“Why Be Happy?” with Dr. Scott Haas


From left to right: JASH Membership & Programs Director, Lila Frisbie & Dr. Scott Haas

On Thursday, January 21, 2021, the Japan-America Society of Hawaii hosted a Talk-Story with Dr. Scott Haas regarding his book “Why Be Happy? The Japanese Way of Acceptance.” Dr. Haas started off with the origins of his interest through watching Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. The movie depicted the viewpoints of multiple characters and each of their viewpoints being given validity by the narrator. From this, he pursued this interest in books by Japanese authors and was able to note the difference from Western literature.


In 2002, he was writing about food and chef Daniel Boulud invited him as a guest to a 5-day event in Japan for the movie opening of Lost in Translation. He described it as everything being familiar and foreign, while there were familiar Western elements present, there were many things that he’s continued to learn through his approximately 29 visits to Japan.


One of the concepts he went over in this session was ukeireru. Ukeireru can compound to acceptance but Dr. Haas resonated with the definition “to accept something gently, fun to imagine inside oneself, accepting reality” from the perspective of a mother with a child. As an example, he focused on himself as a father, to accept his children for who they are and help socialize them and to love them without equivocation. He applies this mindset to not just his family but also his work, where he has used it to help navigate social situations to try and understand others and to “lower the temperature” of the situation.


He also went over the concept of sumimasen, which was defined as being equivalent to “I apologize for making my needs more important than what you were doing.” He was able to explain the disarming effect of apology particularly in the States, by showing them respect with an apology it helps to alleviate the tension of situations.


The last concept he went over was mindfulness, a concept found in many of the forms of spirituality found in Japan. Some of the things to keep in mind to maintain mindfulness are that the situation is temporary and that change is constantly occurring. Dr. Haas also made the point that if the situation is stressful, you don’t have to respond to it in a stressful way; to be able to accept the situation and have self-awareness of the people around you.


Thank you to Dr. Haas for taking the time out of his schedule to join our audience for this discussion. If you would like to watch the full Talk-Story segment, please click here to watch it on the Japan-America Society of Hawaii YouTube channel.