はじめての日本!アメリカ人英語教師の名古屋滞在記 An English teacher’s thoughts on Japan 01/23/2020

Updated: Jan 26

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Giri and Ninjo


So here I go, ya'll. I'm going to wax on for a handful of paragraphs about something I only have a sliver of an idea about. Enjoy :)



Supposedly, there are two factors that govern the decision-making of Japanese people in any given situation. The first is their sense of duty, termed 'Giri', which dictates what behavior is socially acceptable in public, at work, or at home. This responsibility can be demanding, onerous, or even self-damaging, but it must be completed regardless. The second is their emotional willpower, called 'Ninjo', which comes into play when their humanity rises up unbidden. No matter your origin, you ought to have some semblance of what emotions course most powerfully through you and how they alter your more logical thought processes.


So why the blog post?


...because of how conspicuous these are in the behavior of people at large.


On the one hand, Giri is great. Giri is pivotal in providing the clean, respectful environment you'll enjoy in Japan. The politeness or even deference you'll experience here is more than agreeable. Few litter, few steal, few will arrive or depart without vocalizing the requisite platitudes, few will even think of eating the last piece of food on a communal plate, few will accept a gift without returning one, usually of greater value or prestige.



On the other hand, Giri results in a resistance to uttering the words "no" or "I disagree" to anyone who doesn't reside below them on the rungs of the hierarchy of seniority (in age or position). Thus, people go about their public and work lives saying 'yes' or 'certainly' even when they couldn't disagree more. In some cases I've seen, when incongruity exists between the spoken and held opinions, the lower party will then endeavor to achieve their ends through a series complex actions and machinations, either consciously or unconsciously. This dearth of conviction has likely cost many a man-hour, not to mention many a man/woman their sanity.


'Ninjo'...well, we are all moody from time to time, aren't we? Just kidding--I don't think that counts. 'Ninjo' runs deep in most of us. We feel and we act. Some may argue that our emotional decision-making apparatus is only rarely overrun by our logical decision-making structure. Ever give a gift out of love, not for the possible reciprocation? Ever bark at a stranger for something trivial? This is our emotional 'Ninjo' kicking into action. Japanese are exceptional at keeping theirs in check, but it still rears its head from time to time. For example, I was astounded to witness an angry man blow through a crossing with a number of pedestrians and cyclists in the process of traversing. He threw up his hands in exasperation. Yet don't forget, 'Ninjo' also represents actions driven by love as well as gifts given without any obligation to do so.


The two battle it out in the 'dohyō' (wrestling ring) of the Japanese psyche. It's faintly visible on the face of the nodding subordinate or in the eyes of the exhausted greeter, bleating out the pleasantries to distracted passersby.


Which wins the battle in your 'tamashi' (soul) each day?


To join this clever community: https://stage-line.com/school/nagoya/



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