Friday, February 15, 2013

LOVE: Japanese Style

So how was your Valentine's Day?

Did you do anything romantic with your sweetheart?
Were chocolates or flowers a part of your plans?
Or, If you are single, did you take the time to let a close friend know how much they mean to you? Or treat (もてなす = motenasu) yourself?

However you spent VD (Valentine's Day) I hope it was enjoyable and satisfactory.
By the way, a few of us Americans often joke when we refer to Valentine's Day as "VD" because "VD" is also a way to say 'Venereal Disease'
A Dis-ease of Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love....
"I'm so embarrassed!"
Some tasteless American sense of humor for you.....

Anyway, I asked some of my Japanese English students about love because "love" is usually an unspoken word in Japan. Japanese people in general are too embarrassed to say "I love you", even to their own spouses and children!

"Saying "love" in Japanese can be a bit tricky. Ai (愛  or あい) is the direct translation of "love," but it's generally only for movie titles or as a joke."

       - from: 'More Making Out in Japanese' by Todd & Erica Geers

"AI" will always love you

In fact any open or outwards displays of affection in Japan are extremely rare. I've never seen Japanese friends or families hug each other, let alone kiss. I have seen a few people holding hands... that's about it. This is quite shocking and bewildering to an American like me. I remember my surprise when, visiting Japan years ago with my wife Mia, she did not hug her parents hello or goodbye,  even though we saw them only once a year then. When I asked her about it she said Japanese families don't hug each other, even after a long time spent apart. I have hugged friends and even co-workers in the past even though I would see them again in a day or two!

"Aishiteiryo" literally "I love you" has a very heavy, serious tone to it and is (almost) never said to one's spouse and never to one's children or parents. The only time it may be appropriate is if you are about to die while engulfed in flames together with your dearest.

None of my English students, from college age to retirement age, have ever said "I love you" to their girl/boyfriends, spouses or children! Please re-read that last sentence. It is considered too embarrassing. One or two did admit to saying it to their spouse once many, many years ago before marriage. One father admitted to saying "Daisuki-daiyo" ("I REALLY like you") once to his small child to calm her crying. Some Japanese men seem to think it is not "manly" (otokorashii = 男らしい ) behavior for a man to profess his love in words. It is an unspoken sentiment in Japanese culture. Meant to be inferred rather than expressed.

Instead of saying "I love you", Japanese say suki  好き= "I like (you)", or maybe they will say "Daisuki"  大好き= "I (really) like you a lot".... but that's even rarer than suki. I often hear "Eigo suki" (= I like English), or "Choco suki" (= I like chocolate), or maybe even "Eigo daisuki" (= I really like English), but Japanese people (in general) seem to not feel comfortable expressing love, or other emotions for that matter, outwardly.

"Go easy (at first) on the sweet talk. Japanese boys don't throw around a lot of compliments or terms of endearment, so most girls are not accustomed to such attention. However, in the long run, most will definitely enjoy it."

    - from: 'More Making Out in Japanese' by Todd & Erica Geers

Maybe we Americans overuse the word "love". We say it so often, so easily and carelessly: "I love horror movies", "I love pizza" etc... and maybe we hug out of a desperate need for connection. Nevertheless (sore demo = それでも), I can't imagine growing up or living without hugs, kisses or hearing the word "love" from all my family and friends, can you?

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