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moon in the water Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 04-26-2010 10:46 PM
niall
Offline
rss2
the water does not try
to reflect the moon
and the moon has no desire
to be reflected
but when the clouds clear
there is the moon in the water
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 155
Comments: 1,110
Views: 574,820

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In General Truth and tatemae Entry Tools Rating: 5 Stars!
  #40 New 01-28-2011 03:00 AM
Truth and tatemae 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

wikipedia articles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatemae

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Affair_to_Remember

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterlo...ge_(1940_film)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Minutes_of_Heaven

cool photo of empty façades: Rectangles and Squares by Tom Haymes http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomhaymes/339856868/ photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomhaymes/with/339856868/ used under creative commons licence


© niall matthews 2011
Views: 2399 | Comments: 10


RSS Feed 10 Responses to "Truth and tatemae"
#10 02-08-2011 05:57 AM
niall Says:
Thanks for commenting, Ross. That's a very interesting and a very positive point. I really like that paradox of a mask revealing rather than concealing.
#9 02-07-2011 12:40 PM
Niall, Peter Gabriel once remarked that African masks are meant to reveal, rather than conceal. Perhaps the faces we choose to wear are simply a matter of how we wish to express ourselves. We can do so with deceit, but also with a deliberate change of dress to express a meaning -- to convey a truth of message, but also of medium.
#8 01-31-2011 11:30 AM
aikishihan Says:
Hi again Niall, None of us can survive and thrive by being "pure and naive". Agree that people will only see what they choose to acknowedge. I am referring to people with honest insight, who accept someone despite the flaws, foibles and fumblings that accompany his fame.
#7 01-29-2011 01:29 AM
What a coincidence, I have read that too, but I thought the one with the stones was more pictorially Thanks!
#6 01-29-2011 01:24 AM
niall Says:
I like this story too Carina: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...4093450AAHVdKY "I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"
#5 01-29-2011 01:02 AM
niall Says:
Thanks, Carina. I'm glad you like it and that the interview was interesting for you. It's always nice to see aikido breaking the barriers of aikido to become something more.
#4 01-29-2011 12:59 AM
niall Says:
Thanks, Francis. Let's see what everyone thinks. My impression of O Sensei is that he was pure and somehow naive (in a very positive sense) and that he wouldn't have needed a mask or masks. Perhaps the fact that he was remembered in so many different ways might reflect the different people remembering him rather than the masks he might or might not have worn?
#3 01-28-2011 01:03 PM
(continued)About this hate feelings I found something in spanish for my blog, I'll summarize: One man was taking every stone over that he stumbled and loaded them in a bag.The teacher asked what do you think of this man? He is silly.. But the teacher replied this is what people do when they load offenses, rancor, hate, resentment against others. They are only hurting themselves and and keeping themselves from feeling light and happy.
#2 01-28-2011 01:02 PM
Niall,excellent post again! And I'm happy to translate it ! Very interesting your explanation of the subtleties of japanese thinking.And thanks for sharing the great interview of Paul Linden.There are many people with tatemae, sometimes necessary as your example in that beautiful movie or in the case the truth would hurt more than help.And I'm downloading Five minutes to heaven
#1 01-28-2011 09:14 AM
aikishihan Says:
Interesting interpretation of the cultural phenomenon of "tatemae" and "honne" contrasting with Western culture, Niall. Wasn't the discussion of "masks", and how these two important concepts may be seen as props by Japanese society in maintaining social harmony and cooperation so prized by its citizens? I cannot quite agree that the Founder was without masks. If true, why was he so uniquely disremembered by so many of his direct students, associates and peers?
 




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