Help with sentence structure?

I’m having trouble parsing the following sentence. This is from NHK (easy mode) and the context is Tokyo preparing for the Olympics.
The full sentence is:


Here is my problem. Let me break this into two pieces:

(1) 東京都は高尾山という山の上に、オリンピックの5つの輪の形をした

(2) 大きなシンボルを作りました。

I understand (1) and (2) separately (although the usage of する on (1) is a little unfamiliar to me).

What I don’t get is the stacking of what are apparently complete sentences. I know you can modify a noun by placing a whole sentence before it, but is that really what is going on here?

In other words, do they mean that the entire sentence (1) above is just modifying the noun シンボル in sentence (2)?

If that’s the case, it just seems too long to keep track of that gigantic adjective. But maybe there’s a better way to think about it.

You pretty much have it - yes there’s noun modification going on.

But it might help to think of the part modifying 2) as just


Also, here’s a source that renders 形をした as “-shaped” which makes how it’s used here clearer.

I think where you were getting tripped up is that you were getting stuck on reading the whole sentence up to した as an independent sentence tacked on to the noun it’s modifying.

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The ‘adjective’ or if it helps to think of it this way, relative clause is just:


I would say.

– Ah, I was beaten to it. <3

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That’s exactly what I was doing, thanks @rodan and @CoffeeFuel.

This makes me wonder if there is way to tell that the sentence I’m currently reading won’t become a modifying clause further down the text.

For instance, is it generally true that if I encounter the は particle, as in 東京都は, then the stuff before the は particle, being the topic, can’t simply merge into an adjective for something else later in the sentence?

There’s no merging into adjectives, it’s relative clauses. Just wanna be clear.

But the first thing marked with は will often not be part of a relative clause, sure. But mostly you get a feel for what’s coming with experience - and you also become able to hold more of a sentence in your head at one time, so it isn’t as challenging to not know where the sentence is going partway through. That’s just experience.

But in some cases, people will try to be extra clear. Here, that’s why there’s a “、”. Everything after 、 is modifying シンボル, everything before it isn’t.
Commas and other punctuation aren’t grammatically required in Japanese, but people will use them to be clearer like this.



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It was generally touched on in other posts, but when you did this, you lopped the predicate off the back of the main clause. When you’re splitting a sentence into smaller parts and trying to understand the parts independently, you need to extract subordinate clauses instead.

Or in other words, the two pices should have been


I’ve climbed Takao-san. I can’t really imagine where they would have put this symbol such that it’s actually visible from any distance…

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