn't look good on you!)".
Japanese apparel store clerks generally direct customers to a different item so as not to offend them, by saying, "こちらもお似合いになると思いますよ (I think this one would look good on you as well)".
Tatemae: (自分の失敗でなくても、自分が悪くなくても)すみません。(Jibun no shippaidenakute mo, jibun ga warukunakute mo sumimasen.)
Meaning: (Even if it's not your fault.) Sorry.
Honne: 私は悪くないけど、とりあえず謝っておこう。(Watashi wa warukunaikedo, toriaezu ayamatte okou.)
Meaning: It's not my fault, but I apologize anyway.
Perhaps some of you reading this article have the impression that Japanese people are quick to apologize.
Even Japanese people do not want to apologize unless it is their fault, and even if it was their mistake, they at least want to explain the situation first.
However, if you do not apologize first, it may cause a crack in your relationship, and explaining the situation may be perceived as making excuses. This is why Japanese people tend to apologize first, even if it was not their fault.
"Tatemae: (嬉しくないプレゼントや必要のない物をもらっても)ありがとう。(Ureshikunai purezento ya hitsuyō no nai mono o moratte mo arigatō)
Meaning: (Even if you receive a gift that doesn't make you happy or something you don't need) Thank you.
Honne: 嬉しくないけど、私のためにしてくれたんだからお礼しておこう… (Ureshikunaikedo, watashi no tame ni shite kureta ndakara orei shite okou…)
Meaning: I'm not happy about it, but since you did it for me, I'll thank you for it.
In Japan, there is an expression: "ありがた迷惑 (Thank you, but no thank you)".
It is a combination of the words "thank you" and "annoyance," and it means that a person's kindness or courtesy feels like an annoyance instead of a favor.
For example, friends who share barbeque with you without asking, in-laws who buy clothes for your kids, bosses who worry about when are you going to getting married or having kids, etc...
It is very difficult for Japanese people to say "結構です (No, thank you)" to such people who do things out of kindness.
It is Japanese courtesy to say "Thank you" once, even if it is not a pleasure or if it is just an annoyance.
Tatemae: (体調が悪くても)大丈夫 (Taichō ga warukute mo daijōbu)
Meaning: (Even if you're not feeling well) I'm fine.
Honne: 全然大丈夫じゃないけど、心配かけられないから、大丈夫と言っておこう…(Zenzendaijōbu janaikedo, shinpai kake rarenaikara, daijōbu to itte okou…)
Meaning: I'm not okay at all, but I can't worry you, so let's just say I'm okay.
Many Japanese people go to school or work saying "I'm fine" even if they are not feeling well and really want to take time off from school or work.
Many people feel guilty about taking time off and tend to force themselves to say "I'm fine" because they don't want to cause others to worry.
Tatemae: 育ちが良いんですね (Sodachi ga iindesu ne)
Meaning: You were raised well.
Honne: 世間知らずですね (Sekanshirazudesu ne)
Meaning: You are naive.
The polite way to imply that someone has no common sense and is making things difficult for you: "育ちが良いんですね (You were raised well)".
Tatemae: いつも元気ですよね (Itsumo genkidesu yo ne)
Meaning: You are always so cheerful.
Honne: 落ち着きがないですね (Ochitsuki ga naidesu ne)
Meaning: You're restless.
"いつも元気ですよね (You are always so cheerful.)" is a common expression. It isn't used literally as to describe someone who is always in good spirits, but instead is used to describe someone who doesn't act or dress according to what is commonly expected in a given situation, those who often make offensive remarks, or those who are a nuisance to people around them.
Tatemae: いつまでもお若いですね (Itsu made mo o wakaidesu ne)
Meaning: You are forever young.
Honne: ちょっと若作りしすぎなんじゃ… (Chotto wakadzukuri shi sugina n ja…)
Meaning: I think you are trying to look a little too young...
If you look on the other side of the meaning, saying "いつまでもお若いですね(You are forever young)" actually means: "その格好、メイクはちょっと若作りしすぎなんじゃない？無理しすぎなんじゃない？ (I think you look a little too young in that outfit and make-up. You are trying too hard)".
If you hear these words, it may mean that you are not fashionable enough for your age.
What do you think?
In the next article, I will introduce "honne" and "tatemae" used by the people of Kyoto, who are said to be the most honest and "tatemae-using" people in Japan!