The true meaning of the words “this is really an insignificant thing I offer you”

Do you understand the heart of the Japanese? 

Business management professor Robert March, in his book titled ” Reading the Japanese Mind”, explains an idea that is the key to understand the Japanese behavior. He points out that in Japan, groups, companies, and the state are all contained in what  he calls “boxes.”


It is easy for the Japanese in a box to understand what others in the same box are thinking, so unlike Westerners, they don’t bother to discuss matters to the end.☺️

In order to live comfortably while getting along with each other within a box, the Japanese don’t assert themselves too much and make the most of conventional customs and practices. He also mentions that in a ” box ” the whole system is easily controlled and thus efficient, and that there is a distinct hierarchy that makes a safe society.


This theory provides a good explanation for foreigners who criticize Japanese as being non-committal when they have to say either “yes” or “no”, and always asking their bosses what to do. It also helps one figure out some of the reasons why Japan has become an economic giant, and why Japan is a safe country with a surprisingly low crime rate.😊




The Heart of the Japanese Language☆

Some of the things that Japanese people say to each other in the course of their daily lives sound very strange to foreigners. For instance, when we run into a acquaintance on the street, we often say , “Where are you going?” Foreigners may well want to answer such a question with “What difference does it make to you where I’m going? Stay out of my private life!”

A Japanese who asks such a question is expressing surprise at meeting his friend in such an unexpected place, inquiring as to whether or not something is wrong, and offering sympathy and concern. So all the other person has to say is, “Oh, I’m just going a little bit further on.”😄



When the person who asked the question hears this answer, he is relieved and says, “Well then, take care of yourself.” And then the two part. In such a case, there is no need at all for the person being questioned to explain with such details as “My child’s grades are so bad that I have been asked to go to his school and talk with his teacher.” In fact, the questioner would feel very uncomfortable if you were to answer with such personal details.

Japanese people carry on their daily lives with feelings of concern for each other’s welfare.😀


Japanese people also have the custom of asking someone they have just met how many children they have. It seems that foreign women sometimes feel this is an extremely rude question. But it is not an attempt to ferret out a person’s secrets.

Since ancient times, the Japanese have considered home and family very important aspects of life. They believe that it would be a terrible thing if no children were born and the family line became extinct. This is the reason such questions are asked, and most Japanese answer them honestly. If one simply answers “Three children,” the questioner will happily reply, “Oh, that’s good,” or “You must be very busy with them.”😉



In the case of one child, the normal answer is “We still have only one child,” and the response is something like, “You must be very lonely,” or “You should have at least one more.” Japanese people understand that such questions arise from feelings of concern for their families, so they don’t feel offended.




 “This is really an insignificant thing I offer you”

When Japanese people go to visit the home of an acquaintance they frequently take a gift, and the greeting that is commonly made when offering such a gift is also strange to foreign ears. We say, “This is really an insignificant thing I offer you.”



When Americans hear these words for the first time, they often wonder why the visitor didn’t bring a more worthwhile gift.



Let us think about the reasons Japanese people say that their gift is insignificant. When someone does a Japanese person a favor, the recipient never forgets it and always feels as though he must do something to repay the kindness.

Thus, he invariably mentions his gratitude the next time he meets the person who has done the favor for him with such words as “Thank you so much for your kindness the other day.” If such a greeting is neglected, the person is thought to be extremely ungrateful and rude.😏


With such customs prevailing, it is difficult for Japanese to take gifts to people, because it seems to indicate that something is expected in return in the future. Thus, they feel obliged to say that the gift they have brought is of no value, and therefore there is no need for the person to whom they are offering it to feel any future obligation.

Thus, the expression “This is really an insignificant thing I offer you,” really means “There is no need at all for you to concern yourself with giving me anything in return.” “I hope you like it.”😁



When Japanese people serve their guests a meal they often say, “I have nothing at all to offer you, but please eat what there is.” Of course, if there really was not anything to offer, the guests couldn’t eat.

The meaning of this expression is “Even though you eat this, please don’t feel that you have eaten anything.” In other words, it comes from the same way of thinking as the phrase, “This is really an insignificant thing I offer you.”🙂




” I was most rude the other day “

Further, when Japanese people meet someone they haven’t seen for some time, they often say ” I was most rude the other day.” This also seems to cause concern to a lot of foreigners, because it makes them think in the following manner – “I do indeed remember seeing this person the other day but I can’t remember him doing anything that seemed rude to me, so he must have done something rude that I didn’t notice.”



But there is actually no need at all to worry like this, because the Japanese person who says this is thinking in the following manner – “I don’t remember doing anything particularly rude to this person when I saw him the other da, but since I am a careless person, I may have done something that was a bother to him without knowing it, so I must apologize for anything that I may have done.”🙄