understood by the Japanese. I had, I think, the [descriptive sense] of the Japanese words straight. What differed between my understanding and that of the [native]-born Japanese was the evaluative meaning I attached to those words and the concepts they represented.
"Sunao . . . refers to . . . a 'gentle sensitive heart' that is responsive to social demands [and] sensitive to social context.' . . . [It is an ideal for the Japanese]. Accordingly, my parents tried to teach me to be sunao -- to be obedient and filial and to value these traits as the best possible attitudes for a child to take toward his or her parents. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to understand that sunao was the word to describe this concept, I had already realized that too much compliance with one's parents or with any other authority figure was viewed with suspicion and disdain by my peers. By the time I finished adolescence, during which time my mother would yell at me to be more sunao as I went through my acting-out and rebellious phases, I was convinced that sunao meant spineless. . . . This conflict between sunao and autonomy still exists, though I realize now that my parents are the only people in American society who expect sunao from me.
". . . Amae, the emotion corresponding to 'the sense of, or the accompanying hope for, being lovingly cared for, [that] involve depending on and presuming another's indulgence' . . . appears not to exist as a separately defined emotion in Western cultures I inferred my own definition of amae from the fact that I was always [said to be] amaeteru when I was trying to curry favor with my parents by being especially nice . . . . Again, I grasped the behavior involved but formed an incomplete idea of the concept. . . . . I believed that if anyone were to notice that I was [using] amae, they would [want] to deny me what I was trying to get [by this contemptible means]. I therefore equated amae in my own mind with something like being a 'lick-spittle'. . . . I had no idea that amae could be a reciprocal emotion in that the person who is being 'buttered up' can more or less agree to be influenced by what still seems to me a rather slimy way to get something for nothing.
"That these interpretations were so inconsistent with what the words actually mean to real Japanese shows how seriously at odds . . . the Japanese and American parts of myself can be."
Someone imaginative may think of a convincing and simple way to test on the individual level for the difference between an autonomous and a relational self, but to my mind it hasn't happened yet.
Akimoto, S. 1990). "Japanese exceptions to the rules of address". Unpublished manuscript
Au, T. K. 1983). "Chinese and English counterfactuals: The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis revisited." Cognition, 15, 153-187
Befu, H. 1986). The social and cultural background of child development in Japan and the United States. In H. Stevenson, H. Azuma & K. Hakuta (Eds.), Child development and education in Japan.