the only constant is change

Here are my notes from book The Unspoken Way Haragei: Silence in Japanese Business and Society by Michihiro Matsumoto.

  • p18 Honne and Tatemae → These terms are often used as contrasting yet complementary parts of a whole, honne being understood as being related to the private, true self, and tatemae typifying the public persona and behavior. Honne then has to fo with real intentions and sincere feelings, while tatemae conveys the face the world sees.
  • p20 Hara - precisely the ability of "nature" to express itself completely unhindered by the limitations of the five senses and the intellect.
  • p22 Even if a Japanese can practice haragei, unless he is capable of intuiting what others are thinking, he will not succeed. He expects others to read between the lines, rather than have things spelled out. Those who can neither make themselves understood nor intuit what others are really thinking will never be trusted as more than half a man. That is very Japanese way of thinking.
  • p23 Since the essential quality of hara is circular, friend and enemy are not mutually exclusive but complementary in a circular way. By this line of circular reasoning, we are our enemy's enemy to be conquered first. Conquering ourselves is definitely not gameplaying.
  • p24 Their unending faith and uncompromising principle remain one: the only constant is change.
  • p27 One of my stock definitions of haragei is the art of influencing others on the strength of one's personality or self-effacing acts rather than on the validity of his arguments.
  • p30 "What's wrong with thinking in the head?" "Such thinking gives rise to 'yes' or 'no'." "What do you mean?" "The essence of life is not 'yes' or 'no' but 'yes' *and* 'no'. If you think in terms of 'yes' or 'no', you'll lose the most important thing." "And what is the most important thing?" "Hara" "What is hara ... mind or heart?" "They are both part of hara. When hara is given rational definition, it is no longer hara."
  • p35 Suffering comes full circle. Spinning the prayer wheel Tibetan monks carry with them on their pilgrimage, I discovered that things don't go straight in the East. They go circularly like the I-Ching in China of the wheel of existence in the Tibetan province of China.
  • p41 The straightforward woman thought linearly that every problem has a solution, whereas the holistic monk thought non-linearly or rather circularly that the problem is the solution and conversely that solution is the problem.
  • p50 Ma, the second characteristic of art, means space, room, an interval, or a pregnant pause. Ma is that moment unbridled by contradictions - contrasts between part and whole; it is the moment that allows one to be aware of and part of his surroundings.
  • p50 When Westerners think and talk about space, they mean the distance between objects. In the West we are taught to perceive and to react to the arrangements of objects and to think of space as empty. The meaning of this becomes clear only when it is contrasted with the Japanese who are trained to give meaning to space, to perceive the shape and arrangement of space - for this they have a word, ma. The ma, or interval, is a basic building block in all Japanese spatial experience. --Edward T. Hall
  • p51 It seems to me that Western conversationalists listen to the words between pauses, whereas Japanese haragei practitioners listen more attentively to the pauses between the words and gestures. One doesn't need the art of persuasion that underlies Western communication practices to be a successful communicator in Japanese society. In fact, haragei performers are verbally inadequate in front of others, and by no means logical, coherent, or articulate, because they give ma full play. It is not surprising to learn then that the top sales men of stocks, bonds, or insurance often turn out not to be smooth or slick talkers.
  • p53 The rationale behind this is that the management of people is art, while the management of figures is science. Worker satisfaction, loyalty, and motivation come from workers themselves, not from above or from the system, because man by nature is in conflict between the desire to lead and to be led.
  • p56 If you cut off your finger, it's no longer yours, is it?
  • p65 But I didn't quit Christianity for two reasons. One, there were no other clothes to put on. My mother gave me these old clothes [Christianity]. Two, how can I do such an inhuman thing as taking off the clothes my beloved mother used to wear? --Shusaku Endo
  • p68 When your husband is polite to you in public, better watch out.
  • p76 It is the intense internal competition among corporate oyabun with big enough hara not to demand explanation during private consultations that makes excellent companies excellent. Oyabun seldom explain anymore than the ancient samurai did.
  • p77 Acting means putting yourself ahead of others; reacting means putting others ahead of yourself.
  • p78 The worst crime is argumentation, because straight logic employed in intellectual argumentation helps make messages clearer, therefore sharpening conflicts.
  • p79 Oyabun, understanding human nature, know that pushing their ideas down their men's throats would have a demoralizing effect.
  • p81 The sun must be in the center of the solar system and never at the mercy of the planetary movement.
  • p83 On stage, you must dance to a tune; off stage you can dance to your own tune.
  • p93 Shibumi is a statement so correct that is does not have to be bold, so poignant it does not have to be pretty, so true it does not have to be real. Shibumi is understanding, rather than knowledge.
  • p94 Debate can be suicidal in Japan, because it means an unaesthetic conflict of opinion, which runs contrary to the indigenous value of wa (intra-group harmony or nonconfrontation), and running a risk of causing others to lose face.
  • p106 Yesterday's enemies can turn to be today's friends; after all, enemy and friend are one and the same.
  • p113 This blame-the-group tactic works in a society where the buck moves in a circle. This fits in with the traditional culture of Japan where people are encouraged to grow up as group-thinkers rather than individual thinkers.
  • p115 Nemawashi: The act of digging around the root of a big tree one or two years before its scheduled transplantation, and clipping off all but the main root and the large branch-roots and allowing new root hairs to grow, this facilitating the transplantation, and also enabling the tree to bear better fruit.
  • p118 The mind changes easily, but hara does not.
  • p124 The Japanese, stuck together like soy beans, think collectively, act collectively. And this, so many a Westerner feels, is the most baffling characteristic of the Japanese.
  • p124 The way to get along in the natto society is to make use of the strings or simply develop them. Giri (moreal obligation, a debt of gratitude) and ninjo (human feelings or heart) are manifestations of the strings. Gyosei shido (administrative guidance) is also part of the connecting string. The string has the power to protect individuals and corporations - and conversely to strangle them. generally speaking, the men of real influence within the company are the generalists who, like natto, have enough strings or sticky contacts, and by no means the specialists who can demonstrate proven skills in their specialized area, but show no interest in networking.
  • p127 According to the National Tax Administration Agency, Japanese businessmen spend more on dining, wining, and gift buying than the whole country does on national defense.
  • p128 But the ritualistic recognition of the breathers' consensus is necessary to make sure that everyone has participated in the decision. Maybe what foreign corporate managers regard with envy about Japanese management is the high morale which comes from a sense of belonging and participation. Nemawashi brings people together on the same breathlength.
  • p138 If there is only one thing that will save the world from nuclear holocaust, it is not the mind, which creates the poles of "yes" and "no", but the hara, which accepts both "yes" and "no", both guilty and not guilty, and both inside and outside as mutually inclusive. More precisely, it is not the kind of love that you develop in your mind or heart, because the mind-heart love can be won or lost on human initiative; it is the absolute love (or hara-love) that grows naturally inside everyone's hara, born of nature, because only hara-love, through its ecological instinct, knows how to "stomach" both friends and enemies and both animate and inanimate beings as one and the same.
  • p141 "think about tomorrow and the devil will laugh at you." This leads many a foreign visitors to conclude that the Japanese may make excellent "crisis managers" but rarely good "risk managers." Otherwise stated, the difference between crisis aversion knowhow and "what would we do if this happened" risk thinking is great among Japanese.

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