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What is Japanese "WA"?


5 Aug 2002
I don't mean the language particle, I mean the 'wa' as in 'harmony'.

I always hear about it, but I can't find any English resources that explains it. I don't know if it can be adquately explained in English, but does anyone know what exactly the 'wa' is???

I hear Japanese people say things like "Gaijin will never understand the 'wa' " or "Wa' is something that all Japanese people must adhere to."

What does it mean exactly? :confused:

Thanks in advance.
IMHO Wa, when used to refer to foreigners, mainly means group dynamics and how to behave in social situations which may become tense, or behavior in such a way that allows for smooth working and interpersonal relations. For example, my fiance works her *** off at a juku. She is a new employee and so must prove she is willing to go aboveand beyond the call of duty. She goes to things after hours, extra meetings, goes in on her days off if she has things to do and never complains or demands extra pay from her bosses. None of the freshmen employees do. To take time off for vacations would inconvenince the person who would have to cover her classes and so no one takes vacations. I, on the other hand, view work as work and free time as free time. I will give you 100 percent, maybe even more, but when it is time for my vacation, I will take it. I deserve it. I will willingly cover for someone who wants to take their vacation because they probably deserved it (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours type of thing). However, because my fiance would be seen as stressing "wa" and disrupting the smooth running of the groups, she has lots and lots of apologies to make if she takes time off, not matter how well earned it may be.

I think foreigners do eventually understand "wa" but we make the concious choice to ignore all or part of it because we can often times get away with it. If this is a good thing is up for debate...

This is by no means the definitiion of wa to end all definitions. I hope others will write in with their experiences and viewpoints.
From my limited understanding of the concept, that definitely sums it up nicely Mandylion.
I had an interesting conversation with a Japanese fella the other night, and he said that the name "Yamato" or translated into kanji that reads as "Dai Wa" 窶佚・ヒ彗 came from the region around Nara, and when they sent emmisaries (sp?) to China, the Chinese called the Japanese as the people from Wako (probably the same one used in Ginza? ヒ彗ナ津オツ? But since using Wako all the time was problematic for the Japanese, they referred themselves as the people of Yamato, with inferences of the "wa" for harmony....I suppose it is with some irony that they would use Yamato for their largest battleship during the second world war...but I suppose you can have harmony in war as well....

just my two bits of info.... :D

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