I was shocked the other day when I saw a group of hardcore criminals lurking in the lobby one of my favourite hotels in London.
I was even more appalled when I watched a gunfight in one of the hotel’s bedrooms, which led to a double murder.
The hotel where these scenes played out – the Kimpton, in London’s Russell Square – is a real place. But fortunately, the crime and violence were part of a fictional TV show on the BBC. The show will air on Netflix internationally.
The Kimpton is actually a lovely, safe hotel and I’ve never heard of any real crime taking place there. Yet it was intriguing to see it turned into a set for a TV show.
The programme starred actors from Japan and the BBC used Japanese words in the title: Giri/ Haji. You can watch the trailer here.
According to BBC’s synopsis, Giri/Haji (“Duty/Shame”) is a soulful thriller that explores the butterfly effect of one murder across London and Tokyo, which sees Kenzo and Yuto, once devoted and now estranged brothers, driven to opposite sides of the world.”
Gang and family
Giri 義理 is a powerful idea. In the drama, it suggests a sense of obligation which drives the members of the yakuza gang to sacrifice their own lives or kill other people.
Another way the word giri is used in Japanese is to explain the link between a person and the family of their spouse. There is a strong sense of obligation towards one’s in-laws, who are known as giri no ryoshin – “duty parents.”
This may surprise people from western cultures, where the rivalries between a man and his wife’s parents have generated a lot of unkind humour.
For a deeper understanding, I turned to the entry on giri, which was written by Julien Levesque for the book Japanese Business Concepts You Should Know.
The book explains that giri applies to a set of ethical and moral principles which set out the ways in which one should fulfil one’s obligations within society.
Apparently, there is no close equivalent term in English, although giri is variously translated as “duty, moral and social obligation.”
This idea runs deep in the Japanese psyche and affects family connections – such as with the parents of one’s spouse – and working relationships, including, it would seem, the ties between the members of yakuza who’ve been pestering the customers of one of London’s best hotels.
You can read the whole entry on giri, and indeed get the book for free, by following the link from Parissa Haghirian’s LinkedIn profile.
I am looking forward to reading it further and learning more about Japan.