Japanese people do indeed use a great number of words of apology. Very often, they use an apology in place of words of gratitude.
For instance, an old woman gets on a bus. Someone gets up to give her their seat. While there are some old ladies who will say simple “Thank you”, most people will say, “I’m sorry” in such a situation.
An old lady who says “I’m sorry” is thinking like this – “If I had not boarded this bus, you would have been able to keep your seat. Since you got up because I got on the bus, I have been a bother to you.
I’m indeed sorry for this.” It is for this reason that Japanese apologize instead of expressing direct gratitude. We feel that this approach makes people feel better than direct gratitude. Japanese people generally feel that apologizing is an extremely honorable thing to do.
- 1 The story that Japanese family hired a maid from that country
- 2 the Japanese consider it best not to talk too much in any situation
- 3 The man says, “What would you like?” The woman answers, “Anything is fine.”
- 4 In the past it was considered improper for a Japanese woman to utter the words, “I love you.”
- 5 Is it often said that Japanese people speak in a very illogical manner?
The story is told of a Japanese family who went to live in a Western country. They hired a maid from that country.
She broke a glass in the kitchen and said to the wife of the family, “The glass broke.” This may well be the normal way to report such a matter in Western society, but the Japanese wife din’t like it when she was spoken to in this manner.
If the maid had been Japanese, she would have said, “I broke a glass.” In other words, she would be saying that the breaking of the glass was the result of her own negligence. And to her it means the same thing as it would if she had broken it on purpose. She would never think that the glass just broke of its own accord.
Thus, we would say, “I broke this glass,” as an expression of apology. This sort of attitude is extremely effective in dealing with Japanese people.
Japanese police give a person who knows how to apologize well a much lighter punishment than one who does not. This is because the Japanese believe that a person who apologizes regrets having committed the crime and this also makes them confident that he will never do anything bad again.
But recently, drivers of automobiles have begun to feel that it is not practical to apologize when they are called to the station for causing an accident. They believe that apologizing indicates that they are admitting they are at fault, and that they place themselves in a more advantageous position by insisting that they are innocent.
I can’t help but feel that this has come from the influence of Europe and America, and I am greatly saddened to see this phenomenon arising among us.😢
When Japanese people apologize, they consider it best to simply bow their head and say, “I’m sorry” rather than adding any explanatory defense for what they have done, because they feel that any such defense means that you don’t recognize that you are at fault.
The best apology is expressed in the least possible number of words, with the head bowed as low as possible, and with a look of contrition on the face.
Generally speaking, the Japanese consider it best not to talk too much in any situation. Japanese boys are taught that a man should never speak any more than is absolutely necessary.🙂
And they don’t consider it proper for a woman to talk more than in public. Since ancient times it has been believed that a woman should never express herself verbally, but rather should always quietly carry out what she is told by her superiors.
This is considered the highest feminine virtue. Thus, as the man is a superior position, he must act in such a way that the woman’s thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration.
Such feelings and ways of thought are still in evidence to a certain extent in Japan today. For instance, a man and a woman go into a coffee shop or a restaurant together. The man says, “What would you like?” The woman answers, “Anything is fine.” In such a case, it is the man’s responsibility to decide what the woman would like to eat or drink and to order it for that.
This is considered the ideal way for a man to act. Of course, there are men who don’t give a single thought to what the woman might want and just simply order something for her that they like themselves.😌
In the past it was considered improper for a Japanese woman to utter the words, “I love you.” During the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), there was an author named Futabatei Hasegawa. He had a good knowledge of the Russian language and translated many Russian novels into Japanese.
In one of these novels, the climax of the piece was a scene depicting the love of a young man and woman. The man says, “I love you.” The woman answers, “I love you,” and they kiss.
The story is told that Futabatei agonized for two full days and nights over how best to translate the woman’s answer of “I love you.” If the speaker in this case were a man, he could use any number of expressions, such as ” Like you very much” or “I have always been thinking about you.”
But in those days, there was no equivalent expression that was proper for a lady to use. Nowadays, she could possibly say, ” I have also been very fond of you,” but the use of such an expression that the woman was uncultured, and it would have destroyed the image of this heroine.
So after two days and nights of troubled thought, Futabatei decided to have her say, ” I am ready and willing to die now.” This was of course, way back at the turn of the century during the Meiji period. In today’s Japan women are not nearly as restricted by custom😃
In conclusion, it is often said that Japanese people speak in a very illogical manner. Let’s take the example of a customer going into a bookshop and asking the shopkeeper, “Do you have a Spanish conversation textbook?” If such a book is not in stock, the shopkeeper will answer, “We didn’t.”
Thus in spite of the fact that it is the present moment that is being discussed, the answer is given in the past tense. The reason for this is that what the shopkeeper is really saying is, “We should have the book you asked for, but due to our negligence we didn’t stock it for you.”
In other words, this phenomenon arises out of a tendency to abbreviate rather than give a long, drawn-out explanation in such a situation, based upon the Japanese conviction that it is always best to say as little as possible. It is this mindset that gives rise to the the of short answer that was given to the customer by the shopkeeper.
This trend gives rise to numerous seeming contradictions and frequently makes Japanese dialogue sound illogical to foreign ears.😄