On Nomunication

Ryugakusei usually come to Japan, well, to study, hence why they are ryugakusei. But in reality, it is difficult to differentiate between education and nomunication. Nomunication is a Japanese cultural quirk that is designed to bring out the inner, real voice or opinion of the drunk Japanese. In a country of tatemae—outward appearances—drinking allows the Japanese to express what they really feel, to show their real, honne, inner character. But I wonder if this is a factor behind Japan’s unique drinking culture, something totally different than that in other countries.

Waseda student practicing a juvenile delinquent cheerleading face

Waseda student practicing a juvenile delinquent cheerleading face

Closely (but sometimes, not so closely) mirroring the structure in a Japanese company, younger students are required to show greater respect to the older ones: the kouhai/senpai system. Some university clubs are, of course, more (or less) strict than others; but generally, members must furiously practice their respective club activity, usually whilst keeping their honne to themselves. After that, it is time for drinking, and so much so, that it isn’t rare to see them passed out on the street near the nearest university train station. Waseda’s notorious tennis club is famous for this kind of hilarious, yet unhealthy behaviour—work hard and play hard I suppose.

Definitely a former Waseda Tennis Club member

Definitely a former Waseda Tennis Club member

This system carries over into the professional lives of the Japanese. The Japanese salaryman, business samurai some say, work overtime every day, and are often required to drink with their bosses to the point of becoming stupidly drunk. But of course, not before working overtime… every day. Like Waseda’s tennis club shenanigans in Takadanobaba Station’s rotary, Japanese salarymen are often found passed out in various business districts. Of course, maintaining a tatemae state is considered crucial for business settings——certainly more than in a university club. And perhaps that is why Japanese salarymen drink conspicuously, more even, than Waseda’s tennis club: to bring out their honne through nomunication—honestly discussing work problems or worries about the state of the company with the boss, is easier when drunk (or so the theory goes).

Salarymen must follow their boss like samurai followed their master

Salarymen must follow their boss like samurai followed their master

Careful observation reveals a long process that begins from a relatively early age: entering a Japanese university, joining a university club, respecting the hierarchy of the university club, getting piss drunk with your university club, graduating, getting a real job, respecting the real job’s working hierarchy, getting piss drunk with your bosses, and so on. In other words, Japanese nomunication.

The result: from salaryman to freeman

The result: from salaryman to freeman

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2 thoughts on “On Nomunication

  1. Pingback: KINDNESS | RYUGAKUSEI TOWN

  2. Pingback: What Japanese people do on the train | tsunagu Japan

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