At Home in Japan
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Module 9.1
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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?

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

  • You may feel distant when you first enter a work, homestay, or other sustained situation in Japan. But once you have created a basic relationship with your family or colleagues, if new outsiders enter your situation, you will suddenly be pulled inside, and expected to help the other insiders deal with the new outsiders! And once “pulled inside” like this, 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 10.1, Stuart 1)
Main Takeaway:
Japanese relate to all guests with only two distinctions: inside or outside (uchi / soto). Even though you may feel completely “outside” when you first arrive, whether with your family, or among colleagues, the shift “inside” is not only possible, but can happen almost instantly, as in all the cases in 9.1. Notice that the catalyst for this shift is also similar in all these cases: the appearance of other newcomers/guests who are even more distant than the original newcomers, suddenly “pulls” each of the original newcomers in Module 9.1 into uchi.

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