The Dark Side of Japan: Why Japanese people aren’t really ‘Genki’

Japan is a great country, with a rich culture, kind and truly thoughtful people, beautiful nature and the list can go on forever. But, as all countries do, Japan also has a dark side. There is no perfect country, because if there was, every country would follow in that example.

So this post is not intended to criticize, or hate on Japan. I love this country and it’s people, and that’s why I choose to live here. I empathize with the Japanese people deeply in regards to the topic of this post, and I only wish for the best for the people living in this country, of whom I’ve come to love and admire greatly.

Japan is a collectivist society, and a shame culture. A collectivist society is one which emphasizes group harmony and goals over individual desires or needs. Western cultures operate more on individualism, which emphasizes the self, and the self’s goals, desires and happiness. The important thing to note is that neither of these is better than the other, neither is right nor wrong. They are just different sides of the same coin.

A shame culture is one where shame is inflicted upon those who behave in a culturally unacceptable way in order to control and maintain social structure. The combination of the collectivist culture, and the shame culture can create a dangerous combination, leading to consequences in the emotional well-being of the individual.

In Japan, there is a famous saying “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down”. This phrase really reveals and sums up the harmful essence of the combination of the collectivist society and the shame culture. It means that you must fit in and do as everyone else (as in collectivism), or you will be punished (with shame).

Let me get into some specific observations I’ve made about the collectivist/shame culture, and how it affects Japanese society.

Here in Japan, people seem to be very conscious and concerned about what others may be thinking about them. This is because of the huge pressure to blend in, conform and be the same. It is a large source of discomfort for Japanese people to be behaving differently than other people, especially in public. This is because it triggers a shame response. This constant preoccupation – of how one is being perceived but others – in itself is a huge source of anxiety, which I won’t even get into in this post.

When I’m in public here in Japan, I get a feeling that I need to restrict my public behavior to match everyone else’s behavior. When I’m doing something out of place, I feel this sort of uncomfortable vibe, like everyone is silently watching me and judging me for acting differently.

I notice that this perceived judging triggers a shame response in me, which immediately causes me to want to correct my behavior. I’m pretty sensitive to these kinds of vibes (read about clairsentience here), so I learned very quickly that I need to really pay attention to how others are acting when I’m out in public.

Shame is also connected to the “uchi” (内, inside)  and “soto” (外, outside) culture in Japan, but I won’t get into these in detail here. Japanese people act very differently when they are in public, versus in a more private setting, such as the home. Because of the shame culture, many Japanese people hold a lot of repressed shame about who they are individually, so naturally, they will normally only show those closest to them who they really are.

This is one reason why a lot of Japanese people are hesitant to invite others into their home. Someone inviting you into their home is like an act of vulnerability, because the home is where someone is most free to be themselves. A home can tell you a lot about the kind of person who is living there. Someone with a lot of shame isn’t comfortable in showing people who they really are. It’s more comfortable for them to put on a ‘mask’ to show others in public that they are an acceptable member of society.

How does this collectivist/shame culture really affect people on an individual level?

The true damage is really done in the individual’s childhood years. We are most vulnerable and open to everything around us in these years. Children are like sponges which absorb everything around them, and the subconscious mind records and remembers all that has ever been experienced. Painful childhood experiences and the messages we receive about ourselves are what teach us to close off and protect ourselves emotionally as adolescents and adults.

Imagine a young boy who feels different from others, for whatever reason. Maybe the other boys like to play with trucks, and they talk a lot, while this boy is quiet and likes to dance, and play with more ‘feminine’ toys. *Note: This is just an arbitrary example, not something that specifically happens in Japan.

The message that the collectivist/shame culture might send to this boy, is that they are not okay to be the way they are, that they have to change themselves in order to gain love and acceptance of those around them. If this boy does not change and behave like the other boys, he is faced with the threat of ostracism. None of this will be directly said to him, most likely. No one is going to tell the young boy that he isn’t normal and that he has to change (perhaps other than other boys his age). But this is the subconscious message that he will pick up from the cues given by the his family, school or peers.

The boy is effectively programmed into following this message through the use of shame, whenever he acts in a way that is not socially desirable. As the boy grows up, there is a lot of repressed shame about who he really is. There is a lack of self love and acceptance because the shame taught him that he is not okay as he is, and must act differently in order to be loved and accepted.

Thus, shame taught the child to seek love and acceptance externally by acting in this socially accepted way. This poor child will most likely grow up with a lot of emotional discomfort caused by the repressed shame. This can manifest addictions (sexual addictions are very common in Japan) and/or emotional and mental problems, as a way to cover up and cope with the emotional pain.

This boy grows up with significant emotional baggage, and is no longer the same vibrant, happy child he once was, when he was able to express himself freely. He is no longer ‘genki’ (read about the meaning of ‘Genki’ here).

I admire that Japan values group harmony, over individual happiness, and I see nothing wrong with that in itself. But the problem I see, is with its manipulation (whether intentionally or not) with shame upon vulnerable Japanese children. Is there a way that we can live in harmony, whilst also accepting individual differences and loving others unconditionally?

I understand that this is a difficult topic, and finding a practical solution is very difficult. But hopefully by understanding a bit of the root of the Japanese society’s suffering can we begin to rethink ways of how we can all treat each other in a kinder and more loving way. So that we can truly live together in harmony both inside the home and outside in public, rather than just appearing to live in harmony on the surface.

The core of this issue is that Japanese society has focused too much on public/external harmony, without giving enough consideration to the internal well-being/individual harmony, or peace of the individual. They did this by controlling others with the use of shame, in order to maintain social order. And while things appear very smooth, happy and polished on the surface in Japan, a deeper look will reveal a real darkness which lies behind the public facade.

As I mentioned before, neither the collectivist society, nor the individualistic society is totally correct. They are like two sides of the same coin. You can say that the Ying and Yang is out of balance, and maybe the Japanese can integrate and learn from Western Individualism to balance out the two sides. And of course, the West can also learn a thing or two from the Eastern collectivism.

The Real Meaning of ‘Genki’ (元気)

Having lived in Japan for almost 2 years, and having studied the language for about 6 years, I’ve come to understand a bit about Japan’s rich culture and its fascinating language.

In Japanese, there is a very commonly used word, known as ‘Genki’ (元気). Anyone who’s studied Japanese surely knows this word, as it’s used in the Japanese equivalent of “how are you?”, which is “元気ですか?”, or “Genki desu ka?” (literally, are you ‘Genki’?).

The word is commonly translated as ‘fine’, but I feel that this translation doesn’t do the word justice. The word has a much deeper meaning. Thankfully, Japanese script includes the use of ‘Kanji’ (漢字), which are Chinese characters, and because each character has it’s own meaning, we can get a feel for what this word really means.

Let’s break this word down into its two components. The first character is ‘元’, pronounced as ‘gen’ which means ‘origin’. The second character ‘気’, pronounced ‘ki’ means ‘energy’, or ‘spirit’. So if we look at these two together, we get ‘original energy’, or ‘original spirit’.

So what does it mean? “Are you ‘original energy’?” doesn’t really make to sense to the average person.

Think about how you were as a child, compared to now. Are you the same person now, as you were as a child? If you’ve ever spent time around young children, you might have noticed that they have a lot of enthusiasm, energy and natural curiosity about the world. Young children seem so happy and full of life, and they are so unburdened by stress and expectations of modern society.

When you compare this to the average adult, you see that most adults are usually very busy with many responsibilities, such as work, paying bills, supporting a family, ect. A lot of adults live very stressful lives in today’s society.

Compare these adults to children. What’s the difference? It’s as if the responsibilities and expectations of society have burdened adults so much, to the point of taking away that ‘original energy’, or ‘original spirit’ that they once had as a young child. This kind of adult is no longer ‘Genki’.

The energy and enthusiasm we all had as children is our natural, or original state of being. It’s the restrictions placed on us by societal norms, and the burdens placed on us by our modern adult lives that dim the light of our original energy.

Those who are truly ‘Genki’ are those who follow their heart’s desire, who live their lives to the fullest, without worrying about what others will think of them. They are the ones who are bold enough to be themselves, to let their true selves shine, in spite of any negativity they may receive from others. This is how we all lived as children, before we were ‘programmed’ to act and think a certain way by family, peers, and society.

As you can see, saying “元気です” (I’m Genki) carries a lot more meaning than it’s translated English counterpart “I’m fine”. So are you ‘Genki’? If not, it’s time to start returning to your inner child 😉

Other People as Mirrors of Yourself

Have you ever met someone, and felt put off by something about them? Maybe something about them just pissed you off, whether or not you were able to put a finger on it.

At the surface level, the reason why this happens is simply because you are seeing a quality in that person which pisses you off. And you get angry because the quality that they posses annoys you. But on a deeper level, you need to ask yourself why this person’s quality is triggering you in the first place.

The reason, is that this person is mirroring to you a quality which you possess yourself, believe it or not. You see, that quality, is a quality which you’ve repressed/rejected and failed to accept within yourself, perhaps so well that you aren’t even consciously aware of that aspect of yourself anymore.

This person was attracted into your life in order to trigger that emotional part of your subconscious, with the ultimate aim of learning more about yourself/ healing repressed emotions. But in order to take full advantage of that opportunity to learn about yourself, you need to be brutally honest with yourself.

You need to see yourself for who you are, no judgement, and no self-deception. Many people are actually subconsciously afraid to take an honest look at themselves, for the fear that they’ll be overwhelmed by their own powerful emotions. After all, repressed emotions in the subconscious mind can cause emotional pain when released from your body.

Why did this person show up in your life to teach you a lesson, and why do they have that same trait as you?

They showed up in your life because your subconscious mind, or higher Self has an innate desire to express itself, so that it can grow, heal and evolve. Therefore, your subconscious mind will create situations in your reality, and because energy attracts similar energy (i.e., universal law of attraction), you will attract people who have the traits which your subconscious mind feels ready to address and heal.

Another way to look at this is that this person has the same trait as you because this person is just another version of you, or a mirror to show you something about yourself. In fact, everyone, in one way or another, is just another version of you.

If you’ve ever hated something about someone, it’s because you’ve rejected this trait within yourself. If you’ve ever appreciated a trait in someone, it’s because you appreciate this trait about yourself too. And if you’ve ever admired or felt inspired by another person’s trait, it’s because you contain this trait within yourself, and you have the desire (whether consciously or not) to fulfill this same trait within yourself.

We are all connected because we are all a part of this same universe, so we all have the same traits to different degrees. So because others are just a different version of you, they have all the same energy and traits that you do, just in different polarities (Check out this post if I’ve lost you at this point). It’s up to you if you want to open your eyes to this universal truth, because if you do, the rewards are priceless.

Emotions, Vibes and Psychic Abilities

What are emotions/vibes?

Emotions are just energy in motion. The emotions that an individual is experiencing gives off a specific “vibe”, which is really just a specific vibration of energy. When we say that someone gives you bad “vibes”, we take this to mean that they are giving off a “bad energy”, probably because they are experiencing a heavy “negative” emotion (such as anger, self-loathing or aggression). Most people can sense when a person is giving off bad vibes because it’s a natural innate human ability, and it’s purpose is to protect us from people who might harm us.
Most people don’t realize that being able to read someone’s vibes like this is actually a psychic ability. The mainstream connotation of a psychic ability is that of some kind of fake, pseudoscience nonsense, but the truth is that we use our psychic abilities everyday to a certain extent, without even realizing it. Some people are more aware of the situations when they use their psychic abilities, and are thus able to develop this skill more. So some people are better at reading someone’s energy (vibe) than others, just because they recognize their ability to do so, and practice it.

Let’s take this a notch up and talk about telepathy. Telepathy is just the next step above being able to read someone’s vibes and knowing how their feeling. Once you are able to read the general vibes (such as happy, sad, angry, ect.), you can get better at detecting more subtle emotions, such as jealousy, uncertainty, defensiveness, ect.

One who has developed their ability to read very subtle emotions has actually developed the ability to “read someone’s mind” in the sense that they can understand someone’s emotional state very precisely. You can get infinitely better at your skill to read vibes, to the point where you can read and understand a person’s emotional state completely without them having to say a word. When two people do this to each other, we have telepathy.

To sum things up, when you are able to sense how a person is feeling, you are tapping into a natural human psychic ability. We should recognize that we all have these abilities, and that it’s possible to develop these skills if we choose to.

Different types of psychic abilities when reading vibes

Different people can read, or understand energy/vibes in different ways. That’s because there are many different psychic abilities. When reading someone’s vibes, the psychic abilities that come to mind are claircognizance, clairsentience and clairvoyance.

It’s possible that there are other psychic abilities that people use to read other peoples’ energy, but I don’t have much knowledge about other psychic abilities. The psychic ability that an individual uses will depend on the person, in the same way that some people are naturally better at sports, and other people are naturally better at arts. We all have differing levels of skill in our psychic abilities, but everyone has all the psychic abilities to some degree.

Claircognizance means ‘clear knowing’, and it’s the ability to intuitively understand and know. When I meet a new person, I can, to a certain extent, read their vibe, the way they communicate, ect. and from this, I intuitively understand about what kind of person they are, the things they struggle with in life, their potential insecurities, and so forth. This is because I’m seeing things in this person that are present in myself, or things I have struggled with, or currently struggle with. And because I have done a lot work to develop my own self-awareness, I intuitively understand when other people share similar insecurities, fears, hopes, desires, ect. just from their vibe.

Clairsentience means ‘clear feeling’, which is the ability to feel energy. This is when you see a person, and you can actually feel their vibes, you can feel how they’re feeling (empathy), ect. This psychic ability is evident in your everyday life when you hang out with someone who’s depressed, and they make you feel kind of depressed too. It’s because you are feeling their energy and it’s taking a toll on your own energy. This ability is also why it feels so good to be around very energetic, positive people. It’s because we are feeling their energy, and we are kind of feeding off of it in a positive way.

Clairvoyance means ‘clear seeing’, and it’s the ability to see energy. Some people have the ability to see someone’s aura, which is just the magnetic energy that emanates from and surrounds a person. You can actually take a photograph of someone’s vibes, or aura, with a photography technique called Kirlian photography. I believe this technique is able to capture in color, the magnetic fields surrounding a living being. Google it if you need a scientific explanation of how it works. Different moods will change the color of your aura, so someone with this ability will be able to see how you feel by looking at the color, size, shape of your aura. This is perhaps one of those psychic abilities that has a strange connotation in mainstream consciousness, probably because it’s a more difficult psychic ability to tap into in daily life.

The thing about psychic abilities is that they have such a strange perception in mainstream society. This is because they are very misunderstood as something that only “crazy people” can tap into, when in reality, we’re all experiencing our own psychic abilities on a daily basis. Are you a “crazy person” because you’re able to sense when your best friend is feeling down? No, you are just being a normal human being, using your extra senses just as naturally as you use your physical senses. There is nothing “strange” or “crazy” about these abilities. We all need to wake up and realize that we’re repressing such a natural part of ourselves, which can be used for so much good in this world.