Week 6: Human Relationships October 12-18



  • Ch. 12, Pg 109-114 “Japanese Personal Space,” Hedataru to Najimu 隔たると馴染む
  • Ch. 13, Pg 115-118 “Private vs. Public Stance in Japan,” Honne to Tatemae 本音と建て前
  • Ch. 19, Pg 159-164 “Laying the Groundwork in Japan,” Nemawashi 根回し
  • Ch. 2, Pg 17-22 “The Concept of Japanese Dependence,” Amae 甘え


Writing: Weekly Paper: “Impressions and Points from Your Reading”

  • 1. Interact with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
  • 2. Discuss how these cultural characteristics might affect your ministry with Japanese people.


  • Pray daily for Japan and Japanese, using Operation Japan. Make a note in your blog concerning the information and/or your prayer.

Extra Suggestions:



  • 2

    Week 6

    Alissa Bauer

    Week 6 – Human Relationships

    I really like the Japanese concept of personal space. I think that because it seems to take more time and effort, those relationships have a better chance at being stronger compared to the sometimes superficiality of building relationships in the West. It is such a fascinating process that the Japanese go through in maintaining space, then slowly breaking down those barriers through various specific means such as gift giving, language, and inviting someone into your home.

    Wow, Don I can see why it was difficult for you to adjust to Nemawashi! It is a concept that is so hard to wrap my little western mind around. I’m thankful that you could expose me to this so that I can begin to understand how decision-making works in Japan.

    • Steven La Voie

      I agree with you Alissa. I like how the Japanese take more time to get to know someone and slowly let some into their personal bubble. I can see the advantage of this by letting the relationship develop more deeply over time and not rushed like it is here in America and Western cultures. The Korean culture is a lot more open and the physical distance is not as much so it is interesting to see the differences between those two cultures. It is my thinking that you can develop a deeper relationship with a Japanese person that will last due to hedataru and najimu. I kind of wish, in America, that we would go slower in relationships and not be so superficial and without substance.

    • Brandalyn

      I agree with you both, I think there is a lot to be said for taking that extra time and respect and navigating the development of relationships.

  • 0

    Prayer for Japan

    Alissa Bauer

    Father, we ask in all boldness and faith that you would be softening Japanese hearts in this very moment. Raise up workers to go into this harvest field God that would be led by the Holy Spirit to the Japanese individuals that you’ve been preparing. I pray for current missionaries and for Japanese believers Lord that you would lead them in Spirit and Truth. Align their hearts with yours and give them a renewed sense of awe as they wake up in the morning. I pray that they would be fully satisfied in you, that you’d give them a steadfast love that they’d be able to rejoice and be glad all their days. Bring more and more in Japan to experience what an amazing Father you are, for there is nothing like your presence God. Amen!

  • 2

    Personal Space Struggles?

    Steven La Voie

    The concepts of hedataru and najimu are very interesting to my Western eyes. I have noticed in a lot of Asian settings where this kind of behavior is seen but it is mostly clearly seen in Japanese society. The complexities of human relationships in the Japanese society has many layers where one must go though the proper stages in order to bridge the psychological and physical distance between each other.

    I am very fascinated on how a lot of this is seen in the samurai and lord relationships which is at first, is very distant physically and relationally, but over time the samurai and lord move closer in trusting each other and the distances are shortened. I see in the Japanese classroom that students are physically separated from the teacher due to the perceived status and hierarchy of the teacher. The Japanese do respect others’ personal boundaries and you can often see their inner beliefs in separation by their physical location from others too.

    I am wondering if non-believing Japanese see Jesus this way as being very distant from Him and offering gifts to our Lord would help them to get closer or to appease Christ? Even Japanese Christians might struggle with this idea of having to go through certain steps to be closer to Christ so as not to violate His “personal space”. I have not seen this personally, but I wonder if that is a common struggle among the Japanese Christians and to non-believers too.

    • Alissa Bauer

      Wow, so interesting that you observe their physical distance and compare it to the inner beliefs of separation. An outer response to that inner belief makes perfect sense!

      That’s a good question Steven. I hope that they would see Jesus transcend culture in this area! That he is so personal and welcomes them into that space freely. 🙂

    • Brandalyn

      Agreed – this is a very good insight – how might this impact their beliefs and relationship in the Lord!

  • 0

    Praying for the Ehime and Kochi Prefectures

    Steven La Voie

    I am praying for more churches to be planted in the Ehime prefecture and for the Gospel to spread through the radio stations too. As for the Kochi prefecture, I pray that the hard hearts in that prefecture are made softer through the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • 0

    Is it really social harmony or social distancing?


    I’m not sure if the effort to protect group harmony is really virtuous, or really is a defense against being ousted from their social group. It seems their closest friends are formed early, without their social deference system, so being more open and direct could lead to warmer relationships. Being cagey, while on the surface it protects feelings, really is keeping people distant emotionally and relationally, and hinders true personal growth of both. The business decision meeting seems non-existent, so brain storming sessions seems unworkable. Their sense of guilt seems pardoned by others in their group, allowing themselves to be judged only by compatriots instead of a universal principle, which is very problematic.

  • 3

    Week 6 - Brandalyn - Hedataru to Najimu


    1. Everyone is doing the same thing together – comradre, but there is also the element of how alcohol impacts us and reduces our inhibitions which would help to reduce hedatari.

    2. I believe little by little. It just seems to align with what everything else in this chapter has said about respecting the space of others and then slowly removing the distancing elements to build closer relationship.

    3. It makes good sense. It seems that relationships might be taken more seriously and treated more seriously/deeply than we are accustomed to.

    4. openness with one another, reduced need for some of the overly formal conventions of society, more genuine interactions

    5. When we are forced to be with people all day for a few days, we see each other in a different light. We get to know one another more, we have to pull together to “make it work” for the longer period in each other’s company. There is more time to talk about new and different topics that can expand areas of common ground.

    Cross cultural:
    1. I can’t speak to many cultures, but I think that in North America, as well, drunkenness- if done together – can be seen by people to relax formal barriers. I’m not sure if it is equally accepted here as there. I think it has in the last 50-60 years become more acceptable for women so that it is more equal to men now.

    2. I don’t think it is the same in the west – especially as the respect and Wa aspect are not as prominent here. And we’re just so much more of a forward culture (and impatient).

    3. Company retreats or holiday parties, ice-breaker activities within group events, mixing seating arrangements or groups (children in schools or adults at events/conferences).

    4. I think that comparatively, they often are!! They are forged more quickly in a more forward way, but not taken as seriously or maybe with the same expectations of depth or longevity.

    5. For our culture it certainly is. But we don’t nearly have the same views of Wa and cultural obligation etc. Our identity isn’t defined in the group the same way and our individuality and individual freedom is much more important to us.

    • Brandalyn

      Honne and Tatemae:
      1. I can’t think of specific examples right now, but it’s as common as everyday conversations, whether in business meetings or friendly greetings with neighbours or colleagues. I think that it might account for some of my confusion regarding the response “ie” – when it seems a backwards answer to questions – it must be a sort of polite “no, no, it’s ok. thank you”

      2. In close family or friend relationships where you don’t use formality

      3. It really helps to maintain Wa and put other’s feelings first, but it does prevent deeper, true understanding of one another. It can take more time to get to the bottom of what is really felt or going on. I think (from my own experience) it can cause a lot of stress and angst trying to work out the best things to do to keep the peace and protect others, while honoring my feelings/needs.

      4. I don’t really know – expect that maybe being able to be real with your close people provides an outlet and balance to having to be “polite and correct” to others on the outside the rest of the time.

      5. In Japan, I’m pretty sure it would be Tatemae, because the bigger goals is others and maintaining Wa, which hurting his feelings and upsetting him would not accomplish.

      Cross Cultural:
      1. I think that perhaps it is different for the Japanese as it isn’t so much two-faced, (being manipulative to try to get your own way), as truly focusing on what you believe is best for the other person and the greater group. I think they spring from 2 very different things.

      2. Good questions. This is why I fit into Japan so well, because my life is based on my own innate tatemae and honne. I am odd in Canada, but I fit in and feel so much more comfortable and relaxed in Japan because I think just like everyone else. I think that westerners would need to be taught to “really think hard of how what you say and do might be perceived by a sensitive person, and act trying to care for them and make them as comfortable as you can.” – I think that is how I got this way. My mom always told me to first say in my head what I thought to say, listen to it myself, feel it coming into my ears and how it makes me feel and then decide if it should be said or not – does it build the other person up or not?”

      3. It is faster to get to the core of how people feel and what is really going on. But I think more feelings get hurt and there is more upheaval and issues when we’re not focused on the other person’s feeling. I struggle with this a lot, because in theory I’d like people to be open, upfront and honest with me. But in practice, I work a lot better (and feel a lot less tossed about in difficult emotions and social circumstances) in japan with how they operate. I get hurt too easily maybe and I perceive that others will also be hurt by things as readily as I am, or take things as deeply as I do.

      4. The prioritization of cultures: Westerners are all about logic and reasoning. The Japanese are about feelings (or protecting feelings). Both have their merit. I think we shouldn’t lie because God told us not to… so that does weight into things for sure.

      5. I think so, but I’m not entirely sure. But from what I’ve seen it comes up more in asian countries. I think there is likely more common influence that impacted asian nations and more common influence that impacted western nations and so they kind of come from 2 different historical branches that formed our cultural values. I don’t know enough to have specific examples, but in general, Filipino people are one example who are generally so kind and friendly and polite and easy to get along with – they just seem to have very different priorities from so many westerners. A lot of european cultures are known to be harsh and abrupt – e.g. Bulgaria, Russia… No one seems to compare with japan though in Tatemae!

    • Brandalyn

      1. more peaceful, less conflict-ridden meetings. Unanimous decisions that (fully) more people are on-board with. But more background leg work, perhaps less honest feelings, potentially questionable motives.

      2. Personally I like it. It fits with how I operate. It makes it safer and guarantees more of a predictable outcome. I think that westerners feel safety in numbers in a meeting often to bring up an idea or opinion and have others back them up (strength in numbers) to stand for (or against) something – they’ll have someone on their side for the meeting conflict or debate. But I think that Japanese feel more safety in addressing each other individually and securing the agreements so that they know that meetings will be more peaceful. I think that when it doesn’t take place, there are less productive meetings where outcomes maybe are delayed and more time hast to be spent getting everyone into unanimous agreement

      3. Again, I think it depends on the heart – is it coming from a genuine desire to spend time convincing people 1:1 of your idea/proposal and to hold up the best of others and the group and reduce conflict? Or is it to bribe and manipulate to get your own way at the expense of others?

      4. Nemawahi seems somewhat critical to the process of getting a consensus (which is key). I think it is perhaps the most effective way to go about it and protect everyone’s honor/dignity by not hashing things out in a group, but addressing things 1:1 – kind of the opposite of what westerners like to do (often at the expense of others or their opponent).

      5. If things have already been decided, it is just a formality of “going through the motions” to do the right, respectful things to honor the individuals and relationship.

      1. I think so. For example, in many other nations, bribes for police or government officials are just a normal way of doing business and not really seen as odd and upsetting as they are to foreigners.

      2. I don’t know. I doubt that it is as critical to any nations as it is to Japan, because I don’t think any other nations value each other and community and Wa as the Japanese do.

      3. Having to provide proof of ideas/concepts/plans/finances. Because most other cultures are not founded on Wa and a focus on the good of others, the motives of the other party can generally not be trusted and so proof must be provided. Lack of transparency throws into question motives and trust.

      4. I really sway to the Japanese because it fits so much of my heart style and world view, but I can see it being tiring and inefficient….. I do like the consensus element. It would be interesting to experience that for a time to see what it is like.

      5. I don’t know too much, but so often it comes down to the one who has the seniority who decides the outcome of the conflict. That seems pretty common in most countries. For some countries I think that being able to argue your point proves your intelligence, strength, value etc.

    • Brandalyn

      1. I think it might be, but I don’t feel like I understand Amae enough to really say.

      2. I’m struggling to really grasp Amae…. but I think the change of culture, and expectations and “normal” helps the kids who struggle.

      3. I think employees feel indebted to their boss and company. I think the merit-based will struggle to fit into Japanese society as it is more of an “individual-focused” and “competition-based” matrix than what they have used.

      4. I think there is less independence in Japanese children in their home life and growing up and expectations in culture.

      5. It seems like the Japanese thing to do – to prioritize others and the relationship.

      1. I think so, but I don’t really know enough to elaborate much, but many other cultures in Asia and Africa seem to share more inter-dependence in western and European cultures.

      2. I’m not familiar with these.

      3. Hummm… not sure that I understand this one either.

      4. They are accustomed to a culture that is so much more group, respect and other-oriented that they aren’t prepared for a more independent “dog-eat-dog” culture. I think they are used to much more inter-dependence than they find.

      5. It seems to fit the dependence on one another. In the west, dependence on others is seen as a bad thing and a sign of weakness. Interdependence is just a reality and key part of culture for Japanese.