(President Obama and Japanese Emperor Akihito)
When you meet someone you know on the street, what do you say to greet?
<Textbook-ish Conversation=Translation of English Conversation>
Pseudo-Japanese: “Ogenkidesuka?” (Translation of “How are you?”) 「おげんきですか。」
American: “(O)genkidesu. Anatawa?” (Translation of “Fine, and you?”) 「（お）げんきです。あなたは？」
PJ: “Hai, genkidesu.” (Translation of “Yes, I am fine.) 「はい、げんきです。」
I call BS! This conversation never happens in reality. The Japanese start their conversation with “WEATHER,” after greeting each other with “Ohayo(gozaimasu)” “Konnichiwa” “Konbanwa,” and so on, depending the time of the day or occasions.
When a Japanese asks you to see if you are well, by saying, “Ogenki?” or “(Gokigen) Ikaga?,” what you are supposed to say is – “Okagesamade.” “Okage” means “Thanks to you!” even if you are well NOT because of the person you are talking to. This concept comes from Buddhism. In Buddhism, every human being is connected to one another. People cannot live alone. A good thing or deed of someone circulates among people and benefits or helps, who knows, someone else. You never know why you are well today or to whom you should be thankful (You don’t even have to know.). It might be the person you are talking to right now that benefits or helps you. So, you say, anyway, that you thank him for your wellness.
Say, “Okagesamade” the next time a Japanese says to you, “Ogenki?” or “Ikaga?” You are going to wow him! I bet!