At Home in Japan
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Module 8.1

Shortcuts into Uchi

A Japanese homestay is hardly a simple slide from soto (outside) into uchi (inside). If you feel that the process of entering into uchi seems impossibly snail-like, take heart. To paraphrase Molly's comments on this subject: just when you think you'll never glimpse the family "inside", suddenly you are swept right into uchi. This module gives examples of people who were suddenly (and instantly) vaulted into uchi, and then helps you understand how these "shortcuts" work.

1. Look closely for what triggered the "shortcuts" in each of the following cases:
  • What made the women in the neighborhood bath suddenly acknowledge Janine's existence, after ignoring her for a month?
  • What triggered Molly's shift into her family's uchi ?


2. Now compare the examples above with the following two shortcuts:



  • A "shortcut" into uchi is represented in all four examples above. What factor triggers the shortcut in all these examples?
  • What do the strangers in the "other" neighborhood bath, Molly's guest, Rosa's guest, and the Romanians have in common?
  • Why did Katsuko's relationship to Janine shift so dramatically from close (uchi) to very distant (soto) when she moved to a new household upon marriage?

Putting the pieces together. . . Hints on the workings of lightening-like shifts into uchi.

  • No matter how distant you feel when you first enter a work, homestay, or other sustained situation in Japan, once you have created a basic relationship with your colleagues or family, if new outsiders enter your situation (either as guests or colleagues), you will suddenly be pulled "inside", and expected to help the other insiders deal with the new outsiders. Once pulled inside, you are there to stay.
  • While the above examples all happen to consist of women, this "shortcut" is basically similar for men in the family as well as in the workplace. (For example, see Module 9.1, Kevin 1)

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