(The increasingly less) Daily senryu thread

to add onto previous discussions, I only post when I have time to and when I feel inspired by my own particular translation. (also sometimes I’m not confident I understand how to translate the senryuu to begin with). I personally didn’t mind the little shout-outs, but I can see how they would be bothersome for others.

I understand the desire to try to capture all the nuances of the Japanese original, but as people have previously stated, translation really is an art. Not to mention that poetry is also subjective. Sometimes a directly-translated thing doesn’t sound as poetic, simply because Japanese and English present ideas in a different manner. I have definitely run into this problem whilst translating my peers’ work into English: you want to capture the original nuance, but also make it sound natural in English (to a certain extent). The other day I literally spent an entire hour translating one sentence! :sob: (in my defence it was a long sentence) Anway, it’s all quite complicated, but i’ve really enjoyed this thread’s attempts at creating stuff together.



せいてんが やけにむなしい げつようび

Fine, clear sky
on Monday. Feels
so futile.

Is it because one is inside, working away on such a fine day? Makes sense, particularly after a rainy/snowy weekend. Can’t think of any other explanation…

I thought of using “empty” for 空しい but “futile” gives a sense of the tragedy of not being out and about :face_in_clouds:.

Don’t understand why this is under the “husbands” category.

EDIT: After reading the submissions from @pm215 , @fallynleaf, @tiredkiwi, I can see that the “Feels so futile” in my translation erroneously attributes that feeling to the author, as opposed to the sense that the clear skies are wasted on a Monday.

That made me curious and I looked up 風呂 in the 語源由来辞典 and it enumerates a few theories around the word’s origin. Alas, none of them accord with the 風 in 家の風 as a possible starting point. :neutral_face: :face_with_raised_eyebrow: Darn!

But, then, that entry led me to the very interesting phenomenon of ジャングル風呂!!. “Ya Mon! Jungle Bath!!” A rather obscure Japanese 家の風, as the wiki entry says. :smile:

Interesting rabbit hole.


I’ve not explained terribly well why I’m (now) emphasizing more direct translations.

My goal with this thread was expressly to create a user script for the WK dashboard. The script will be for Wanikani users to practice their Japanese reading.

We all seem to enjoy the reading of the originals and the translation process itself as much as the end result. I know my reading has improved noticeably since this thread started, simply due to daily practice with such varied content.

If the thread aimed to publish a list English senryu based on the Japanese originals, I’d judge things entirely differently!

In other words, the goal is for people to be able to read and enjoy the Japanese originals, not the English versions on their own. I’ve intentionally de-valued natural sounding and “poetic” English in favor of more exacting translations to help people understand the Japanese.

The script will include a translation as well as some of the descriptive notes I’ve included in the daily summaries (especially when the feelings are difficult to express in English).

Poetic, natural sounding submissions are definitely encouraged, however! I certainly enjoy reading them. I probably won’t select them as the daily “winner” for inclusion in the script unless they are fairly direct translations, though.

Hopefully this makes at least a little sense.

That’s disappointing! It made sense to me.


I don’t know. Personally, I feel like the important thing should still be to convey the poem, not the exact wording of the Japanese. I think it does the poems a disservice to favor stilted wording instead of phrasing that makes more sense in English. People can still attempt to read them in Japanese and check their understanding with the translation. These poems are so short, if you get within the ballpark, it’s just as easy to confirm that with a natural sounding translation.

Plus, there will probably be plenty of people who download the script just to passively read the senryu, who won’t bother to attempt a translation for most of them. Or beginners who don’t feel confident yet. I understand not going with the more creative interpretations of some of them (I’ve definitely put out a few of those, haha), but I think it’s best to pick the translation that best conveys the concept and feel of the poem, which occasionally might not be the most direct translation.


Sorry folks, but I’m pretty sure that no matter which submission I choose each day, it won’t satisfy everyone.

You’ll have to live with my choices and alterations. There’s a saying about opinions, and I’ve got one too.

I’m going to be traveling in mid-August to visit family. If anyone wants to volunteer to maintain this thread for a few days, it would give me a little more time with them, and you can experience the fun of judging first hand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Previous senryu

  1. 晴天がやけに空しい月曜日
    clear skies are / extremely pointless / on Monday


I think this version captures the feeling quite well, and “extremely pointless” was an inspired choice for やけに空しい.

I’m traveling from 8/10 to 8/20. I should still have time to make updates, but if anyone would like to volunteer to guest-host this thread for any days during my trip, it will be appreciated. I’ll append the steps to the end of this post.

Current senryu challenge

Volume: Seniors

  1. 祖母が居て「もったいない」を孫覚え

This one really feels like a puzzle/riddle to me. Once again, I know the words but I’m struggling to figure out the meaning. I’m looking forward to getting some help!

Remember to please use the spoiler tag with your translation attempts! Also, please include the reading in kana with your submission.

Everyone is encouraged to participate, no matter your level! Questions and comments are as valued as translation submissions.

Please try not to be disappointed if your translation isn’t selected or if you disagree with the daily choice: the judge isn’t terribly consistent with his grading (and has awful taste!).

Online tools like dictionaries, sentence databases, and even AI translation engines are fair game and can be extremely helpful. Yomichan is particularly handy if you use the Chrome or Firefox browser. The 語源(ごげん)由来(ゆらい)辞典(じてん) is also an excellent resource for researching the etymology of various words and expressions.

Here are the links to the 356 Japanese originals (spoiler free) and to the the spreadsheet with all the upcoming senryu as well as the translations to date.

Daily process for the host

This process is greatly aided with something like Alfred on a Mac that lets you store “snippets” of pre-formatted text with macros and provides multiple cut-n-paste buffers.

  1. Reply to the thread with boilerplate like this reply, with appropriate edits.

    a. Change the date at top.
    b. Change the previous senryu entry to the previous day’s
    c. Add the reading (I’ve been trying to remember to put “・” between stanzas)
    d. Add the meaning you’ve chosen to go with
    e. Add any notes or other comments you’d like to make
    f. Add the current day’s senryu (I’ve got a secret list of senryu numbers in random order — I’ll provide a guest host with the numbers for the upcoming days when they are hosting).
    g. Add any hints or other comments they’d like to add about the current days poem.

  2. Update the top post.

    (NOTE: I think only I can edit my own post currently. I’m a little worried about making it a publicly editable wiki, so this step will likely remain my responsibility unless someone has a better suggestion).

    a. Move the previously “current” link to the “Previous translations” section.
    b. Add the link to the current day’s entry.

  3. Update the spreadsheet.

    a. Add the reading (kana) below the original.
    b. Add the date the poem was translated
    c. Add the meaning
    d. Add any notes or other comments

  4. Realize you forgot to do steps 2 and 3 on prior days, so go back and do them.

It only takes a few minutes (with Alfred’s assistance) so I’ve not been terribly motivated to automate the process any further. Most of the time is spent deciding what I want to say.



Grandma saying
“Unworthy of you!” All that
grandchild recalls


My guess of the meaning:

Perhaps a reference to Grandma spoiling grandchild by saying that he/she deserves only the best. Obviously, that’s all the kid remembers. After she leaves, anything the parents give him is met with a 「もったいない」, vexing them to no end.

居て merely indicates that the quotes are from grandma to grandchild when they were together. I don’t think its presence or absence makes any difference, and suspect that it is a filler to get the proper syllable count in the 日本語 version. I used “saying” instead of 居て, which gives the same meaning and also used “recalls” instead of “remembers” for reduced syllable count, even though the meaning is slightly different.

I’ll volunteer for the “thread sitting”, with the caveat that I may not be able to keep up the “one 川柳 per day” pace throughout as I have one (maybe two) day long commitment(s) in that time period. If that’s okay, I’ll do the best I can. Perhaps a trial run before the 10th would be useful…

As for the top post, I don’t think it should affect it much even if it doesn’t keep in sync. In my case, I don’t look at the top post every day. Just getting to your latest message with the results is enough… Of course, you can update it daily (or as soon as you can) so that anyone new who wanders in here can see the latest challenge right off the top.

1 Like

This is the first one in a while that I interpreted wildly differently from you.

My thought was more along the lines of, when grandma’s around, it’s wasteful not to have the grandchild around too, maybe for free childcare?

But the thing I don’t understand is the を, how is that functioning here?

An alternative interpretation: The only thing the child remembers is the criticism from their grandma, and not the good things?


Geez. The things I think I know…

もったいない is a phrase I’ve heard and used regularly forever, but the usage I’m most familiar with is “what a waste” or “so good it’s a shame to waste”.

But that’s actually the third usage for the phrase listed in the dictionary.

First was this one (which is a new usage to me):

1 〔おそれ多い〕 impious; irreverent; profane; sacrilegious.
►そんなことをしては神仏に対してもったいない. It would be a ┏sacrilege [sin against Heaven] to do a thing like that.

That’s obviously not the usage here, though.

It appears that LaVieQ has it exactly right: the grandson is remembering grandma saying he was too good for her, that she was unworthy. (Basically, that he was too precious.).

This is the second usage listed in the dictionary (I’ver heard this before, but didn’t realize it was the usage here until @LaVieQ put it together):

2 〔過分である〕 be more than one deserves; be too good 《for…》; be unworthy 《of…》.

For example:

・彼にはもったいないほどの奥さんだ. His wife is too good for him.


I think my interpretation is different from all three of yours? :sweat_smile:. Though it was most similar to KJules’ last one, I think (about the grandchild only remembering grandma’s criticism).

Tofugu had an article on the tricky word that helped me understand it :blush:.


from granny’s
stay, the grandchild learned:
“don’t waste it!”

Translating it was tricky, because it’s a cultural concept that doesn’t quite exist in English. My interpretation is that while grandma is here, the child got constantly chastised (for not clearing their plate at dinner, for spending their free time doing something unproductive, for wasting their potential, etc.), so therefore learned the phrase もったいない quite well.



I’m driving much of tomorrow anyway and this one deserves more consideration, so I’ll give it another day (no new poem tomorrow).

If I understand you correctly, I think the majority of us believe the grandson is remembering the grandmother saying もったいない. If there’s a difference of opinion, it’s why granny was using that phrase.

Yes, I think that’s correct. The reason why I went with the interpretation I did is because I feel like the most straightforward use of the word is probably the most likely. The other uses all seem to stem from that same base definition, so I feel like it’s a good idea not to stray too far from the concept of waste when translating it unless we have substantial context to suggest otherwise, which this particular poem doesn’t really give us. I’m just trusting Tofugu on this, though, so maybe there’s some major usage of the word that isn’t covered in that article, haha.

Alternately, since it’s such a unique concept, this might be a case where we could just romanize it and translate it as: “mottainai”:

from granny’s
stay, the grandchild learned:

I think if a word has an English wikipedia page, it’s fair game to leave it as is.


Culturally in the US, grandparents are thought to spoil grandchildren a lot, which may support that interpretation, but I don’t know the culture in Japan. Are grandparents strict or indulgent?

Update after 2 seconds: grandparents in Japan are not thought to be strict with grandkids


Good sleuthing, @fallynleaf !

“Waste” seems to be the right interpretation of もったいない in this situation. The tofugu article on the word led me to もったいないばあさん website, which has this viedo (and more), where the namesake grandma harangues the child about wasting stuff. :smiley:

Further, googling with the search term なぜ子供に「もったいない」resulted in articles (like this one) on the importance of teaching children not to waste by the frequent use of「もったいない」.

While other interpretations may make logical sense, considering it is about a child, the simpler meaning of “waste not” is what the 川柳 is based on.

I also verified the meaning with my friend in Japan. She forwarded this video that she saw when she was a child. And a manga illustrating all the different meanings of the word: 1) “waste not” 2) “not worthy of” 3) “we don’t deserve it” and 4) the child is imitating grandma’s “mottainai,” but out of context and indiscriminately


Actually, the sentence in full would properly be 祖母が居て「もったいない」[というの]を孫覚え[た。] The を particle links the thing that was 覚えた (= learned, picked up). So, what the child picked up was Grandma saying “mottainai” when she was there. In the abbreviated 川柳 form it becomes: “The child picked up Grandma’s Mottainai.”

1 Like

Friday, July 29, 2022

Previous senryu

  1. 祖母が居て「もったいない」を孫覚え
    grandmother’s phrase: / “wasteful!” — memory / of the grandchild


I’m glad I let this one go another day (this one gets a gold star)!

Thanks to @fallynleaf’s explanation, this senryu makes sense to me now. But as in @LaVieQ’s friend’s drawing, I think the grandmother used the phrase constantly in all sorts of circumstances, not just chastising the child for something they’d done.

I love the fact that even when I’m initially right, I somehow manage to convince myself into believing something ultimately wrong. :laughing:

I was correct that 「もったいない」mostly means “what a waste” or “so good it’s a shame to waste". As explained in the tofugu article, “too good to waste” applies in general, but also as a common expression of humility: “too good to waste on me” (or us, or whatever).

While this expression of humility is particularly Japanese, I think it’s also universally common for people of a certain age (those were adults in the late, post-war 40’s) to be especially sensitive to waste. My grandparents would use old soup cans to store things, etc. and hated to throw anything away.

Thanks to the group effort, we can confidently state that this one is about a grandchild’s main memory of their grandmother being her saying もったいない all the time (in many different circumstances).

Good job, gang!

Current senryu challenge

Volume: Husbands

  1. お先にと帰り飲み屋で鉢合わせ

One hint:

  • お先に is a common expression when leaving earlier than others. It’s an etiquette thing: you’re apologizing for leaving before someone else (leaving them to continue some task or whatever.

It’s used very frequently when leaving the office while others are still there.

Remember to please use the spoiler tag with your translation attempts! Also, please include the reading in kana with your submission.

Everyone is encouraged to participate, no matter your level! Questions and comments are as valued as translation submissions.

Please try not to be disappointed if your translation isn’t selected or if you disagree with the daily choice: the judge isn’t terribly consistent with his grading (and has awful taste!).
Online tools like dictionaries, sentence databases, and even AI translation engines are fair game and can be extremely helpful. Yomichan is particularly handy if you use the Chrome or Firefox browser. The 語源(ごげん)由来(ゆらい)辞典(じてん) is also an excellent resource for researching the etymology of various words and expressions.

Here are the links to the 356 Japanese originals (spoiler free) and to the the spreadsheet with all the upcoming senryu as well as the translations to date.

@LaVieQ: thanks for volunteering!

I’ll figure out the details later. It shouldn’t be an issue if the top post updates are delayed slightly.

I’ll be traveling for about 10 days total. Is anyone else willing to volunteer and share the load with @LaVieQ?

1 Like

This one is really tricky, isn’t it! I’m not sure why it’s in the husbands category.

What I know for certain: Someone said “Sorry for heading out before you!” (お先に).

Once again the lack of subject in Japanese makes even this bit painfully ambiguous. Was it the author saying that, an underling at work, or someone else?

It then says that someone ran into someone in a bar on the way home. Did the author leave early then get caught in a bar by his boss? (That doesn’t quite work, but almost). Is the wife involved in the story somehow? Did she catch him at the bar?

Who do I complain to about the lack of subjects in Japanese grammar?

That was my problem with this one too, I get the gist, but I don’t understand the feeling at all. who left? It seems like someone should be embarrassed, but who?

This almost reminds me of when you say goodbye to someone but then you realize you’re walking in the same direction. That’s not what’s happening, but…


I thought the interpretation was quite straightforward… The お先に is said at work, maybe accompanied by an explanation why the author has to leave early today and can’t join the colleagues‘ 飲み会, etc.
Later on, the author runs into his colleagues at the bar and his white lie gets busted. The senryuu is supposed to capture the awkward feeling of telling someone you can’t join them for some outing and then running into them there.


If you’re correct (as I suspect) then that was what i was missing.

The feeling I’ve always had with お先に is that the speaker is apologizing for leaving ahead of others when they are doing something unpleasant (like continuing to work), not for begging off from going drinking or whatever. But then again, it would also sound natural for leaving a party early.

Thinking about it more, it literally just means one is departing before others, so “sorry to beg off” or “I’m off” might also work as a translation for that bit.

That makes sense, but it seems like at least a small leap to connect お先に to “sorry I can’t join you”. At least I struggled to make that connection.

It’s also possible the “husbands” category threw me. This seems like straightforward salaryman senryu with your interpretation (not involving spouses).