Japanese Mysterious Smile

  •  
  • 2163
  • 19
  • 6
  • English 
Feb 22, 2012 15:18
Have you ever feel strange to see Japanese people's mysterious smile when it is not a funny situation? If you see our smile even when we wept in grief , you might think we are insensitive. Fortunately or not, I've learned and acquired this skill to fit into Japanese society. I think this behavior is most definitely incomprehensible for foreign people who are not familiar with the Japanese culture and custom.

When one of my American friends and I had a rather serious talk, (I talked about my difficulties) and in the middle of our conversation, she said to me,"Why you smile. It's not funny". Generally speaking, American people are straightforward to say their opinion and of course she is not the exception. She kindly pointed out that I smiled at the unexpected situation. She didn't miss my ambiguous facial expression on my face. At that moment, I felt embarrassed and I had no idea why Japanese people including myself, smile even when we are sad.

Nitobe Inazou (新渡戸稲造) explained in his book, "Bushido (武士道) " that "Smile is a curtain that hide our inner efforts to get back the mental balance that disturbed by adversity".
"笑いは逆境によって乱された心の平衡を回復しようとする努力を隠そうとする幕だからである。"

I think that Japanese people smile in order to tell the following message, "it's not a big deal, so you don't need to worry about me." We usually say so, even though we are in a terrible situation. One thing for sure is that endurance, in other words being less emotional in front of others is one of Japanese virtues.