Let me quiz you on amai. Which is the correct usage of amai in the following sentences?
- Tanaka san wa kokoro ga yasashii hito dane. kare no kangae wa itsumo amai. (Tanaka is a warm-hearted person, you know. His ideas are always amai.)
- Yamada san wa shigoto ga kantan ni seiko suru to omotteiru. kare no kangae wa itsu mo amai. (Yamada thinks he will easily become successful in business. His ideas are always amai.)
- Murakami san wa yoi koto to warui koto ga chanto wakatteiru. kare no kangae wa itsu mo amai. (Murakami knows exactly what is good and what is bad. His ideas are always amai.)
The answer is 2. Here amai doesn’t mean “sweet”. Amai kangae is that the thinking is neither sound nor stable. It is a negative meaning. That is to say, Yamada casually thinks, “Business is easy, and if I try, I can soon be successful”. He should think more seriously and find a reliable method in order to succeed.
Also, amai has another negative usage of “not strict”because amai can mean “too nice”. For example,
- chichioya wa musume ni amai. (The father is not strict with his daughter.)
- ano sensei wa seito ni amai. (That teacher is not strict with his/her students.)
Moreover, there is a verb “amayakasu”, which means to rear a child (for example) with a lack of discipline and let him/her be selfish. Sometimes a father is too gentle with his daughter and will allow her to do whatever she wants.
- chichioya wa musume o amayakashiteiru. (The father spoils his daughter.)
From a daughter’s point of view, she would use another verb, amaeru.
- musume wa chichioya ni amaeteiru. （The daughter takes advantage of her father’s kindness.)
Since a daughter knows that the father is nice to her, she pleads with him for a gift or behaves selfishly. We call this type of daughter amae-ko (a spoiled child).
We also have the following expression: Yamada and Tanaka went to eat together. Yamada is trying to pay for the entire bill.
Yamada: kyo wa watashi ga haraimasu kara, shinpai shinaide kudasai.(I will pay today, so don’t worry about it.)Tanaka: arigato gozaimas. Ja, kyo wa okotoba ni amaete...
(Thank you very much. So, I will take you up on it today.)
Tanaka accepts Yamada’s kind offer without hesitation.
It is said that amae is a key word in understanding Japanese people and society.
We have a relationship of dependence among most family members and between couples, don’t we? I think it is important to have someone you can depend on because if we can’t depend on a person close to us, all relationships would be strict and tense. However, when dependence goes too far, you may be in a trouble. You need a good balance.