Wikipedia defines 義理 giri as

a Japanese value roughly corresponding to "duty", "obligation", or even "burden of obligation". It is defined as "to serve one's superiors with a self-sacrificing devotion" by Namiko Abe.

Question: I have forgotten the inverse/reciprocal. What is the Japanese word for "duty" or "obligation" to those who owe you giri?

[Update] It seems like I maybe used the wrong word, or that others are misunderstanding me.

I am thinking of a novel I read about 20 years ago about mediaeval Japan.

Would it be correct to say that a samurai owes his lord giri? If not, what is the word? And, what duty of care/protection, etc, does the lord owe to the samurai?

  • 1
    This is not necessarily an answer (hence why it's in the comments), but 義理 seems to define the reciprocal relations. For instance, the company doesn't sack employees left, right and centre by prioritising profit over the employees; but in return, the employees go above and beyond to serve the company. 義理 seems to be the word that defines that obligation (both ways). I could be wrong. But that's what my reading has led me to conclude so far.
    – Robert
    May 14 '17 at 1:26
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    @someone Perhaps you could put in the furigana for Mawg's benefit. Mawg, In the meantime, I strongly recommend Rikaichan in firefox or Rikaikun in chrome (if you have those browsers) to read kanji, if reading Japanese is of interest to you :-)
    – Robert
    May 14 '17 at 1:30
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    @Mawg The definition you quoted sounds more like 忠義(chuugi) or 奉公(houkou), or fealty. As I said giri is more like "a morally obligatory repayment to what you owe." As for the word what you are asking, I don't know. Is there English or Chinese word for it? But as I said usually fealty is rewarded by feud or something like that.
    – someone
    May 14 '17 at 1:40
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    I googled and came across one word that seems to fit your bill 御恩(goh-on). But it's Kamakura-era word that means the obligatory rewards to 御家人(gokeninn: kamakura-era lessor lords)'s services done and it's not a modern word by any means.
    – someone
    May 14 '17 at 1:54
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    @Mawg, I think that is roughly correct. The 先輩/後輩 (senpai/kouhai) works the same way. Roughly translated as: Senior/junior. Of course, there is 義理. The senior has an obligation to help and protect the 後輩. On the other hand, the 後輩 has inferior rank, so they have a duty to serve the 先輩 in some capacity, for instance carrying out favours. This relationship is much stronger in Japan than in the West.
    – Robert
    May 14 '17 at 2:03

As per the questioner's request, I'm putting my response here:

義理 defines a reciprocal obligation. For example, a company looks after its workers, and in return the latter demonstrate their loyalty beyond the ordinary. 義理チョコ(girichoko) is another example of duty, in this case motivating a female employee's giving her male co-workers chocolate on Valentines Day, as is the custom. If she gives chocolate to someone she has genuine feelings for, this gift is 本命チョコ(honmeichoko). This present isn't simply an expression of duty.

先輩/後輩(senpai/kouhai) is another example of duty that exists on both the side of the senior 先輩 and junior 後輩. The 先輩 gives protection and helps the 後輩, while the 後輩 serves the 後輩 in some capacity, in keeping with their inferior status.

I think the concept you were reaching for in your question is 恩(on). This is roughly equivalent to a social debt. It is not necessarily an automatic expression of duty. This comes when someone goes a step further to help someone. In return, the person receiving the benefit feels a debt of gratitude, which can never be repaid, so they are bound to their benefactor. There is a complex web of 恩.

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