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Ishin-denshin (以心伝心?) is a Japanese idiom[citation needed]which denotes a form of interpersonal communication through unspoken mutual understanding. This four-character compound, known as a yojijukugo[citation needed], literally translates as "what the mind thinks, the heart transmits."[citation needed] Sometimes translated into English as "telepathy"[citation needed] or "sympathy"[citation needed], ishin-denshin is also commonly rendered as "heart-to-heart communication" or "tacit understanding."[1]

Although silent understanding is generally recognized as a universal human phenomenon, the term ishin-denshin is often used to convey a style of nonverbal communication between two people that is felt by some Japanese to be characteristic of Japanese culture.[2] Whereas the Japanese concept of haragei denotes a deliberate form of nonverbal communication, ishin-denshin refers to a passive form of shared understanding. Ishin-denshin is traditionally perceived by the Japanese as sincere, silent communication via the heart or belly (i.e. symbolically from the inside, uchi), as distinct from overt communication via the face and mouth (the outside, soto), which is seen as being more susceptible to insincerities.[2] The introduction of this concept to Japan is related to the traditions of Buddhism from India via China, where the term ishin-denshin in Zen Buddhism refers to direct mind transmission.[2][3]

Ishin-denshin, or non-verbal communication, continues to influence many aspects of contemporary Japanese culture[citation needed]and ethics[citation needed], ranging from business practices[citation needed] to bioethical issues[citation needed], including end-of-life care.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cheung, King-Kok (1993). Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa. Cornell University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-8014-8147-5. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Davies, Roger J.; Ikeno, Osamu (March 15, 2002). The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 52–54, 105. ISBN 978-0-8048-3295-3. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ Baroni, Helen Josephine (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-8239-2240-6. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ Slingsby, Brian Taylor (2005). "The nature of relative subjectivity: a reflexive mode of thought". The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 20 (1): 9–25. doi:10.1080/03605310590907039. PMID 15814365. Retrieved July 28, 2012.