Do you remember the interview I did with Illya Anderson. Well, before I posted I was checking for errors and I came across the word skinship. I thought to myself, surely he must’ve meant kinship, so I changed it. But after asking him, I found out that he did actually want to use the word skin instead of kin. I thought to myself “What the hell is skinship, Illya?” It sounded like a movie perfect for the triple X theater. But today at work, I heard the word again. According to Illya, the word skinship is one person touching another. In response to my question “What don’t you like about Japanese culture?” One of his responses was “The lack of skinship.”
I have to totally agree. One teacher was asking about how we greet each other in America and how mannerisms differ between Japanese and American culture. I mentioned that it really can vary from place to place. Where I come from, it’s quite common for me to see an old friend and give him what I like to call “brug” (bro hug). It’s hard to explain in words, but I’ll try. The first part, the handclap is almost like an arm-wrestling grip (maybe not as hard though). You and your friend kind of pull in at the same time shoulders touching (i.e.-right shoulder to right shoulder) and with your free hand you tap your friend on the back. It’s hard to explain, but it looks cooler than it sounds.
Of course I don’t give women brugs, because where’s the fun in that? The brug puts the shoulder in the way, making the hug just a little cooler and a bit more manly. With women, the full-on hug is MUCH better.
If you’ve been here a while, you may have an idea of what I mean. If I just walked up hugged one of my Japanese friends (even using the cool handclap/half-hug technique) some of them probably wouldn’t even know how to respond to it. I think hugging a Japanese woman might send the wrong message, unless you’re dating of course.
I guess the skinship in Japanese society just isn’t as outwardly done, but there has to be some kind of skinship going on, or there wouldn’t be any babies running around, right? Unless babies in Japan are created through some special, non-touch method that I don’t know about. Hmm…maybe in Japan, when a man and woman like each other very much, the man expels a ball of chi energy from hands, aims it at a woman’s stomach, and VOILA, a baby is made! I guess that’s my counter to the American stork story. But I digress.
When I was at the Tribe Called Quest concert last summer, there was another African-American guy there, who knew just as many lyrics as I did. We were both feeling the music. I don’t dance, but for that day I said “screw it.” I didn’t get the guy’s name, but for that short time Tribe was on stage, I had somebody I could relate to. It was hand claps and brugs all concert long, as my favorite group played jam after jam after jam.
The ultimate awesome is when I meet a foreign woman that’s cool giving hugs. I’m not talking about that as$-out, tap on the shoulder hug either. I like those good, “this is on purpose” type of hugs. I really like it when it’s a smaller woman who does the bear squeeze hug. It’s like going to a chiropractor, but it’s great. Sigh…it’s like a breath of fresh air here in Japan.
Could it be geographically related? Could it be because Japan is a more implicit society? Can it stem from ancient customs and protocol that endure to this very day?
I don’t want to say “I WANT JAPANESE PEOPLE TO TOUCH ME MORE!!” Because it makes me sound like the resident pervert. But I am curious to know why it’s not so common.
P.S.-I wonder if the younger generation has a different take on skinship.
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