In English, it is called a “white lie”: the not-quite-true fabrication, or shading of the truth, that is designed to soften what would otherwise be a. Why don’t Japanese people always say what they mean – Honne and Tatemae. It is sometimes said that the Japanese are not frank, that they are hypocrites or. Abstract. This thesis is an anthropological investigation of one of the double codes in Japanese society; honne meaning the real self or true feelings and tatemae.

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Tatemae is the word to express what that they think would benefit the situation, and would let them avoid any sort of confrontational interaction. What was the conclusion?

The Japanese Art of Indirectness: Honne and Tatemae

Am I supposed to do this or that? Do they want me to leave or to stay? It may even come off as insincere or hypocritical, in the unfortunate situation where tatemae are perceived as truth.

One would have to be very alert, aware and careful to survive in a Japanese society. Sometimes these intentions are sincere and follow ups do happen, but they usually end up being forgotten or simply not cared for.


The earnestness of the Japanese in respecting the other party goes to the extreme, in that anything should be done to avoid even the slightest possibility of offending or embarrassing someone, even if it means being dishonest. This is very much in line with the uniform collective Japanese social mindset that clamps down on sore thumbs.

Nobody wants to have a different opinion nor stand out, and hence under the pretense of social decorum, stay hobne behind tatemae. What is true, and what is false then?

Delve deeper, and we see that consideration and respect for others may not be the actual underlying motive; there is more than meets the eye. Ttemae is this mentality accepted as a norm, and is even allowed to propagate so extensively?

Lying is a mean to an end, do it if it gets you to your goal.

Honne and tatemae – Wikipedia

At the center of all the deceit, not surprisingly, is hlnne need for self-preservation and — benefit. But is this justified? So what happens when either party refuses to let up?

A power struggle ensues, which bystanders who just skim the surface may not be aware of. For example in work meetings, a probable result would be unproductivity and possibly divergence of direction from the initial purpose.


It would be extremely difficult to ttaemae this until the best liar wins. The simplicity of it all is shifting the responsibility of deciphering the intention and the decision of what to do next onto the other party.

But herein sits the catch, the Japanese are ranked 4th in the world for lying, and are not in denial nor ashamed about it at all.

The Japanese Art of Indirectness: Honne and Tatemae | Japan Info

On the contrary, they pride themselves upon it and tatmae lying is recognized as a prized skill. Since everyone knows that everyone is not completely honest with and about their feelings, and they are so upfront about it, are they actually being genuine?

In a nutshell, this attitude of the Honne may be taken both ways, and should be seen and accepted as a part of their culture regardless whether one agrees with it or not.