Honne and tatemae

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In Japan, honne are a person's true feelings and desires (本音, hon'ne, "true sound"), and tatemae are the behavior and opinions one displays in public (建前, tatemae, "built in front", "façade"). This distinction began to be made in the post-war era.[1]

Honne may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one's position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one's closest friends. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one's position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one's honne. In many cases tatemae leads to outright telling of lies in order to avoid exposing the true inward feelings.

The honne–tatemae divide is considered by some to be of paramount importance in Japanese culture.[2]

Honne and tatemae are similar to the Islamic concepts of zaher (ظاهر) and baten (باطن). The self in Iranian culture is thought of as having two separate and distinct levels: an inner private core self (baten), and a social self or the "proper public face" (zaher).[3]


The vulnerability of the Japanese to failures and slurs, which make them feel shame,[4] inferiority,[5][6][7] makes them to feel competitions so keenly to avoid them except necessary ones.[8] A Japanese worthy of being called sincere never verges on the danger of insulting a person he does not mean to provoke to aggression.[9] For this reason, the Japanese tend to go to great lengths to avoid conflict, especially within the context of large groups.[citation needed] Unless violating prerogatives[10], he is protected[11].

The conflict between honne and giri (social obligations) is one of the main topics of Japanese drama throughout the ages.[12] For example, the protagonist would have to choose between carrying out his obligations to his family/feudal lord or pursuing a clandestine love affair.[citation needed]

The same concept in Chinese culture is called inside face and outside face, and they also frequently come into conflict.


Contemporary phenomena such as hikikomori and parasite singles are seen as examples of late Japanese culture's growing problem of the new generation growing up unable to deal with the complexities of honne–tatemae[citation needed] and pressure of an increasingly consumerist society.[citation needed]

Debate over whether tatemae and honne are a uniquely Japanese phenomenon continues in Japan,[citation needed] especially among those Japanese who feel their culture is unique in having the concepts of "private mind" and "public mind". Although there might not be direct single word translations for honne and tatemae in some languages,[citation needed] they do have two-word descriptions; for example in English "private mind" and "public mind".

Some researchers[who?] suggest that the need for explicit words for tatemae and honne in Japanese culture is evidence that the concept is relatively new to Japan, whereas the unspoken understanding in many other cultures indicates a deeper internalization of the concepts. In any case, all cultures have conventions that help to determine appropriate communication and behavior in various social contexts which are implicitly understood without an explicit name for the social mores on which the conventions are based.

A similar discord of Japanese true own feeling and the pretension before public is observed in yase-gaman (term),[13] the phrase literally means even starving to skeleton, being content or pretending to be so. Nowadays, the phrase is used for two different meanings, expressing the samurai virtue of self-discipline,[14] silent moral heroism,[15] or ridiculing stubbornness, face-savingness.[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Takeo Doi,The anatomy of self,1985,page35
  2. ^ Doi, Takeo (1973), The Anatomy of Dependence: Exploring an area of the Japanese psyche: feelings of indulgence, Kodansha International.
  3. ^ Ziabakhsh, Shabnam (2000), The Relationship Between the "Iranian Self" and the Acculturative Patterns of Iranian Immigrant Women, Simon Fraser University.
  4. ^ Ruth Benedict,The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,1946,page153
  5. ^ Takeo Doi, The anatomy of dependence,1971,page53
  6. ^ John W. Dower,War without Mercy,1986,page122,127,133
  7. ^ John W. Dower,Embracing Defeat,1999,page284
  8. ^ Ruth Benedict,The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,1946,page153,154,164
  9. ^ Ruth Benedict,The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,1946,page218
  10. ^ Ruth Benedict,The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,1946,page 52,86
  11. ^ Lafcadio Hearn,Japan:An Attempt at interpretation,1904,Dodo Press,page 192
  12. ^ Ruth Benedict,The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,1946,page205-207,315(...conceal his emotions,to give up his desires,..)
  13. ^ John W. Dower,War without Mercy,1986,page230
  14. ^ Ruth Benedict,The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,1946,page218(man who is free of passion),228,63(frugality)
  15. ^ Lafcadio Hearn,Japan:An Attempt at Interpretation,1904,Dodo Press,page226,246,250,252
  16. ^ John W. Dower,Embracing Defeat,1999,page284