Rhetorical Preferences


Japanese Style


Feature: ki-sho-ten-ketsu

The Japanese non-linear style originated from the “qi-cheng-zhuan-he” (起承轉合) style in Chinese The Japanese rhetorical pattern ki-sho-ten-ketsu is comprised of 4 stages: “beginning”, “development”, “turn”, and “end”.

A similar pattern can be found in Korean writing (“ki-sung-chon-kyul”).

English readers may find such a pattern confusing.

Example of Japanese Writing:


It is said that it is written at the entrance to a store in a tourist area somewhere, “Fee for asking the way, one time, 100 yen.” This is a story which appeared in the column “Koe” of this newspaper. It’s a fact that the world has become a difficult place to live in, but I think it is the reason that the storekeeper gives us, “It’s become so much of a pain that I’ve acted this way.”

While the experience of asking is only one on a particular day from the perspective of the one who is asked, it might be 20 times, or it might be 50 times.

Among these, there are probably people who leave without saying thank you, and those who ask the road from the inside of their cars. In the midst of his being busy there are probably people who ask the way in a rude manner. He probably even feels like saying. 'Just leave me alone.'

It’s not only talk of asking the way: recently the habit of asking questions easily is spreading: Looking it up in the dictionary. Searching for a number in a telephone book. Looking at a map. Don’t we ask too often without doing those things we should do?

Since even I go around asking people questions too often, I can’t say very much, but in an overpopulated country like Japan, especially when you are asking questions, isn’t it necessary to understand that your question is one of a 1,000 or one of 10,000?

There may be cases where the one who is asked, facing 1,000 or 10,000 people, is forced to provide 1,000 or 10,000 times the service. It worries me that people might not have a strong sense of consideration.

There are other examples of lack of consideration too. One person throws away a cigarette butt on the station platform. The one who throws this away may think that it is not very important, but if 1,000 or 10,000 people throw them away, the platform will be filled with cigarette butts.

On garbage collection day, when someone throws away something that is still good, it can easily mean that it will swell to 1,000 or 10,000 times that. Swelling expenses to cover the costs of cleaning up cigarette butts and trash may lead to increases in railway fares and taxes.

Beginning: Introduction of theme

sho Development:
Expansion of Introduction

ten Turn:
Additional or background information related to main theme

ketsu Conclusion

(“Fee for Asking the Way”
English translation from Japanese, in Hinds 1990)