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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Talking strengths and weaknesses in Japanese

"tsuyomi" - the Japanese character for "strength."
tsuyomi, or "strength"
Acquiring skills is a constant theme of life in Japan - as it is anywhere, but it comes with the added aura of "mastering a way," the word hōhō or yarikata (やり方) often being used for "way/method." Hōhō (方法) is a slightly more abstract meaning, while yarikata has a somewhat more hands-on feel.

Mastering a hōhō or yarikata enables the individual to provide others with goods or services, and thus be of use to society. And while Japanese culture has a strong vein of feting those who are to all intents and purposes useless to society because they have no desire to master anything (monogusa), the conventional ideal is of an individual who only has worth when working for the good of all, adding value by practicing, and further polishing, his or her mastered skill.

Skills attained, or even innate, are called tsuyomi (強み) or chōsho (長所), and the opposite—a weakness, failing or shortcoming—is a jakuten (弱点) or tansho (短所).

One good way to spark conversation in Japan might be to ask what the other person is good at or strong at: Tsuyomi wa nan desu ka. And once you get to know someone better, you might even want to reveal one or two of your jakuten: the more kawaii the jakuten the better!
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