Japanese people are very polite; they will not contradict a guest no matter how much they may disagree. This can easily lead to misunderstanding–when a Japanese host says yes, yes, the meaning may be NO, NO. Foreigners often won’t understand.
Doubtless Japanese and American diplomats understand this and other cultural differences between Americans and Japanese. Hopefully Prime Minister Abe does, but what about President Trump? If Trump hears yes when it means NO, he may be misled at the time and later feel that he was lied to. That’s dangerous. When Trump suggested that Japan shoot down Korean missiles, Abe may have known better but wouldn’t have said so.
Years ago I was in Japan with three others. Every day our host sent two cars to take us to the factory. Traffic was heavy, and we thought two cars were wasteful. The four of us suggested they send one car. Yes, yes our host insisted; he said he understood but seemed agitated–he meant NO, NO! The next morning and every morning after there were two cars.
Travel to Asia is draining, cultural differences unnerving, misunderstanding a danger. Discussions in Asian countries are better left to experts while Trump golfs.
Well said, whungerford.
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Golf was considered a great privilege in Japan after the war because golf was reserved for American military officers by the occupation authorities. From the Tokyo club history page:
“After the war in 1946, the golf course was requisitioned by the U.S. Army as their recreational facility, and the members’ ability to play on their own golf course became tightly restricted. In 1952, the course was returned to the club by the U.S. Army, and the normalcy of club life returned to its members.”
quite right; this is true in other countries as well. Brazilians, for instance, avoid saying “no” straight out. If someone tells you a thing will be “difficult”, he usually means “impossible”. They also use the conditional, e.g. “seria difícil” (“would be difficult”) to soften the blow some more. This tends to leave an American hanging on hopefully, but you might as well forget it. On the other hand, Brazilians are great at finding a way around something.
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