Languages › Japanese Giri: Moral Obligation Share Flipboard Email Print Johnny Greig / Getty Images Japanese History & Culture Essential Japanese Vocabulary Japanese Grammar By Namiko Abe Japanese Language Expert B.A., Kwansei Gakuin University Namiko Abe is a Japanese language teacher and translator, as well as a Japanese calligraphy expert. She has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years. our editorial process Namiko Abe Updated July 24, 2019 It is not an easy task to translate (yet explain) Japanese morals and emotions. Giri, what this feature is based on, does not have a clear English translation. The birth of the concept of giri occurred during the feudal period in Japan and holds the highest regard in human relationships. A basic breakdown of the relationships is: Master-subordinateParent-childHusband-wifeBrothers-sistersFriendsEnemiesBusiness associates The most basic definition one can give giri is a debt of gratitude and a self-sacrificing pursuit of their happiness. Everyday Examples Everyday examples of giri can be found in social customs such as New Year's cards, gifts such as year-end presents. When one does act involuntarily to a person to whom one feels giri, one must not take into account one's own suffering when alleviating or helping another out of a difficult situation. Giri's Presence in Japanese Business Giri also has a strong presence in Japanese business. To a foreigner, it can be seen as irrational and against the principles of Western business, where one is intent on personal growth. The Japanese business perspective is not the pursuit of individual gain, but one of support and respect for human relationships. This leads to mutual support in the workplace instead of inter-office competition and mistrust of one's contemporaries. The Downside Giri does have its downside too. Organized crime, the yakuza, who are among the anti-modern and anti-rational nationalist in Japan, interpret giri to include acts of violence. This is, of course, giri taken to its furthest extreme and is not readily tolerated in Japan.