Language is a Concept: Amae-Indulgent Love

Sep 30, 2020Blog, Culture, Language Study

Language is a Concept: Amae-Indulgent Love

A deeper concept than “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”, gaining an understanding into “amae”, is to gain an understanding into the Japanese way.

Languages are a reflection of the emotional, spiritual and intellectual characteristics of the people who created them. 

One could say within languages there are social constructs embedded into the speakers DNA.

The Japanese language has an abundance of expressions and terms which embodied the Japanese cultural with nuances and one can see this reflected in the attitudes and behaviour of the Japanese.

Very early in Japanese history the concept of “amae” became a primary principal in the cultural and one of the fundamental foundations of where bonds of mutual trust are build into long, durable relationships. 

Amae refers to being able to take advantage of other people in a cooperative spirit with the unstated commitment that they can do the same to you when the need arises 

These are the unwritten codes and silent conventions which glue Japanese society together.

The principle of “amae”, which is derived from Shinto , takes precedent over egotistic feelings and the natural human instinct of selfishness. Indeed, there is no doubt in my mind that “amae” is designed to ensure society will function smoothly and efficiently.

Of course this is an idealized concept of the desired attitudes and behaviour of all human beings, and one that has been a key aspect of many religions and philosophies. 

Here in Japan, amae has been harmonized perfectly with the precepts of Buddhism and Confucianism, and is an integral part of Japanese culture and one of the core tenants of humanity that Japanese society is based upon. (See: LANGUAGE IS A CONCEPT: WA-HARMONY)

Both the word “amae” and the concept it refers to are still very much a part of the cultural make up of the Japanese, and will always play a primary role on all relationships, particularly so in businesses and politics.

As one may have now guessed “amae” connotes more substantial implications into a relationship, rather than the much more pedestrian “I will scratch your back if you scratch mine”.

Indeed “amae”, is a loom that weave the fabric of Japanese society, for which the reciprocity embodies in “amae” continues to play a critical part in our solid and harmonious society. 

As one understands how to give and receive “amae” behaviour, one will have undoubtedly internalized a very valuable tool for when dealing with the Japanese.。

Bonus: Ask a Japanese person you know to explain “amae”, or to give a concrete example of “amae”, this will make for some meaningful discussion between you and your Japanese friends.

Japanese Girl With Question