‘curious’ concept of giri has remained and still strongly governs Japanese social behavior. To analyze giri Benedict’s work serves as a useful starting point.
“The concept of giri is even now accepted as forming an important part of Japanese social relationships and has been a perpetual theme in a variety of arts” (Yoshida). A general definition would be ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’ which arises from social interaction with another individual, that has a specific repayment amount. This definition however fails to reveal a range of significant nuances. Gimu is specific to intermediate family and the ruler, where giri is the ‘hardest to bear’ because you become a debtor. A person must repay giri differently than gimu, it is a series of obligations of different nature.
Giri is fulfillment of contractual relations, as contrasted by gimu which is felt as the fulfillment of intimate obligations to which one is born. Thus giri includes all the duties one owes to one’s in-law’s family. Jumping back to my example at the beginning of this odyssey, the youngest son had a love marriage with the woman of his choice. We’ll call her Aiko. Aiko had the ‘heaviest’ giri as she had to work to gain acceptance from her mother-in-law. However when she failed to gain approval, Aiko was renounced from the family. Her husband had reluctantly accepted his mother’s wishes because of gimu. However it did not reflect his real feelings; he did not want his wife to leave him and go back, but giri obliged him