Posted by: yoko | January 9, 2004

Words From Childhood 2.1

Today’s word: gaman

Gaman is an incredibly complex and loaded word. The concept is considered to be one of the cornerstones of Japanese culture, and its implications on Japanese society have been written about in many publications. The word means “patience, endurance,” and there is an implied meaning of tolerating something unbearable, holding back, and not complaining.

Of course, I didn’t know all that when I was a kid. When my mom said “Gaman shinasai!” (be patient!), it was usually during a car ride or something, and in response to me whining, “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.” I always thought she meant “hold it in!”

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