your pinocchio illusion


The Japanese word chigau has two meanings. The word is an almost too appropriate metaphor for a culture in which 'the nail that sticks out gets hammered down'.


  1. 異なる。同じでない。
  2. よろしくない。合っていない。

The two meanings are, of course:

  1. To be different.
  2. To be wrong.


It is after all wrong to be different.


When a Japanese person thinks, "That's completely wrong," she often says, "That's a little different." The use of 'a little' to mean 'completely' also seems very Japanese: saying the opposite of what you're thinking.

日本に少しばかりいたらすぐに上記のことに慣れたのだ。今は英語でも、人の(例えばあなたの)言う事がちょっと違うなと思ったときに、僕には、直訳した that's a little different という口癖がついてしまっているのだ。

I wasn't in Japan long before I got perfectly used to all this. Now, even in English I've formed the habit of saying, "That's a little different." What I mean, of course, is that you're absolutely wrong.


And it was only recently that I finally really understood that perhaps the worst thing in life is to be different.