Non-Japanese often point out that Japanese speech is vague. For instance, if you say, “I’d like to invite you to my home” and are told, “Thank you. I would like to come, but unfortunately I’m busy now. So let me visit when I have time.” In many cases this means “I am hesitant to come.” Japanese are apt to make their words convey a favorable attitude at first, and then convey their true intention using soft words.
This “soft refusing” comes from Japanese peoples’ sensitivity about hurting others. For instance, in a traditional Japanese sport such as sumo, victors do not show their happiness, since they feel sympathy for the losers. Consideration for losers is related to the “harmonious spirit” which has been deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
Before Junichiro KOIZUMI became the country’s leader, Japanese Prime Ministers were often selected after negotiation between a number of influential ruling party members. This is because if the victor is selected by election, the losing side will be left with unpleasant feelings and it will become difficult to maintain harmony within the party. Against this background, a society that has placed importance on equality has existed.
This ambiguous culture of the Japanese, which is often criticized by foreign countries, is also a culture which places importance on peaceful co-existence between people.