Yasuke Adventures in Japanese: Addressing People (GuideToJapanese.org textbook supplement)

(The following study material can be used to add more “meat” to the lesson on “addressing people” on GuideToJapanese.org)

あなた わたし “you” “I” – these are words that are seldom used by the Japanese. In a language where context is of the utmost importance and ほんね/たてまえ (本音/建前) rules the day, how can a mere mortal foreigner make their way through these complexities to the golden shores of Japanese proficiency…? This lesson wants to help.

First things first, reading through “addressing people” on GuideToJapanese.org is a must. This is an essential step in understanding the basics and uprooting any well-meaning but wrong use of あなた わたし.

Next for the self-learner or teacher/class to tackle is an understanding of  うちそと (内外)and ほんね/たてまえ (本音/建前).

To start on that journey I recommend watching/showing the students this informative video about the concept –

and if you are bored you can also watch this one…

(it’s an explanation of how tatemae exists in other cultures too)


Use this handy PDF I created with lesson exercises on “uchi/soto”  うちそと (内外)and “honne/tatemae” ほんね/たてまえ (本音/建前).

(it’s good for making the GuideToJapanese.org lesson a bit more advanced)


lastly to help students understand what this concept would equate to in English, you could use this chart:



フレーズ 真の意味
Thanks [This phrase doesn’t have a meaning per se]
That’s a great idea, but… That’s a bad idea
Good job! You didn’t fail
That’s a good question I don’t have an answer


And for advanced examples of Tatemae and what Japanese people might actually be feeling, this is a funny video:


That’s all friends!

Happy Lessons!

(P.S. This tip will be included later in Full Yasuke! Our textbook of Japanese and Guide to teaching Japanese. Check it out!)


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