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Why is face important in Japan?


Face, or “kao” in Japanese, is an important concept in Japanese culture. It refers to one’s reputation, social status, and the way they present themselves to others. In Japan, face is considered a valuable commodity and is something that people work hard to maintain. This article will explore the reasons why face is important in Japan and how it affects various aspects of Japanese society.

Historical Background

The concept of face has its roots in ancient Japanese culture. In feudal Japan, one’s social status was determined by their birthright and the family they belonged to. The higher one’s social status, the more “face” they had. Samurai warriors, for instance, were highly respected and had a lot of face, while merchants and farmers had less. This system of social hierarchy still influences Japanese society today.

Japanese Snack Box

Collectivist Culture

Japan is known for being a collectivist culture, meaning that people tend to value group harmony over individual needs or desires. Maintaining face is crucial for maintaining this group harmony. If someone loses face, it can have negative consequences not only for themselves but also for their family or organization.

Non-Verbal Communication

In Japan, much importance is placed on non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. By carefully controlling these aspects of their presentation, Japanese people can maintain their face even in difficult situations. This is why you might see someone smiling even when they are feeling upset or angry.

Business Culture

In Japanese business culture, face is especially important. Business deals are often made based on personal relationships and trust rather than purely on financial gain. Losing face in a business context can damage one’s reputation and make it difficult to do business with others in the future.

Apology Culture

Japan is known for having a strong apology culture, where people will often apologize even if they were not at fault. This is because apologizing can help maintain face and prevent further conflict or embarrassment.

Importance of Rank

In Japan, rank is highly valued and respected. The higher one’s rank, the more face they have. This applies not only to formal titles such as CEO or government official but also to informal situations such as social gatherings or family events.

Gender Roles

Gender roles also play a role in the importance of face in Japan. Women are often expected to be modest and deferential, while men are expected to be assertive and confident. This can affect how much “face” someone has depending on their gender.

Importance of Harmony

As mentioned earlier, group harmony is highly valued in Japanese culture. Maintaining face helps preserve this harmony by avoiding conflict or confrontation whenever possible.

Cultural Norms

Many cultural norms in Japan are designed to maintain face and avoid causing offense or embarrassment. For example, it is customary to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home or a traditional Japanese restaurant. This shows respect for the host and helps maintain their face.

The Role of Shame

In some cultures, shame is viewed as a negative emotion to be avoided at all costs. In Japan, however, shame can be a powerful motivator for maintaining face and adhering to social norms. If someone feels ashamed of their behavior or actions, they may work harder to regain their lost face.

The Downside of Face

While maintaining face can be beneficial in many situations, there are also downsides to this cultural norm. For example, it can lead to people hiding their true feelings or opinions in order to avoid causing offense or losing face. This can make it difficult for outsiders to understand what is really going on in a given situation.


The concept of face is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and affects many aspects of daily life. By understanding the importance of face, outsiders can gain insight into the complex social dynamics at play in Japanese society.

Why is saving face important in Japan?

Rather than simply appearance, face can be defined as a collection of social factors such as status, reputation, influence, dignity, and honor. To cause someone to lose face is to diminish their standing among their peers, while saving face or “building face” can increase their sense of self-worth, which is a beneficial outcome for all parties involved.

What does saving face mean in the Japanese culture?

So, ‘saving face’ means to keep others from losing respect for oneself or to avoid embarrassment.Aug 16, 2018

What does the face represent?

Beyond just a collection of characteristics, a face expresses the emotions, intentions, and identity of a person as a whole. This is not the case for the body, as while certain cues like posture can convey social information, the image of a body cannot replace a face. This was stated on October 29th, 2015.

Why is saving face important?

The skill of saving face is important for leaders because it is a universal concept that helps them connect with people, overcome obstacles, and establish trust and lasting relationships.

Why is beauty important in Japan?

Japanese culture values aesthetic beauty that is centered around tranquility, human emotions, and imperfections. The philosophy of “wabi-sabi” is a fundamental aspect of Japanese aesthetics, which proposes that beauty can be found in the decay and imperfections of everyday objects.

Is beauty important in Japan?

Japanese aesthetics are characterized by simplicity, elegance, suggestion, and symbolism. Traditional Japanese culture, which has been in existence for over a century, has influenced concepts of female beauty, such as skin whitening, long straight hair, and slim eyes.

Face in Personal Relationships

The concept of face is not limited to business and formal situations, but also plays a role in personal relationships. Maintaining face can be important in family dynamics, romantic relationships, and friendships. For example, if someone feels they have lost face in a social situation, they may avoid that person or group in the future to save face.

Face-saving Techniques

There are various techniques that people use to save face in Japan. One common technique is called “tatemae,” which refers to the public face that people present to others. This may differ from their true feelings or opinions, which are known as “honne.” By presenting a positive tatemae, people can maintain their face and avoid causing offense.

Impact on Communication

The importance of face can also impact communication styles in Japan. People may be more indirect when expressing criticism or disagreement in order to avoid causing offense or losing face. This can make it difficult for non-Japanese speakers to understand the true meaning behind what is being said.

Regional Differences

While the concept of face is important throughout Japan, there may be regional differences in how it is expressed or valued. For example, people in rural areas may place less emphasis on formal titles and rank than those in urban areas.

Changing Attitudes

As Japan becomes more globalized, there are some indications that attitudes towards face may be changing. Younger generations may place less emphasis on rank and hierarchy and more on individual expression and creativity. However, the concept of face remains an important cultural norm in Japan today.

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