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Haragei (腹芸 or はらげい) is a Japanese concept of interpersonal communication.[1] It also appears in martial arts circles, with a somewhat different meaning; see below. Literally translated, the term means "stomach art", and it refers to an exchange of thoughts and feelings that is implied in conversation, rather than explicitly stated.[1] It is a form of rhetoric intended to express real intention and true meaning through implication.[2] In some societies,[clarification needed] it can also denote charisma or strength of personality.[3]

Takie Lebra identified four dimensions of Japanese silence - truthfulness, social discretion, embarrassment and defiance.[4] In Western literature, the essence of the difference between just talking and really communicating through silence is analyzed in Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter.[5]

In negotiation, haragei is characterised by euphemisms, vague and indirect statements, prolonged silences and careful avoidance of any comment that might cause offense.[6] Information is communicated through timing, facial expression and emotional context, rather than through direct speech.[7] It is sometimes considered a duplicitous tactic in negotiation to obfuscate one's true intentions, which may cause haragei to be viewed with suspicion.[8] It can also be misconstrued by those with limited experience in the tactic.

Haragei also functions as a method of leadership, replacing direct orders to subordinates with subtle, non-verbal signals. It is considered a desirable trait in a leader in Japan.[9] However, it may make assigning of responsibility or blame to the leader difficult.[citation needed]

In martial arts[edit]

In martial arts circles, haragei has a different meaning than that discussed in the rest of this article, although the concepts are related. Here it refers to those arts which enable the practitioner to sense threats or anticipate an opponent's movements.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Davies, R & Ikeno, O; The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture; Tuttle 2002 p103-108
  2. ^ Yan, Z.; Xiao, C. G. (2008). Re-interpreting Emperor Hirohito Reciting Shikai at the Imperial Meeting on September 6. 6. p. 18.
  3. ^ Hahn, T; Sensational knowledge: embodying culture through Japanese dance, Wesleyan University Press, 2007, p67
  4. ^ Lebra, T. S. (1987). "The cultural significance of silence in Japanese communication". Multilingua-Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication. 6 (4): 343–358. doi:10.1515/mult.1987.6.4.343. S2CID 201698606.
  5. ^ Xiao, Q.; Wang, Z. X. (2010). "XIAO, Q., & WANG, Z. X". Canadian Social Science. 3 (4): 30–32.
  6. ^ Binnendijk, H; National Negotiating Styles, DIANE Publishing, 1987 p55
  7. ^ Hassell, R; Haragei: Speaking from the gut in Black Belt Magazine, January 1985 edition
  8. ^ Johnson, F; Dependency and Japanese Socialization: Psychoanalytic and Anthropological Investigations in Amae, NYU Press 1995
  9. ^ Kaiser, D; Pedagogy and the practice of science: historical and contemporary perspectives, MIT Press 2005, p369
  10. ^ Durbin, W; The Fighting Arts of the Samurai: the Warrior's Combat Handbook in Black Belt Magazine March 1990 edition
  11. ^ Lovret, F; The way and the power: secrets of Japanese strategy, Paladin Press 1987, p96