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I'll play the hand I drew.
Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge
You can't handle the truth!
Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men
In Japanese culture there are many dualities. Omote and ura, front and back. Uchi and soto, inside and outside. Honne and tatemae, real and façade.
When I first came to Japan I was not very impressed by this concept of honne and tatemae. Honne means true sound. So in human interaction it means the real intention or motive. Tatemae means before building and it is usually taken to mean a façade. So this duality seemed to mean hiding your true feelings. And seemed sometimes to be dangerously close to deception.
Over the years as I came to understand Japan and Japanese culture - and Japanese martial arts - better I began to realize that tatemae did not have just the negative sense I had thought. Certainly it is sometimes negative and even many Japanese people only take the superficial meaning: the façade meaning of façade! Tatemae can mean the face of the building but it can also mean before building in the sense of time: the foundation.
The positive nuance of tatemae is not connected with romantic love - it is much more in the context of an overall view of society or community in Japan. But an easy way to explain it is with a romantic movie. For example in An Affair to Remember Terry McKay played by Deborah Kerr and Nicky Ferrante played by Cary Grant agree to meet at the top of the Empire State building. But on her way there Deborah Kerr has a serious accident which leaves her unable to walk. When they do meet again some time later she sits in a way that conceals the fact that she can't walk. She tries to spare Cary Grant from any feeling of regret or sympathy or responsibility. It's a lie and it would be tatemae in Japanese - an untrue façade - but it is an altruistic tatemae. That's the omote and ura - the surface and the reverse side - of tatemae.
Talking about movies and truth I saw a good movie about truth and reconciliation recently: Five Minutes of Heaven with Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt. Truth and reconciliation is a way of trying to overcome past conflicts. It has been used in South Africa for example. This movie is set against the background of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The brother of a murdered man is persuaded - many years later - to meet the man convicted of the murder. He still has powerful feelings of hate and revenge but the murderer tries to show him that those feelings of hate only hurt himself. So truth and reconciliation doesn't necessarily have to be about forgiveness although forgiveness is its highest expresson. I remember the moving compassion of the Amish community welcoming and comforting the family of the man who murdered the Amish girls in 2006 in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
Sometimes it's good to see martial arts in a wider context. Budo isn't just about techniques in a dojo. This is a link to an interview with Paul Linden in one of Ross Robertson's recent columns. It talks about aikido and peace and there is a link to Aiki Extensions which does some work with groups in conflict. http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18680