The author tries to answer the question to what extent the 'Japanese smile', which is so often described by Western authors, is an Oriental invention and to what degree it is actually rooted in the traditional Japanese cultural values. A definition was adopted according to which smile is a characteristic and easily recognisable mimic expression, which performs an important communicative function. Individual cultures can be different with respect to how smile is used in social life. The specific 'high context' communication, characteristic of the Far East, where not much has to be expressed by means of words because most information is contained in the context of the utterance, has been described. A hypothesis has been advanced that in such a situation smile will rarely be treated as a social signal, the meaning of which can be independent of the background. The most important part of the text is devoted to the description of hypothetical cultural scripts, which encourage or prevent from the use of smile in specific social situations. A relation between these scripts and the traditional values of Japanese culture, particularly those connected with the ideal of wa, i.e. social harmony, has been discussed. The author also tries to answer the question to what extent the etiquette of the Japanese smile is unique. The author concludes that the Japanese smile fits well into the cultural context of Japanese culture and stands out from other 'smiles of the Far East'.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.