Japan seen from the outside “Why?”
written by: Professor Dr. Preeya Ingkaphirom
When I heard what he told me I was relieved that there was no need to be nervous in a class of two in a closed room with a male student.
But, as for me, in Thailand, where I was born and raised up, and in the United States, where I studied abroad after Japan, when I talk to someone or listen to them,
it is the minimum etiquette for me to look at that person’s eyes.
Without looking at someone’s eyes or no eye contacts, I don’t think I’m paying respect, and listening to speaker who speak to me. I myself don’t feel like I was teaching in the classroom if my student is not looking at my face while I am teaching.
Of course, I knew that in Japanese society, traditionally, it was considered to be polite to speak without looking at the speaker’s eyes, especially the superiors, but I don’t get used to that old tradition. I feel strange.
In Thailand, if a student doesn’t look at the school teacher’s eyes, it means that he is not listening or pay attention to his lesson.
It can also be interpreted as a statement of constitution that he does not like the teacher, or the class is boring, and he does not want to listen to the teacher.
Or it can be and possible that the student is reading a novel under his desk, or he breaks the rules by hiding himself to eat the sweets.
Even in the United States, students are required to look at the teacher’s face to listen to the teacher’s story attentively during the class.
The fact that one shouldn’t look at the speaker’s eyes is probably not limited to Japan, but the times when the feudal system was severe, it may have happened in any societies.
But now it is going to be the 21st century and an Japan where one can meet people around the world, and have the opportunities to speak to other people have increased.
I think to preserve such customs in the past and handle down to the present may lead to international misunderstandings.
I wonder even now Japanese are still not supposed to look at the speaker’s eyes?