Hi, I wrote the recent diary, “Japanese Mind- Story of the Crane”, and I am very happy for all of your warm responses, and putting me in Community Spotlight and Rec List. I am so grateful for all the comments, I learned a lot from them.
In my first diary, I talked about the Japanese lady who had her first baby. She didn’t want her husband to witness the childbirth, and made him promise, but the promise was broken. Now she wants a divorce.
I compared this story to Japanese folk tale called Tsuru no Ongaeshi (鶴の恩返し)The Crane Returns the Favor".
The wife didn’t want her husband to see her when she was most naked, meaning her true form, the crane.
She made him promise, but the promise was broken.
She left him forever.
“I think in Japan something needs to be secret all the time.”
I thought this might be a key to the Japanese mind.
In the comments I got, I realize some of you thought I was criticizing the wife for feeling betrayed because of disrespect for her boundary and breaching the promise.
Worst of all, I didn't want you all to think I am saying Japanese would be unique in this.
So I thought about it again. The point I really wanted to make was:
“You must pretend nothing goes on, when clearly something is going on.”
Because when I encountered the wife's question on the website, what made me most uneasy was that she was talking to total strangers, when she should have talked to her husband.
I’d like to quote a different story, the story about King Midas, but not the one most famous in the west about the gold, but the one about the ass's ears. I think this story shows my point better.
Follow me below the origami spaghetti.
“King Midas had donkey ears but his barber knew the secret, so was told not to mention it. However, the barber could not keep the secret; he went out into the meadow, dug a hole in the ground, whispered the story into it, then covered the hole up.”
This is where the story usually ends in Japan. All Japanese know the phrase, “王様の耳はロバの耳" (King Midas has an ass' ears). It's as common as “Open sesame” or “Mirror, mirror” is in the West. You might have seen Japanese characters using it in the comic book or anime.
We use it this way: In everyday life, if there is some information that needed to be heard, but you just can’t share with anybody, people would tell you, “Dig a hole, dig a hole!” The idea is bury the information, so you don’t need to deal with the urge.
Somehow, we never mention the ending of this story. A lot of Japanese may not even know it.
The story continues,
“A thick bed of reeds later sprang up in the meadow, and began whispering the story, saying "King Midas has an ass' ears".
The point of the story in the West: Yes, the secret will come out, everybody will hear that eventually.
The wife who felt betrayal, she may have had a good reason in her own mind.
The husband must have known that.
But did he get the chance to know how much she suffered?
Would he understand why she has to leave?
Would he appreciate the fact she told everybody the reason but him?
The website she complained on was like the hole. She whispered her troubles into the hole, and now it is growing a bad crop. Many people are angry at the husband and they might get divorce. The truth always comes out. So why couldn't she just talk to her husband and work this out instead?
Maybe other people around the world wouldn't talk about troubles directly either but in Japan this is mandate by our culture. We never learn how to tell our problem directly to anyone because wa, or harmony, is most important. No one wants to disturb the harmony. But this leads to more disharmony, in personal relation and for society.
Funny we never talk about this part...