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Pecking Order 上下関係(じょうげかんけい)

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

日本語会話 初級 中級

Many Japanese, in particular, younger generations, envy the individualism the United States offers. Why do you think that is? Don’t the Japanese have freedom to develop their own individualism? Aren’t they one of the prominent democratic countries in the world? There seem to exist a number of internationally known Japanese professionals who express themselves without any societal restrictions. Well, you may never understand why the US style individualism is the target of envy unless you live and work in Japan maneuvering the appropriate tones used in the language and displaying the appropriate attitude.

The modern-day hierarchical relationship doesn’t reflect socioeconomic status or heritage but is more like a tacit understanding of whether you and whomever you are talking to are on an equal level or not. Age is a big part in deciding one’s stance (older being a higher stance), also in institutions, the length of service matters as well (the longer tenure being a higher stance). If the two people speaking are equal, a casual tone is used. If uncertain or in a professional scenario, using the polite tone would be prudent. If unequal and you are in the lower stance, you must be able to use the respect tone and the humble tone appropriately.

What happens if your judgement is incorrect and used a wrong tone? While you may not be openly reprimanded, the likelihood of climbing up the corporate will be greatly diminished. Japanese children learn the casual tone language at a young age. In an early grade of grammar school, the polite tone (teinei-go) will be introduced in their curriculum. In the later grade, they start learning respect (sonkei-go) and humble (kenjo-go) tones and appropriate mannerisms that accompany them. From the perspective of having to know and appropriately use all these different tones, interpersonal communications in the US appear much freer. There is a sophisticated usage of words communicating in English, but it doesn’t require you to figure out each person’s stance before speaking.

Visitors to Japan often marvel at how well they are treated. In the service industry, customers automatically have the upper stance. Service providers use the respect tone and mannerism toward customers. This is a given no matter where you go in Japan. As a traveler interacting with the service providers, you are treated in the most cordial manner.

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shibuya, intersection, Japanese people, Pecking order, relationship

日本語会話 初級

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A: おはよう、ミキちゃん。

B:  あっ、おはようございます、高橋(たかはし)先輩(せんぱい)。

A: いやだ、ミキちゃん、先輩なんて呼(よ)ばないで。学校(がっこう)じゃないんだから。

B: すみません。つい学生の時の癖(くせ)が出(で)ちゃって。 ところで先輩、あっ、すみません、高橋さん。高橋さんの同期(どうき)の方(かた)ってどなたですか?

A: それが、みんな結婚退職(けっこんたいしょく)してしまって、もう誰(だれ)もいないのよ。

B: そうですか。寂(さび)しいですね。高橋さんも結婚なさったらお辞(や)めになるんですか?

A: 結婚退職なんて古(ふる)い古い。 私はキャリアウーマンで頑張(がんば)るわ。

B: さすが先輩! カッコいい! 

日本語会話 中級

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A: あっ、先輩、手酌(てじゃく)はだめですよ。私にお酌(しゃく)させてください

B: いやいや、手酌でいいよ。お酌なんて古臭(ふるくさ)いことをするなよ。

A: いいじゃないですか。はい、ビール、もう一杯(いっぱい)いかがですか?

B: ありがとう。飲(の)み過(す)ぎたから、今晩(こんばん)はこれで終(お)わりにしておくよ。

A: そうですか。最近(さいきん)あまりお酒(さけ)がすすみませんねえ。どうなさったんですか? 体調(たいちょう)でも崩(くず)されたんですか?

B: そうなんだよ。飲み過ぎで肝臓(かんぞう)を悪(わる)くしてね、最近はちょっと酒を控(ひか)えているんだ。

A: そうですか。それはいけませんね。お大事(だいじ)になさってください。でも、食(た)べるのは大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)なんでしょう? まだ、お刺身(さしみ)が残(のこ)っていますから、どうぞ召(め)し上(あ)がってください。

B: 君(きみ)ももう少(すこ)し食べたら?

A: ありがとうございます。では、失礼(しつれい)して、いただきます。


先輩(せんぱい) n. senior (at work or school)

なんて p. It's used to mildly look down on the word that comes prior to the particle. Here, she wasn't fond of the title "senpai".

癖(くせ) n. a habit

同期(どうき) n. classmates or co-workers who started at the same time.

結婚退職(けっこんたいしょく) n. resigning upon marriage. It's an old tradition in Japan for female to leave the office upon marriage.

なさったら v. なさる+たら、なさる is a respect form of する

お辞めになる 辞める=to resign, お+ますform of a verb+になる creates respect tone.

さすが adv. "as I expected" "you're not letting me down"

手酌(てじゃく) n. serving liquor by himself/herself. Traditionally, junior people are expected to serve senior people at the table.

お酌(しゃく)させてください v. お酌をする=to serve liquor to someone, させてください, allow me to do~ modest expression.

古臭(ふるくさ)い イ-adj. Old-fashioned, compare with 古い

飲(の)み過(す)ぎた  ますform (v)+過ぎる = excess of (v), Here, I had too much to drink

しておく てform(v) +おく=intentional action of (v). Here, "it's my intention to stop drinking now."

お酒(さけ)が進(すす)みません It's an expression, means "being able to drink"

肝臓(かんぞう) n. liver

控(ひか)えて v. てform of 控える= to restrain

召(め)し上(あ)がって v. てform of 召し上がる= respect form of 食べる


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