The Concept of Omoiyari

Have you heard of the term omoiyari? The Japanese culture consists of various concepts that people use in their daily lives; Nick and Miku introduce one of these concepts: omoiyari (sending one’s altruistic feelings to others). They explored how Japanese people apply this idea of omoiyari in their society.

Nick: Speaking of culture, I'd like to dive into this theme for this episode, which is this word, omoiyari

While researching a book I'm currently writing, I was looking up this word because I wanted to include it in my book, and I couldn't find a lot of information. I thought, I'll do a search on YouTube, and then I stumbled upon your video. 

It was extremely helpful. It was all in Japanese. So it's about 10 minutes – a very in depth explanation of omoiyari, and I thought, thank God, I found this video. It's so helpful because it really explained it. Your video is titled: “Mindset of consideration (Omoiyari).” 

That really helped me, so first of all, thank you so much for recording that video. And it's the reason why I reached out to you. So let’s start, this will be interesting, because it's not an easy word to explain. How would you define omoiyari?

Miku: So omoi means thought. So omoimasu means to think and omoi means thought. Yari comes from the verb, yarimasu or yaru which means to give and to direct. So basically, omoiyari means to direct your thoughts, or give your thoughts and take an action on it. 

So basically, you put yourself in others’ shoes, and think: “What can I do for this person now?”, “What is this person feeling?”, “What kind of trouble or problem is this person having now?” And then you read the room and act on it.

Nick: Yeah. We'll get into that expression, read the room, in a minute. But yeah, I think what I've learned and I learned from you, is it's going beyond empathy. So it's not just feeling sorry for someone or understanding how they feel. There's more to it. 

And I found a quote that might offer some perspective and it is: 

“If a person who helps wants to act according to the concept of omoiyari, it is essential for him or her to learn how to assess the needs or feelings of the person in need.”

So I guess one of the crucial words is help – you actually help the person and that will involve action, doing something.

Miku: And now that you said that, I also think that sometimes not doing anything can be omoiyari, too. Like, for example, not saying something, you want to say something or you want to do something now, and you stop there. 

Maybe this is not the right time for for me to say it, and you not saying or not doing it is also omoiyari. Like basically doing something for the other person. But there are some exceptions, I thought.

Nick: Actually, that reminds me of a conversation I had with Ken Mogi related to that: when we're in some sort of social situation, you need to be mindful of what you say, because you never know, you could say something, alienate someone, and you won't know you've done that. 

And of course, we don't want to alienate people. Yeah, Japanese are very good at holding back. So that that's another thing I learnt. 

Miku: Sometimes, too much.

Nick: Too much? So there’s this balance, we’ll talk about.