A new usage of the word OTOMODACHI (オトモダチ) has emerged.

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Mar 29, 2014 16:08
If you've learned Japanese for a while, you may know the word OTOMODACHI (オトモダチ or お友達). The first "mora" (mora is something similar to a syllable) オ(御) is just a prefix that adds a polite impression. The rest トモダチ (友達) literally means friends. Basically, トモ (友) stands for a friend, and ダチ(達)is for plural. Easy peasy, right?

However, it seems that the second meaning for OTOMODACHI has recently emerged. Partly because I had been outside of Japan, I didn't know this new usage until recently. To my surprise, the new usage seems to be quite popular among young people (20s and 30s), in particular young parents.

Here is a typical example. My two-year-old son was playing in a park for small kids. Naturally, other kids came to him, being interested in the toys my son was playing with. I was curious about what their interaction would be. So I just left them and kept watching. Soon their father turned up and said to his children, "That toy is for OTOMODACHI. Leave it and let's go this way."

Literally, he was saying, "That toy belongs to your 'friend'. So leave it. Go somewhere else. "

However, this remark is obviously not true. His children were complete strangers to my son. They were not friends! They just met seconds ago and hadn't even started to play together yet.

The first time I heard this new usage of OTOMODACHI, I thought it was just weird. But soon I realized that many parents tended to use the new OTOMODACHI when they want to keep their children away from other children (that includes my son) in a sort of 'polite' way.

There two aspects about this. First, it is bizarre that they have to lie that other children are "friends". Second, it is even more "strange" that they tend to avoid interaction with other strange children.

To my observation, Japanese parents are too scared of social interaction with strangers. They don't want to talk to other parents who are not their friends. They don't want their children to play with unknown children. Their world is closed, so to speak.

When I was in the Oxford, going out with my little son was fun. Almost always some strangers came to us, smiled and talked to us friendly. If the same thing ever happens in Kyoto, it is always an elderly person. What happened to the younger generation?