Outside vs Inside: Familiarity, Names, Suffixes, and Space

Since the culture of Liminal Chronicles is based on Japanese society, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned about the culture and how my books may differ. I hope you'll forgive the more informal OOC nature of this post. Also, please remember my simplistic explanations should serve only as an excuse to dig in more and learn on a deeper level. That's what writing these books has been for me. (Yay research!)  

Group vs the Individual + Inside vs Outside

Harmony is highly prized in this island nation. With people densely packed into large cities that rise straight to the sky and the country’s share of potential natural disasters, it’s no wonder they feel the need to get along. They're all in this together.   This runs deep into the history and cultural roots and identity. One’s group is more important than the individual. The nation and Emperor are the highest of these. The company takes priority over the individual or one’s family. The family takes precedence over the individual. Thus you see the family name listed before the individual name.   Conflicts and offense arise when this balance is thrown off. People tend to avoid dissenting from the group's opinion, to avoid rocking the boat. When considering something different from the group as a whole (even as simple as a laptop stand brought in by one person), there will likely be discussion with the rest of the group. When a person consistently leaves the office before everyone else, there may be resentment.   Adherence to rules is almost akin to law. One doesn't talk on the phone on the train, to avoid disturbing others. Boarders wait in orderly lines to the sides of the train doors, no chaotic rushes.   People tend to view others as part of their group or not. The closer ties you have in a group (inside), usually the more casual the behavior toward each other. If you are outside another person's close group, you'll be spoken to more formally.   Fitting in is vital.  

Man selling BBQ at Japanese Fish Market by by Lan Pham


Honor and Face

In Japan, one's reputation is everything. This links to the belief of Kotodama where the word IS the thing. One's name, face and reputation ARE the person. (This is why when handed a person's business card with their name on it, the card is NEVER put into a wallet and stuck in the back pocket. You'd be sitting on the person's face. People carry special card cases and store them in places of honor - the purse, briefcase, or breast pocket.)   Those in higher authority and those who are older are always given their due respect.   The word 'kao' means face, but it also means honor. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of the value of appearance and reputation.   It is my understanding that this is also part of the reason, Japan is much less of a 'touchy' nation than the U.S. or its Eurpoean counterparts. One gives another space out of respect. Hugs are not common, even among families. I was shocked to hear that one of my Japanese friends did not hug her mother.   A bow is the norm for greetings and apologies of all kinds. A Japanese person may be bold and offer a handshake to a foreigner, making the foreigner feel more comfortable. But I did have to ask permission for a hug, when I said goodbye to my friend in Tokyo after getting to spend three days with her in person. Affection is just not shown publicly.  

Bow (rei) by katorisi


Honorifics (Prefixes and Suffixes)

The most common honorific you'll come across is '-san', the equivalent of Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss. You'll see most spoken names in Liminal Chronicles with this suffix.   Friends and colleages (the inside group) will use (or invite you to use) a suffix with a closer feel.
  • '-kun' tends used for young guys.
  • '-chan' is popular among girls and women, though it can be used for kids in general, and a guy may refer to his girlfriend/lover with -chan. It's considered cute.
  • '-sensei' is most often used to refer to a teacher, but can be other positions of respect like doctors.
  • For more info read here.  


  • Liminal Chronicles uses family names when possible to delineate people, but not always the suffix the person would be addressed with unless it’s in dialog.
  • As an author and English speaker, I tend to use the word ‘you’. But the Japanese word for ‘you’, ‘anata’ is generally avoided because it’s considered rude. People will often use a person’s name instead. For reading flow, I use 'you'.
  • The kitsune species, while based on Japanese mythology, is given more leeway for creativity in my books. I tend to make them a more touch dependent race and brasher than their human counterparts. So when you see them breaking the 'no-touch' norm, it's my creative license on the mythology of a fox turning into a woman and being a seductress. Increased contact in a society that doesn't touch much, would be enticing, would it not?


    One of the biggest impacts for me is discovering years ago that Japanese is more of a concept language than English. For example, the word for 'bow' (bending to show respect) is the same for 'gratitude' and 'manners'. Making connections like these are wonderful glimpses into the Japanese mind.   While I adore Japanese culture, I don’t consider myself an expert. I feel I’d have to live there for many years or have grown up there. Study of the language and culture is a life-long pursuit for me. But I will likely always be the outsider looking in.

    Cover image: by Photo by wang xi


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    Master Daisho
    Geoff Washam
    1 Jan, 2020 02:05


    1 Jan, 2020 06:21


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