In Japan, silence is just as important as speaking. It is considered as a designated moment to understand what has just been communicated and an opportunity to respond in a well thought out manner. In the West, silence is considered as an awkward moment and we try to mask this uncomfortable feeling with words. In Japan, breaking a silence may make you appear insincere to the speaker, since it is expected that you should be considering the value of what has been said. Silence, or what is not said, can be just as important as what is said. If a point is made, the listener is expected to understand the other points which are not said.
Since the Japanese consider it rude to overtly express emotions in public, the “poker face” is used to cover up negative emotions as well as to protect privacy. Certain gestures have different meanings for the Japanese than for Westerners. For example, pointing to one’s nose or touching the nose means “me” in Japanese culture. Scratching the head is a gesture used by the Japanese to disguise confusion and embarrassment. When the Japanese want to give the impression that they are in deep thought, they will sometimes fold their arms. In America, smiling is a popular gesture used to express pleasure, friendliness, or humor. However, the smile is often used by the Japanese for self-control, particularly when masking displeasure, pain, or anguish.
In Western culture, it is customary to shake hands when greeting someone for the first time, to say “please” when making a request, or to say “thank you” when expressing gratitude. In Japanese culture, bowing fulfills all these functions. Bowing may seem simple, but there are different ways of bowing depending on the social status or age of the person you are bowing to. If the person is higher status or older than you are, you should bow deeper and longer. It is polite to bow by bending from your waist. If it is a casual or familiar situation, you can simply bow your head. The most frequent bow is a bow of about 15 degrees. Bowing can also represent humility. You elevate, honor, and respect the other person by humbling or lowering yourself. The lower you bow, the more you are honoring or respecting the other party.
Japanese culture is largely a silent culture. In Japan, no matter how many complaints a person may have, they are not expressed. It is considered a virtue not to complain about anything. Japanese have been taught perseverance since they were children. The Japanese have become a people of few words in order to restrain their emotions. Japanese people do not like conflict, and they avoid it as much as possible.
Although Americans are very open about their feelings and are accustomed to articulating themselves, the Japanese generally have a negative concept about people who easily express themselves. In Japanese culture, feelings are often kept deep inside to the degree that one can lose touch with his or her real feelings. Feelings are often conveyed in Japanese very subtly by a single word and sometimes silence conveys a whole volume of thought.
Love Relationships in Japan
As stated before, there is no conclusive demonstration or declaration of love as seen from a Western perspective in Final Fantasy VII. However, it must be remembered that relationships in general, as well as love relationships, are guarded by strict social mores in Japan. Japan is still a country where any display of emotion is somewhat taboo. This is changing rapidly with the younger generations, but many older people will still become very embarrassed at the sight of public displays of emotion.
Japanese men and women do not engage in the kind of public physical contact that we are accustomed to in Western culture due to stricter social mores. As a rule, the Japanese do not show signs of affection or emotion in public. Young couples may be seen holding hands, but it is embarrassing to see spouses kiss in public. Even casual forms of physical contact, such as a pat on the back, are not customarily used in Japan.
As for relationships with the opposite sex, outside of the biggest cities, you will find a youth who, for the most part, appear very naïve when it comes to the opposite sex. One possible reason for this could be the fact that they are brought up in an environment where family members do not kiss or hug, and where emotions are rarely voiced. Therefore, even the many young people who do have boyfriends or girlfriends in Japan do not appear to be as emotionally or physically close as young couples in the Western Hemisphere.
From an article where a non-Japanese woman talks about her experiences dating Japanese men:
It’s hard to tell whether a Japanese man likes you or not because they don’t show their feelings in public as much as Westerners do. Sometimes they will appear uninterested because they are shy and sometimes you don’t know whether he is being so kind because he likes you or whether he is just being polite. If you have any Japanese friends, you’ve probably noticed these differences in behavior and communication between Japanese people and Westerners, especially Americans. Just keep smiling, be nice when you talk to him and sooner or later, you will find out.
Courting behavior is quite different in Japan than it is in other countries. Around the world it is generally known that the Japanese are not allowed to freely show affection in a physical way, unless it is between adults and their very small children, mothers and daughters or young couples traveling away from home. Even so, there is a more restrained affection shown. Here is a picture of a young couple having lunch together in a public area in Japan. It may look as if they are touching, but there is actually no physical contact whatsoever.
In the American culture, the kiss is a step taken very early in the relationship, like after a casual date to the movies. After an initial intimacy, kissing is a natural step in Western cultures. Usually, it takes awhile for kissing to turn into full physical intimacy and sleeping together. In the Japanese culture, however, the kiss comes almost at the end of the courting period. After the kiss, the relationship turns fully physical as the next step.
The Japanese don’t say “I love you” as often as Western people do, because of cultural differences. Some Japanese say they have never used this expression in their entire life. The Japanese feel that when you explicitly express your love, it should only be said on special occasions. They feel that the more you repeat these words, the cheaper it becomes. These words are too serious to be repeated many times. Even between a couple, the words “I love you” have a much wider meaning. The Japanese believe that love is much better expressed by manners or action, rather than by words.
How are the words “I love you” spoken in Japanese? Most Japanese will tell you not to say it, but to show your affection instead. There are several ways of saying it in words, though, with variations according to dialect as well as to whom you say it:
Q. How can I say “I love you”? [in Japanese]
A. There have been two traditional answers for this. you don’t. (you don’t say it; you show it.)
’suki’, ‘daisuki’, ‘suki da yo’, ‘suki desu’, ‘ai shite’ru yo’, and dialect versions ‘suki yanen’,
‘horetennen’, ‘gottuu suiterunen’, ‘ositai siteimasu’, …
Q. How do I say `I love you’? [In Japanese]
A. You don’t! At least, according to common lore. Most people suggest you show the person in question your affection. But, if you want to ignore this advice, you can try your luck with “ai shiteimasu” or “daisuki desu”. Since you (usually) say this to some-one you know (quite) well, it is probably more natural to drop the politeness level a bit and use “ai shiteru” or “daisuki da” instead. To add some emphasis, you could add a sentence final “yo”.
Sexual Relations in Japan
The Japanese tend to view bodily functions of any kind in a more forthright manner than we may feel comfortable doing, including sex. This does not mean that they have a society of “free sex” so to speak. Rather, it simply means that they are aware of it as a bodily function, the same as anything else, and that the importance of fertility and reproduction is imbedded in their society. Fertility rites and festivals are still observed in many areas of the country. Their social mores and philosophies reflect this fact. While many of these beliefs may not be openly embraced today, they are still part of the mores of the society.