Week 1: 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん 👵🏼

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佐賀のがばいばあちゃん :older_woman:t3: Home Thread

Week 1


Start Date: April 2nd
Next Part: Week 2


Week Start Date Chapter Page Count
Week 1 April 2nd Prologue, Chapter 1 15.5

Discussion Rules

  • Please use spoiler tags for major events in the current chapter(s) and any content in future chapters.
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Today I learned Saga dialect is a thing. Uh oh :sweat_smile:.

Just read through the prologue, figured I’d pop in. There’s something a little different about his writing style than what I’ve been reading, but that’s life especially when you only have a couple books down. Some sentences I had to run through my head a few times but I got it, and they look easier going back. Was running up against my mental limits a little quickly and getting sloppier. Otherwise, that opening listing Japanese economic events sure was a case of reading the dictionary more than the book, but I imagine I’m not alone there, haha.

Hard to call much here a spoiler, but better to overdo I think.

I feel like it requires an extraordinary amount of careful nuance to talk about this sort of economic unease without risking sounding like you’re trivializing the serious dangers it puts people in, but I want to extend good faith to the fact that the point really is he wants to tell me about how his grandma managed to feel fulfilled in life, heh. That bit about pushing your expectations and worries onto your kids though? Oh yeah. And calling out work culture keeping people away so much was nice, too.

I’ll start on Chapter 1 tomorrow, but I figured after finishing a bit I might as well check in, bring the thread to life :smile:


There is already a dialect word in the title: がばい means ‘very’ or ‘great’ in Saga dialect (according to weblio).

This might help (?):


I think this was also mentioned in the Prologue, but if not, it’s also written on the back cover that がばい is Saga-ben for すごい. :slight_smile:


I don’t remember if it was in the Prologue or from a Japanese review or even in the picture book Prologue, but apparently がばい is a dated word and many people in Saga today have never used it or heard of it even. It gives me another reason to appreciate the book for keeping a little of his grandmother’s culture alive which was also one of the author’s intentions when he wrote the book.

Something I’ve been wondering lately is would this book be considered a 小説 despite being not necessarily a novel but a non-fiction? There’s ノンフィクション in katakana, but before that was “invented,” was there any other term to classify non-fiction or do Japanese people classify books based on length… light novel, novel, without distinction for the genre? I mean there’s 伝記 for biographies which this sort of falls under but not exactly, but I’m wondering if it would be wrong to call this a 小説.

It’s something I’ve been meaning to ask my husband, but I keep forgetting so hopefully I’ll remember after writing this, haha. But I’m not sure he can answer that question actually, so I thought maybe some of you more experienced readers might know?

I’ll post my thoughts on this week’s reading a bit later. I want to finish writing the vocab for chapter 1 before rereading both parts. With baby Tan-chan grabbing everything I’m looking at, it might take a while though. :sweat_smile:


Aye, near the end of the prologue seeing がばい (すごい) written out was what made that click into place for me and I did a little searching. That link is great though, much appreciated! This one seems especially different.

While I’m here, slipped my mind that I had intended to say this, but I have a feeling I’m going to like がばいばあちゃん. With that line at the beginning, all my Japanese media right now has me wistful for goofy old people jokes, haha. In the visual novel I’m also currently reading (Summer Pockets) there’s an elderly shopkeeper who amuses herself by constantly inflating the prices she tells people by a few decimal places. I love the commitment to the bit, and it feels very real to a certain type of person.


I found the prologue a little on the preachy side, although I do get where he’s coming from. The style of writing took some getting used to, it feels somehow more like speaking than prose. The trip to Japan’s recent past was interesting, and while the tone is lighthearted enough, there was no escaping the harsh reality of the times. The bitter irony of the father getting exposed to radiation after having successfully escaped the bomb, and the way the mother chose to part with her child were a little hard to think about. I look forward to meeting the titular ばあちゃん. Also, interesting how it’s ばあちゃん, かあちゃん、とうちゃん, without an お in front. Yet the aunt was おばちゃん.


I’ve been prioritizing this because I wasn’t sure how my pace would be, but I actually finished all of Chapter 1 today so… mission accomplished!

Yeah I feel that. I think he has some very good points but they’re mixed in with the net casting a little too wide, flirting with elements that can be a little too easy to sound like a (as far as I know) fairly successful guy going “hey what’s so bad about financial insecurity!” or, on the other hand a little too much of a “kids these days” ranty vibe. But I recognize that’s me being overly critical somewhat too, and I don’t find it hard to brush off. I’d go harder on my disagreements about some of the blame and not quite fleshing this stuff out if this wasn’t largely a framing thing.

Anyway on writing style I definitely agree, feeling like speaking is a good way to put it. It’s very casual, like he’s here narrating this story to me. I like it as a change of pace, but some of these sentences throw me off a little. I’m pretty much following it all with a bit of effort in the end, though.

There’s very little out there that bothers me more than thinking about the atomic bombs though, oof. Can’t even imagine having that as such a background reality that’s affected so many lives. Absolutely horrible. And in a lot of American education we are told about the bombs in as much as someone says “The US joined WW2 and ended it! Also we dropped a couple bombs which was totally necessary” and it stops there. A nationalistic spin to pretty much everything we’re taught here isn’t surprising and in a general sense I know how messed up Japan is about acknowledging WW2-era truths as well… but the complete lack of humanity is pretty disgusting when I think back on it.

Anyway, that’s more than enough of that. This little portrait of a life has me hooked enough, but I feel terrible for the family and I’m ready for what must be a turn for the better soon enough, heh. Feels like not communicating was entirely the wrong decision (as much as I recognize how much harder it would be with a kid fighting not to go), but I definitely just feel terrible for the mother being put in that whole situation too.

Looking forward to next week! :older_woman:t3:


I liked this weeks chapters, so so far, so good. I didn’t really find him to be preachy, but maybe that’s just me being old :sweat_smile:. And I also like that his style is different (I like variation).

Thanks for the link! I see it even mentions Gabai bā-chan :slightly_smiling_face:

So, bullet point no. 1 for the Saga dialect is “Words are often repeated three times”? :joy:

Yes, indeed. Maybe just to keep it sounding distinct from ばあちゃん, or do we think that it has to do with ‘close-ness’?

Yes, I also got that feeling, but then he also throws in the occasional である, so I took it to be a intentional mix of colloquial and literary tones. Or is である not as stiff as I think it is?


I wasn’t prepared for such a heavy start!

While there are more differences than similarities in our lives, I really related to the author over being born impoverished (to the point of literally no food for spans of time), and having to separate from Mom at a young age to live with grandma (the state took me to grandma at the age of 6, and then later foster care at 7). Through this experience, and all the highs and lows in my life since, I walked away with a pretty similar view on things! It helps a lot to be grateful for what you do have, no matter how little or how much, and I love stories that remind me to think like this.

As for preachiness, I got the impression he’s talking more about the mindset of people post-war era compared to today. I personally feel he’s being a little more nuanced than just saying “in the old days”.

In a such a short bit of text, I think the author got across the devastation that the atomic bombs wrought on his community and family, and did a great job setting the tone for how he specifically is going to talk about it all.

Loving the dialect, the writing style, and looking forward to reading more! I just hope the author doesn’t make me cry


I could quite figure out the grammar in this bit:


What is もんじゃない adding, specifically? I don’t imagine it actually negates the preceding, cause that makes no sense with the context. But then what is it doing?


(で)たまったものではない is a phrase that means “can’t help but (do)”. Then we add the casual speaking style…
もの—> もん
ではない—> じゃない

You can think of it similarity to 堪らない.

心配でたまったもんじゃない = can’t help but worry


I thought it might be more aiming at the “unbearable” nuance here maybe? たまったものではない - Jisho.org

All in all: “Mom was also incredibly worried” (can you say “unbearably worried” in English though? If yes, then that.)


Ooooh!! Really nice to know :durtle_love:

Yes, that is something you can say! Though it’s unbearably, not in-” It sounds a little fancy formal to my American ears hehe


Haha whoops! I must have been uncredibly confused :crazy_face:


Ahhh, I thought it was something like ‘worries piling up’, but it’s a whole other たまる!


I see what you did there hahaha
See, but I had to Google it twice to make sure I wasn’t indeniably confused… so… it’s likely you’ll be correcting me into the future (°▽°)


So I finally started too.
And I can totally see how people think the prologue is a bit preachy. Would say so too. He’s totally ranting about other people, that they complain because of their circumstances a little too much. Getting his point across, which is basically the two last sentences, wouldn’t have needed that much berating I feel like.

Read a good part of chapter 1 too but will finish it tomorrow or the day after. So for now my two questions are for the prologue only:

Struggles with だって
  • リストラされた人は気の毒だと思うけれど、それだってものは考えようだ。
    Does it roughly translate to “I think it’s a pity that people get axed but, (that thing even??) is in their way of thinking”.
  • そんな人生解放される新たなチャンスだと思うことだって、できるはずだ
    Attempt: One could also expect to think of it as a new chance to be liberated from that life. (The life being described in the sentence before)

Thanks for the discussion up to now!


This is my first book club, so I have no point of comparison… but it’s really cool that everyone has their own impression from the same reading!

It makes me want to go back and read the section again, keeping in mind what you’ve all shared so far. It also makes me really excited going forward, to imagine all the ways we literally and figuratively interpret the story :star_struck:


Finished chapter1. No problems with any grammar or sentences in this part. Though some of them I had to read 2 or 3 times and think about for a while.

I would say the difficulty of this book is pretty perfect for me. I’m learning but it still does feel like reading most of the time. Also added 13 vocab each of the two days which seems like a nice pace of vocab too. I’m adding basically everything unknown which I can’t instantly infer from the context. Every now and then I look up a reading if I’m unsure without adding it to SRS. Grammar is 99% known but sometimes used in interesting ways.

For chapter1 the only question I have is for the mothers name. If I’m not mistaken it’s the only name that has no furigana given. What I found is that it is probably ひでこ but there is a possibilty of it being しゅうこ. What are everyones opinions on the fact that it is the only name not with furigana? Just a concidence since it is such a common name?

For the contents. I think given the circumstances they handled it pretty well. They first let him get accustomed to the aunt before throwing him out of his comfort zone. I’m not too sure if the aunt will be around at grandmothers house but I sincerely hope so. I can understand that it left him a little emotionally scared, with him being still so young. But in the end, since he seems to have fond memories of his grandmothers place and grew up to become pretty successful it’s kinda hard to argue with the decision and the results. At least up to what we know so far from chapter1 ^^.
I’m not too sure why the mother had to work in hiroshima though. Wouldn’t it have been possible for her to also move to saga and sell the land where their house stood previously? Maybe that would have been a good decision too. Maybe the place was a memento to her husband for her? It’s hard to say though with the scarse information given.


Well the results are more about the move itself which I’m not judging… sounds like it was a good idea, and we’re drawing all of this from pretty limited info. What I meant was I just can’t help but think the actual moment of essentially surprise trapping a child on a train to tell him “actually you have already left your home and mother” probably left quite a big scar that could have been eased by trying to explain to him that he needed to go stay with grandma for a while. I mean I’m no expert on child raising and psychology but that’s a pretty severe experience, and he himself describes being still shaken by it.