037 – Exploring the Japanese concept of Omoiyari

Japan is a group-oriented society in which people value harmony; understanding a situation without words is something that is instilled at a very young age. They even have a term, omoiyari, to describe understanding the feelings of others while not including the concept of self. 

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick and Miku explore this concept and discuss whether it is experienced outside of Japan.


Podcast Highlights

  • Learning different languages. At 1:08, Miku shares her love for learning different languages.
  • Becoming a YouTuber. At 5:00, Miku shares how she became a YouTuber.
  • Teaching as a source of ikigai. Miku shares that teaching Japanese has been a source of ikigai for her at 11:45.
  • How do you see your own culture? At 16:49, Miku shares her perception of her own culture.
  • Omoiyari. Nick and Miku talk about the term omoiyari (sending one’s altruistic feelings to others).
  • Omoiyari as ideal communication in Japanese society. At 33:58, Miku shares her thoughts on omoiyari being regarded as an ideal communication in Japanese society.
  • Examples of omoiyari. At 40:01, Miku shares some examples of omoiyari.
  • Kuuki wo Yomu. At 51:58, Nick and Miku discuss another Japanese term, kuuki wo yomu (understanding the situation without words).
  • Meiwaku kakenaide and omoiyari. At 56:48, Nick and Miku discuss the similarities between the terms meiwaku kakenaide (not to cause trouble) and omoiyari.
  • Benefits of living abroad. At 1:03:06, Nick and Miku talk about how living in another country can be life-changing.

Miku of  "Miku Real Japanese"

Miku of Miku Real Japanese

Miku is a YouTuber,  online Japanese teacher, podcaster, video creator, and language lover. Her mission is to connect Japan with the world through teaching Japanese.


LINKS:

YouTube Channel - Miku Real Japanese

Miku Real Japanese Website - Learn REAL, AUTHENTIC, PRACTICAL Japanese to express yourself and connect with people!


Learning different languages

Aside from her mother tongue, Japanese, Miku also speaks English and Spanish. Miku shares that she has a love for learning languages; she enjoyed learning about grammar when studying English in high school. She was initially interested in studying English when she went to university. However, her interest in Spanish was sparked during her university orientation, when she saw the introduction to Spanish course. This prompted her to go to Spain and study Spanish. When she returned, she continued studying the English language. For Miku, being able to communicate in foreign languages helped her learn different cultures and connect with other people.


Becoming a YouTuber

Miku landed a job in Mexico as a Japanese teacher. She worked in a Japanese school where she met a lot of students and friends who had a great interest in learning and speaking Japanese. This inspired her to create video guidance so she could share her Japanese language knowledge with others. At first, she used Instagram as her platform, posting1-minute videos of her writing Japanese words on paper. To her surprise, she gained a lot of followers, so she decided to move to YouTube where she could create longer videos and teach more complex Japanese grammar.

Nick shares that Miku is interesting and fun to watch, as she uses humour in her videos: She role plays as different characters and wears wigs, which makes it fun to learn the Japanese language.



Teaching as a source of ikigai

Miku shares that she loves connecting with people through her teaching. For her, having connections with others is her ikigai. She states that people learn languages to share their thoughts and perspectives, hence, she wants to help people who want to learn the language to have a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and to connect with its people.

Nick believes that relationships are one of the strongest sources of ikigai; they provide a form of intimacy where people connect by sharing their knowledge and ideas.



How do you see your own culture?

Miku shares that she didn’t know much about Japanese culture before she went to different countries. Although she was familiar with Japanese customs and traditions, she did not fully understand them – something she didn’t realise until people began to ask her about her own culture. This inspired her to learn more about the culture she grew up in: she learnt about sado (tea ceremony), the philosophy of ichigo ichie (one lifetime, one encounter), and how Japanese people give importance to living with nature. She began to embrace her culture more.


If you're learning a language, you must also learn the culture to be able to fully engage with the people of that culture or country. - Nicholas Kemp

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Learn the language


Nick shares his belief that to fully engage with people in a particular country, you need to learn not just the language, but also the culture in which that language is spoken.



Omoiyari

While doing his research on the term omoiyari, Nick found Miku’s YouTube video, “Mindset of Consideration” (omoiyari). She provided the following commentary on the term:  “If we can all consider other people’s feelings and give love and kindness to each other, this world would become a peaceful place. If we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we would not jump to judgments, we would listen to understand. I can also say that I felt so much more omoiyari in my life. People I’ve come across are so full of love and kindness. I think this world needs more omoiyari and connections.”


If we can all consider other people's feelings and give love and kindness to each other, this world would become a peaceful place. If we can all realize we are just brothers and sisters, we will be united. If we can put ourselves in other people's shoes, we would not jump to judgements, we would listen to understand. I can also say that I felt so much Omoiyari in my life. People I've come across are so full of love and kindness. I think this would needs more Omoiyari and connections. - Miku of "Miku Real Japanese"

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The world need Omoiyari


Miku explains that omoi means ‘thoughts’, while yari comes from the verb yaru which means ‘to give’ and ‘to direct’. Omoiyari means to direct your thoughts and take action on them. It is putting one’s self in another person’s shoes, and being considerate of that other person. 

Nick shares a quote that offers some perspective on the term omoiyari: “If a person who helps wants to act according to the concept of omoiyari, it is essential for him/her to assess the needs or feelings of the person in need.”

Omoiyari is all about helping or doing something for others, but for Miku, it can also be not doing anything: not saying something you want to say or not doing something, in consideration of the other person’s feelings.



Omoiyari as ideal communication in Japanese society

Omoiyari is regarded as the ideal communication in Japan. It is something taught in Japanese schools: they practice harmony. Compared to other cultures, Miku thinks that the Japanese have a different way of communicating; they see to it that everyone’s involved in the conversation. Instead of voicing their opinions, they try to consider what will benefit everyone; they are not used to debating, and they would rather listen to the other person and pay attention until they’re finished talking.



Examples of omoiyari

In her YouTube video, Miku shares examples of omoiyari. She states that when a person is feeling down, his/her mother might make their favourite dish to encourage and cheer them up, but without drawing attention to this generous act. Another example of omoiyari is when a person is having a difficult time and his/her friends just listen without judging or interrupting. 

Miku also shares some of her personal experiences of omoiyari. For example, there was an occasion when she made a big mistake at work and was feeling down; her co-worker left a chocolate on her desk with a note to encourage her. She also recalls a time when she was in Mexico: she was having a hard time and didn’t know which bus to take, then a stranger approached and helped her. There are other instances where she experienced omoiyari even in other countries. For her, omoiyari is a term not only limited to Japan; it is something that can be felt everywhere.



Kuuki wo Yomu


Kuuki wo Yomu


Nick shares another Japanese term that he’s fascinated with: kuuki wo yomu. Miku explains that kuuki wo yomu means ‘read the room’ or ‘read between the lines’, and it is something that is instilled in Japanese people at an early age, for example by helping children understand how to act as a group rather than just thinking about one’s self. However, for Miku, it is still important to have balance because it might cause too much stress to an individual not being able to voice his/her own opinions.



Meiwaku kakenaide and omoiyari

Miku thinks that there are similarities between the terms meiwaku kakenaide (don’t cause trouble) and omoiyari (sending one’s altruistic feelings to others). Growing up, she was often told not to cause trouble or not to bother other people, and she thinks that it’s the same with the concept of omoiyari: being socially aware and understanding other people’s needs. Still, Miku thinks that by being conscious of not bothering others, people may lose intimacy. She thinks that it’s important to be socially aware, but not too much in the sense that they are avoiding having deeper connections with others.


We've got to be tuned into our feelings, but also socially aware. We should be free to express ourselves but at the same time, cautious that what we're expressing is not going to cause trouble or hurt someone. We have to use our judgement in a thoughtful way. Find balance. - Nicholas Kemp

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Find balance


For Nick, it is about finding balance: People have to be tuned into their feelings, but also socially aware; they should be free to express themselves but, at the same time, be cautious of not causing trouble or hurting someone.



Benefits of living abroad

Miku believes that living in another country can be life-changing. Living abroad helped her learn about other culture while also encouraging her to appreciate her roots and culture more and know herself better.


 

Conclusion

It is important to be socially aware and be sensitive to others’ feelings. However, it is also essential to find balance and not lose your individuality while being a part of a community or group. Sometimes, it is not wrong to voice your opinion and share your thoughts with others because it is a way of communicating how you feel to others. With proper communication, you will be able to build meaningful connections, and having meaningful connections can lead to the feeling of ikigai.


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