Virtue in Japan

Aug 21, 2022

Virtue in Japan「徳 (とく/toku)


‘Toku (virtue) can be something Japanese people keep in their mind in general. The person who has toku seems to gain more benefit/luck as well. Ill share the meaning, training for pupils and some expressions of toku. I hope it will help your cultural understanding.


広辞苑によると「心を磨き上げて、理想を実現できること。その結果、話し方や行動にも徳が出るので、人々にいい影響が与えられ、社会的に評価されるようになる。」と書かれています。 つまり、社会や人々のためにいいことができることと言えそうです。

1) The meaning of toku

According to Kojien dictionary, toku means to be able to polish your mind and achieve your ideal state. As a result, toku can be seen in both your expressions and behaviour and you can give good influence to others and can be valued in the society. In other words, it can mean to do good for people and the society.



2) Toku lessons for pupils

Japanese pupils must attend the lessons called do-toku (the way of toku) The way in this context means the methods, and pupils learn how to practise toku in their life. At my schools, we watched a video or read a story and discussed a good choice of behaviour in a certain/difficult situation in a group. My teacher let us think what you could do if you were the main character of the story. I remember that the teachers always made us think in order to find our own decision for good behaviour. Actually, do-toku was my favourite subject.

「徳」を使った表現 The expressions used with toku

 a 「道徳的に」morally


      morally correct ⇔ morally not right

 b 「道徳性」morality


    to feel morality ⇔ to lack morality

 c 「徳を積む(行動)」 to accumulate toku’ (action)

 d 「徳を重んじる(意識)」 to value toku (mentality)

 e 「○○を美徳 (びとく)とする」 to consider ○○as beautiful toku


   Example: In Japan, honesty, appreciation and humility are considered as beautiful toku.

 f 「悪徳 (あくとく)」=徳がないこと bad toku = no toku


      Example: fraudulent business


By the way, the shogun who built Edo city (Tokyo today) from scratch is called Ieyasu Tokugawa. And the name of my grandfather was Tokutaro. I feel the name with toku sounds more dignified but what do you think?


In your country what is considered as beautiful toku? How do pupils learn toku? Are there names with toku in your language? It would be nice to learn more about your country. Thank you very much for your time to read this article and your warm support as always.


新井峰子(Mineko Arai)

Managing Director

Arai Academy of Japanese Studies


Calligraphy by Moji Brush

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