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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wagamama

There are indeed many Japanese words I never heard while in Japan, but one in particular I am sure is spoken of quite often in family homes and schools... something that few gaijin (outsiders/foreigners) are privy to, though they might indeed know the word.

Wagamama means "selfish and inconsiderate" and that is something the Japanese beat into its citizens at a very early age and is something to avoid being called.

It can be written in Japan's Chinese alphabet of kanji as 我が侭, but it is also seen in the hiragana alphabet, written as わがまま or perhaps more even more commonly as 我がまま, a mixture of kanji and hiragana.

One thing that most gaijin experience early and often in their stay in Japan is this overwhelming kindness the Japanese people show them.

In my case, it was on my first night in Japan at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo when myself (the lone Canadian), Kristine South and maybe seven other Americans fresh off the boat (airplane) wandered long and far from the bright neon lights of the city... only to realize that when we could no longer see neon, we were indeed lost.

The very first young Japanese business man we talked to in our still strong English understood that we wanted to go back to the Keio Plaza Hotel (I had a note pad with me that was stolen from the hotel, but had the address upon it - I'm a writer, and a writer's gotta write), and rather than simply provide us with perhaps complicated directions, this Japanese man, whose name NONE of us learned or recalled, who couldn't speak much English, decided to walk us home.

It was 40 minutes later that we were at the hotel... and since that Japanese was actually walking in the opposite direction when we first stopped him, I would imaging he had another 40 minute walk back plus however long his journey would have been.

He did so without a reward, but all I can do is continue to honor him in this blog. Thank-you unknown Japanese man for your kindness to strangers... for showing us all - right then and there - how good Japan could be.

He was the opposite of wagamama, which is perfect, because the Japanese preach the opposite of wagamama to ensure that no one in their culture is seen to be selfish and inconsiderate.

Obviously some fail, but the majority do not.

The opposite of wagamama... I think it is 思いやりのある, which is Omoiyari no aru... and means 'considerate of others'.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

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