October 24, 2004


When my friend got married to a French lady, she said “Say whatever you want, otherwise I can't understand what you want me to do. I can never guess unless you mention it. I have no telepathy.” Well, what she said is true, but in Japan, we have the traditional idiom, ISHINDENSHIN which means to communicate heart to heart, without saying anything. Although most of Japanese are not psychic, we are supposed to understand what you are thinking unless you talk too much. The word ISHINDENSHIN comes from the BUDDISM. Originally, it is said that when the priest taught many kind of tenet to the pupils, one of the pupils could predict and understand all of the meaning before having been taught without any scriptures. That pupil is BUDDHA and the tenet is BUDDISM. Actually, there is not an exact scripture like the BIBLE in BUDDISM, but you can find it out by heart. It is more than the words. ISHINDENSHIN, this non verbal communication, is surely existence in Japanese culture. It must be very difficult for foreign people to understand. For example, when the dating, a Japanese woman doesn’t say “I am hungry” even though she is starving, but a man supposed to say “Let’s have lunch at the nice restaurant.” Also, Japanese people give you an unclear, vague answer when you ask something. This is because of ISHINDENSHIN. We always want you to guess what we are thinking instead of making strong personal statement. If you can keep good ISHINDENSHIN communication with your partner, you feel comfortable to stay in Japan. However, most Japanese people know ISHINDENSHIN communication doesn’t work universally, so we should try to open our mouth wider and try to say what we want to do forcefully. It helps for good global communication in these days.

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