A Culture of Ambiguous Expressions and Implicit Understanding

A Culture of Ambiguous Expressions and Implicit Understanding – あいまい表現と察する文化

[Nihongo Spirit – March 2024 Issue]


In Japan, many tanka lovers express their feelings and sensibilities.


Tanka is a uniquely Japanese fixed-form poetry written in the pleasant rhythm 5-7-5-7-7, a total of 31 letters (sounds).

短歌は心地よいリズムの 5 -7-5-7-7、 合 計31文字(音 ) で書かれる日本独自の定型詩です。

Incorporating tanka poems, waka (Japanese classical verse) is structured in a 5-7 syllable pattern. As it is composed with a melodic rhythm, the creator is referred to as a “song creator” (poet).

短歌を含め 5- 7調の和歌は節を付けて発声するため、 作者は 「歌人」と呼ばれます。

The “Manyoshu,” compiled from the late 7th century to the 8th century, contains around 4,500 waka poems ranging from the Emperor to common people from various regions.


These waka poems were expressed by assigning readings of Chinese characters, which is considered Japan’s first written script.


It is believed that even before the emergence of the written language in Japan, people expressed their emotions by composing poetry.


Expressions of affection, romantic feelings, and emotions vary by person, and their interpretation is left to the discretion of those who read or hear them.

愛情や恋心、 感動などの表現は人それぞれで、 解釈はそれを読み聞きした側にゆだねられます。

In Japan, when a guest says, “It’s chilly today,” it’s not uncommon for the host to understand the sentiment and offer warm tea.

日本では、 お客が 「今日は冷えますね」 と言えば、 迎えた側は気持ちを察して温かいお茶を出すという人は少なくありません。

Much like the word “reading the air,” there is a culture of understanding and showing consideration for others without explicitly expressing demands.

「空気を読む」という言葉があるように、 はっきりと要求を伝えなくても、 相手の気持ちを察して気遣う文化があり ます。

The origin of “ambiguous expressions,” which seem to have been born out of the Japanese spirit of thoughtfulness and care, may be found in waka poetry.

日本人の思いやりと気遣いの精神から生まれたと思われる 「あいまい表現」の源流は、和歌にあると言ってもいいかもしれません。

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