I occasionally find myself watching old footage of the Olympics and baseball games on TV programs with titles such as "Sporting History" and become surprised by the understated nature of the commentary.
In scenes that would elicit excited comments such as, "The ball is hit high ... will it go over ... will it go over? It's gone! Home run! Home run! What a blast!" in this day and age, the commentary back then was very calm: "He has hit the ball and it's gone into the stands. It's a home run."
If one thinks about it though, it is not just sports commentators' whose way of describing things has become more exaggerated. In the messages we write in our daily lives and online, we are using over-the-top phrases such as "I was incredibly moved!" and "I can't stop crying," as well as onomatopoeia such as "gya" and "hya."
Moreover, this trend does not just apply to text. When I showed an interesting slide to some students during a university lesson, the students reacted by saying the word "Ehh" in unison, in a surprised tone. It made me think to myself that, "This is like a studio audience during a TV show recording."
Perhaps this change is the result of "an improvement in people's reactions." However, what is clear is that people's use of words, and their gestures, have become dramatically more exaggerated than before, to an excessive degree.
Is this a good thing? Some people would argue that in the West, it is common for people to talk in an expressive manner and that in contrast, Japanese people had been too reserved until now. If so, it can be said that the way in which exaggerated gestures and phrases have become part of Japanese culture is the natural result of globalization.
However, I believe that there is a certain quality to talking in a quiet, reserved way. Particularly when one is exhausted due to stress, it is more reassuring to hear "That's good" in a quietly spoken voice, as opposed to "Brilliant! Best in the world!" in a loud voice. It is more relaxing to spend time with a gentle, calm person as opposed to someone who is always laughing or angry.
On the current global political stage, national leaders have been throwing about phrases such as "totally destroy" and "take the severest measures possible." It is difficult to know whether these phrases are part of an act, or are genuine, but either way, these kinds of terms make people around the world anxious. I want national leaders to use more appropriate terms and reassure the people around them.
Also, with regard to Japan, I want the country's leaders to refrain from becoming aggressive and to continue to value the use of calm phrases and expressions. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)