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Why is saving face important in Japan?


In Japan, saving face is an integral part of their culture, and it plays a significant role in their daily interactions. This concept is rooted in the Japanese value system, which emphasizes harmony, respect, and social order. In this article, we will explore why saving face is important in Japan, how it affects their communication style, and what are the benefits of adhering to this cultural norm.

The Definition of Saving Face

Saving face is a social concept that refers to the act of preserving one’s dignity, reputation, and honor in public. It involves avoiding behaviors that could embarrass or shame oneself or others, as well as maintaining a positive image in the eyes of society. In Japan, this concept is known as “face,” or “tatemae,” which translates to “the facade we present to the world.” It is the idea that people should always maintain a positive image, even if it means hiding their true feelings.

Japanese Snack Box

The Historical Context of Saving Face

The origins of saving face can be traced back to ancient Japanese traditions, particularly the samurai code of honor (bushido). Samurai warriors were expected to uphold strict moral and ethical standards and maintain their honor at all costs. This idea was later adopted by other social classes and became an essential part of Japanese culture. Today, saving face is deeply ingrained in Japanese society and is considered a fundamental aspect of interpersonal relationships.

The Role of Group Harmony

In Japan, group harmony (wa) is highly valued and prioritized over individual needs or desires. Saving face helps to maintain this harmony by avoiding conflict, confrontation, or criticism that could disrupt social order. It also ensures that everyone feels respected and valued within the group. By preserving a positive image in public, individuals can contribute to the overall harmony of the group and avoid causing any disruptions.

The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication

In Japan, non-verbal communication plays a crucial role in conveying one’s emotions and intentions. Saving face involves paying close attention to non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. By doing so, individuals can avoid misunderstandings and maintain a harmonious relationship with others.

The Use of Indirect Communication

Japanese communication style is known for its indirectness, which allows individuals to express themselves without causing offense or embarrassment. Saving face involves using polite language (keigo) and euphemisms (tatemae) to convey one’s message without directly stating it. This approach allows individuals to express their thoughts while maintaining a positive image in public.

Avoiding Criticism and Confrontation

In Japan, criticism and confrontation are considered negative behaviors that can damage relationships and disrupt social order. Saving face involves avoiding these behaviors by using indirect communication methods or refraining from expressing negative opinions altogether. By doing so, individuals can maintain positive relationships with others while avoiding conflict or discomfort.

The Importance of Apologizing

In Japan, apologizing is an essential aspect of saving face. It involves taking responsibility for one’s actions or mistakes and expressing remorse for any negative consequences that may have occurred. Apologizing helps to maintain one’s reputation and demonstrates a commitment to maintaining positive relationships with others.

The Role of Gift-Giving

Gift-giving is another important aspect of saving face in Japan. It involves giving gifts as a way to express gratitude, show respect, or apologize for any inconvenience caused. Gift-giving helps to maintain positive relationships with others by demonstrating one’s commitment to maintaining harmony within the group.

The Benefits of Saving Face

Saving face has several benefits for individuals and society as a whole. It helps to maintain social order by avoiding conflict or disruption caused by negative behaviors such as criticism or confrontation. It also promotes harmony within groups by ensuring that everyone feels respected and valued. Additionally, it can enhance one’s reputation and contribute to personal success in both personal and professional contexts.

The Challenges of Saving Face

Saving face can be challenging for individuals who come from cultures that prioritize directness or assertiveness over indirect communication methods. It can also lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations due to the use of euphemisms or polite language. Furthermore, it can sometimes result in individuals suppressing their true feelings or opinions in order to maintain a positive image in public.


Saving face is an essential aspect of Japanese culture that plays a significant role in interpersonal relationships and social order. It involves preserving one’s dignity, reputation, and honor in public while maintaining harmony within groups. By understanding the importance of saving face in Japan and adhering to its cultural norms, individuals can enhance their reputation, promote social order, and contribute to overall group harmony.

What does saving face mean in the Japanese culture?

The phrase ‘saving face’ refers to the act of preventing others from losing respect for oneself or avoiding feelings of embarrassment.

Why is saving face important?

The ability to save face is a crucial skill for leaders because it allows them to connect with others, overcome obstacles, and establish trust and strong relationships over time. This concept is universally significant.

Is face important in Japan?

In Japan, the concept of ‘face’ holds great significance and Managers make sure to safeguard the reputation of their subordinates when in the company of others.

What is the most important thing in Japanese culture?

The culture of Japan values hard work, respect for elders, and politeness as essential aspects of life.

What is shameful in Japanese culture?

The study examines how Japanese caregivers use the word hazukashii, which has various meanings including shameful, ashamed, shy, or embarrassed, when describing children’s behavior or teasing them about it. The research specifically focuses on Japanese caregivers.

Why is Japanese etiquette important?

In Japan, respect for others and good manners are highly regarded, and tourists who behave badly are causing more and more problems. To avoid irritating or upsetting the locals, visitors from other countries should be familiar with the basic rules, including Coronavirus etiquette and proper behavior in homes.

Adapting to Cultural Norms

For those who are not familiar with Japanese culture, adapting to the concept of saving face can be challenging. In order to navigate Japanese social interactions effectively, it is important to understand and respect their cultural norms. This includes paying close attention to non-verbal cues, using indirect language, and avoiding behaviors that could cause embarrassment or shame.

Applying Saving Face in Business Settings

Saving face is particularly important in Japanese business settings, where maintaining a positive image is crucial for success. This involves using polite language and showing respect to one’s superiors or clients. It also requires avoiding behaviors that could be seen as confrontational or critical, such as openly disagreeing with others or making demands.

Balancing Saving Face with Authenticity

While saving face is an integral part of Japanese culture, it is important to balance this with authenticity in personal relationships. Suppressing one’s true feelings or opinions can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction or disconnection from others. It is possible to maintain a positive image in public while still expressing oneself authentically in private settings.

The Global Impact of Saving Face

The concept of saving face has had a global impact beyond Japan, particularly in East Asian cultures. It has also become increasingly relevant in today’s globalized world, where cross-cultural interactions are common. Understanding and respecting the concept of saving face can help individuals navigate these interactions successfully and build positive relationships across cultural boundaries.

The Future of Saving Face

As Japan continues to modernize and adapt to changing societal norms, the concept of saving face may evolve as well. However, it will likely remain an essential aspect of Japanese culture and continue to shape their social interactions for generations to come.

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