The Japanese way of thinking and the talking Dog.

There is an old English joke about a shepherd and his talking dog. In the long weeks of solitude on the sheep pastures of the north of England, a shepherd out of boredom taught his dog to speak. A theatrical impresario heard of this and succeeded in getting the shepherd on to the stage with the dog, the two of them holding a conversation in front of everyone. The performances were a great success, and at the end of the tour the press interviewed the shepherd and asked what he thought. “Well, the money’s good,” he replied, “but I can’t think why they all come to hear him talk. It’s not as though he ever said anything interesting! ” We foreigners who can speak a bit of Japanese are rather like talking dogs. Far from having anything interesting to say, if we can say anything at all in Japanese we are showered with praises. But of course the other party has to be quite certain that we are speaking Japanese, and we are not always so lucky. If I go to a country like Italy or India, and speak a little of their language to the people there, probably they …

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The Japanese way of thinking and pull and push

In Japan when a man retires he may be given a sort of “consultant” job, in which he can still meet his former colleagues even once a week. His advice is often useful to them, as also his friends in other departments or other companies. There is a good deal of tact in making any changes that have to be made, so that he shall not feel too bad about it. I know of course that this is not always done, but still where possible it does seem to be done. I think that in this respect we in Britain are often rather hard. When a man retires, he retires, and it is made clear to everyone that he has retired. I remember when I was quite a little boy a friend of our family was an Egyptologist, and he took me once or twice to the British Museum, to see the wonderful Egyptian rooms there. The former keeper of the Egyptian Antiquities was perhaps the most famous Egyptologist of the early part of this century—Wallis Budge. He had deciphered many of the inscriptions, and had himself made some big discoveries. Besides Egyptology he was an expert in the Babylonian …

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The Japanese way of thinking and Chin

 Research into the physiology of Judo movement has established that pulling in one’s chin helps the reflexes in a pulling action, whereas to reinforce a push it is helpful to thrust the chin out and forward. In Seoinage for instance, it is best to pull in the chin against one’s throat, whereas for Osotogari (when it is being made with a push) it is good to thrust forward the jaw. As a majority of Judo throws involve mainly a pulling action, many Judo experts habitually keep the chin pulled in. Japanese people, in situations where an action may be made either by a pull or by a push, tend to use the former. It is well-known that Japanese carpenters are pulling a saw or plane towards them when they apply the cutting force, whereas the Western carpenters push it. In writing in the traditional way, the Japanese brush is pulled in towards the body, but a Western writer tends to begin his line with the hand in front of the middle of the body, and write so that it gradually moves away. The slang English phrase for a purely clerical job is “pen pushing”. Today Japanese students are writing with …

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The Japanese way of thinking and international images

 Japanese people seem to be rather interested in what foreigners like the British think of Japan, so let me give a brief answer. The romantic stories of Lafcadio Hearn and others, and the influence of Japanese art over nearly a century, is have given the impression that Japan is a very beautiful country. There are those like myself who, having lived in Japan, know that there is also an ugly side, but this is hardly appreciated by the general public.  It takes a long time to alter an international image. The Japanese people seem to think of Englishmen as all carrying umbrellas, wearing bowler hats, and gentlemen to the last man. One has only to think of the Beatles to see that we do not all wear bowlers. But in spite of that the image of so many years does not disappear. And it is the same with the Japanese image. Let me illustrate by discussing an example from the Times, a famous newspaper with a history of 190 years. This newspaper does not have many pictures in it, but sometimes there are two or three photographs of outstanding artistic merit. I want to say something about two of these …

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