Honne and tatemae
Honne and tatemae are Japanese words that describe the contrast between a person's true feelings and desires (本音 honne?) and the behavior and opinions one displays in public (建前 tatemae?, lit. "façade").
Honne may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one's position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one's closest friends. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one's position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one's honne.
The honne–tatemae divide is considered to be of paramount importance in Japanese culture. The very fact that Japanese have single words for these concepts leads some Nihonjinron specialists[who?] to see this conceptualization as evidence of greater complexity and rigidity in Japanese etiquette and culture.
Some analysts[who?] see honne and tatemae as a cultural necessity resulting from a large number of people living in a comparatively small island nation. Close-knit co-operation and the avoidance of conflict are considered to be of vital importance in everyday life. For this reason, the Japanese tend to go to great lengths to avoid conflict, especially within the context of large groups.
The conflict between honne and giri (social obligations) is one of the main topics of Japanese drama throughout the ages. For example, the protagonist would have to choose between carrying out his obligations to his family/feudal lord or pursuing a clandestine love affair.
Contemporary phenomena such as hikikomori and parasite singles are seen as examples of late Japanese culture's growing problem of the new generation growing up unable to deal with the complexities of honne–tatemae and pressure of an increasingly materialist society.
Debate over whether tatemae and honne are a uniquely Japanese phenomenon continues in Japan, especially among those Japanese who feel their culture is unique in having the concepts of "private mind" and "public mind." Although there might not be direct single word translations for honne and tatemae in some languages, they do have two-word descriptions; for example in English "private mind" and "public mind." Some researchers suggest that the need for explicit words for tatemae and honne in Japanese culture is evidence that the concept is relatively new to Japan, where as the unspoken understanding in many other cultures indicates a deeper internalization of the concepts. In any case, all cultures have conventions that help to determine appropriate communication and behavior in various social contexts which are implicitly understood without an explicit name for the social mores on which the conventions are based.
- Doi, Takeo (1973), The Anatomy of Dependence: Exploring an area of the Japanese psyche: feelings of indulgence, Kodansha International.