Week 3: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories

As usual :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:. I think I even misspelled it twice: the first time I went through the story I probably searched for もようす and now I was searching for みよおす :man_facepalming:

Thank you for the reply and also for the grammar explanations which already answered a lot of the questions I had!


I’m responsible for the い, and yes, that’s the one I meant. It does look pretty random there on its own I admit.
I had also entered 己 as おれ, because of its furigana. Sorry if any of the typos/mistakes were mine. (Definition on another line, though? How?). I was the first to enter any words this week, but there were edits after that. Sometimes things get jumbled.


Thank you for adding stuff to the vocab sheet! :raised_hands:

Oh, if it has furigana, then that clears things up. Then it does indeed mean the same as 俺 (according to Jisho). Thanks for clarifying!


I’ve added a remark in the notes column to indicate where it is used.

Yes, I don’t know why, but there were quite a few places where the Kanji column or meaning column seemed to be copied from somewhere else and there were also a whole bunch of duplicate rows at the end. It looked at as if someone has copied rows and then filled in only part of the values over top. Maybe it’s just some weirdness caused by multiple people editing the same file. I think it’s all fixed now and I hope I didn’t introduce any new errors.


Let me start by saying that I liked this week’s story. The extra length gave room for a bit more of a story arc and for some poetic story telling with the second part echoing the first and some more poetic sentences here and there. The subject matter is also very fitting for Ogawa’s time period, I think (and should still be food for thought :wink:). Translating it was quite a bit of work, though (all those industrial/construction words… )

Here are some questions I had about the first section:

Near the start a sentence starts with:


Does this mean something like “And, regarding the buildings, …” (or literally “talking about the buildings”)?

A paragraph further, there is a sentence starting with しかるに, which I understand to be a contrasting conjunction (the vocab list gives ‘however/and yet’) but I thought it didn’t really fit that sentence (I don’t really see how it contrasts what goes before). (Maybe I’m making too much of this.)

That paragraph ends with a sentence containing


Any specific thoughts about the combination of particles (にでも) used here? I understood that でも can indicate a sense of ”things like” so then this phrase could be ”to be pulled into something like a very deep hole”. Or is there a better interpretation?

In the second to last paragraph (where people are getting afraid of the town) there is a sentence containing


What is the role of となく here? I mostly know it from combinations like in @NicoleRauch’s grammar explanation (I agree with the “however many people” interpretation there) and Jisho says that it ‘adds vagueness’, but what do you guys think it adds vagueness to?

My thoughts

Does it apply to the full phrase/the verb so that you get “the story spread by being passed down from person to person etc” where the ‘etc’ stands for となく (implying there were more ways in which it spread)

Or does it apply to the だれ making this also a case of ‘however many people’ so that you get “The story spread by being passed down from many people to many people?

Then, near the end of the first part, there is the sentence that starts with


I have trouble parsing this phrase so any help is welcome.

My thoughts

This what I think I understand:

  • 己ばかり means something like “I alone”
  • けっして usually means “by no means”, but I thought that required a negative verb
  • とて means something like “even” according to Jisho.

At first I though that とて might have been a contraction of と言って and that it was beging used to quote what Kei is saying (because it is so odd that this sentence is suddenly in the first person) but that was just me being creative. Also, it’s a bit strange that Kei would be using the past tense if he is talking about himself (because he still has to go to the town).

If I just put the parts that I understand together than I can come up with a translation like “Even I could become sleepy” but I really don’t see how the Japanese grammar matches that meaning.


The past tense gave me pause too. I found the construct Verb -た + とて in the Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns. Apparently it’s a literary form of expression not often used in spoken language and means even if, no matter. It says it is often accompanied by expressions such as いくら、どんなに、たとえ. Although not mentioned, I’m pretty sure けっして falls into that category too. I choose to interpret ばかり here as setting him apart from other travellers, so I would translate this as “Only I, even if I do get sleepy at all, will resist and not sleep” .

The whole phrase is まるでふかふかあななかでもまれるようにねむくなって
With まるで…ように meaning as if, the でも would mean “something like” as you say, adding to the metaphor.

The dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar has this to say about と(も)なく (quoting somewhat freely):

In this sentence it follows a verb, so maybe it means transmitted somehow, circulated without noticing/intending to. If it could somehow connect to the だれから, even though it’s further down in the sentence, then it would be vague who started it, which is also true. So yes, it adds vagueness. A possible translation might be “it spread by somehow being transmitted from person to person”.

I believe it’s either a contrast to the directly preceding sentence, that speaks about where the town is situated (and doesn’t give much clue about it’s name, unless you translate だらだら as leisurely, idly, but still), or a contrast to the preceding paragraph, which is about the town being lifeless and quiet. Its name doesn’t come from it being lifeless (as such), or from it being situated on a sloping plain, but rather from what the sentence goes on to explain.

That’s exactly what I took it to mean too.


Speaking about となく reminded me of this:

The phrase is それで幾人となくこの旅人が. At first I interpreted it as “However many travellers pass through this town in a day” . It sounds a little strange, but okay. Then, searching for more background info on the story, I happened upon this translation. I have no idea who that person is or what their qualifications are, it’s just a result that came up on Google, but their translation of this phrase was quite different: “One day a group of travellers passed through the town.” So now I’m doubting myself.
日に - is that one specific day, or any given day? I’d expect an ある before it for it to mean “one day”, but maybe it’s not necessary?
幾人となく - however many, or just some? Is this a specific group we’re talking about, and their number is vague, or are we talking about any travellers in general? The rest of the sentence seems to describe a specific story, but it still could apply to any traveller going through the town.


I cannot give a definite answer but there are some indicators :eyes:

  • It reminds me a bit of something like 週間に一回 “once per week”
  • There is this word (not exactly the same, but…) 日に日に - Jisho.org
  • Like you said, ある or also 一 in front of it is missing
  • The sentence continues with みなこの町にきかかると - “all of them, when they happened to come to the town”, and I take the rest of the sentence to be something like a general story that in some way or another happened to all of them (like, the places they crashed are varied, and stuff)

Especially the みな part gives me a strong vibe of “randomly” or “often” and “many individual travellers and groups”.

Oh, thanks for discovering that one! I could only find N + とて which doesn’t apply here of course.


Thanks, that makes a lot of sense! And it leads neatly up to the と心に決めて, so that’s the と then that ends the quote.

Thank you for that one as well. I didn’t get the Advanced Grammar book yet because people said it is rarely needed, but I guess it’s essential when reading children’s stories :grinning:

I think that translator took some liberties to make the translation more natural. I agree with @NicoleRauch that 日に幾人 is a bit like 週間に一回. Maybe another way to make the translation more natural is to say “whenever some travellers passed through this town, …” where “whenever some” is the vague form of “a number of people per day”.


I don’t think anybody replied to this one yet, but I was also wondering about this. If あたり was used 96% of the time, then it must have been really common at the time and it is indeed strange that Jisho doesn’t list it.

It might also be a case of Kanji-for-the-grownups with furigana using words that are more likely to be understood by children, but that wouldn’t explain such a high percentage, right? (I’m assuming these stats aren’t just from children’s stories.)


I had two questions about the second chapter of the story.

My first question is about the first word: なるほど. Maybe this is just because I’m a beginner, but I only know this word from speech. Is it used in writing like this more often? Or is the author striking a colloquial tone?

Maybe it works just like Indeed in English in that it can be used colloquially to signify agreement/understanding and in writing as a conjunction? (Indeed, when he came to this town, it was as eerie a town as people said.).

My second question is about the phrase どこからきたものか in the part with the lanky dog.

What I found so far

I found the grammar point for ものか-もんか but I don’t feel ‘as if/there’s no way’ leads to a natural translation here.

Here it is mentioned that the advanced grammar book (there it is again) explains that ものか adds a ‘wondering’ tone. So perhaps, the author or protagonist is wondering where the dog came from?

Or is this some other grammar point completely?

In the end, I interpret this phrase as meaning ”wherever it came from” or in more natural English “coming from nowhere”. Or did someone have a different interpretation?


I just instinctively translated it in my head as “who knows where it came from”. か makes it an indirect question, and もの, well, I see it all the time, I take it as a word that encompasses what comes before into a single unit, something like “the fact of where it came from” in this case.

A quick Reverso search confirms it.


I really liked this weeks story! Didn’t expect the ending, but I’m starting to see a pattern here.

@wiersm Yes, I think it’s quite similar to “indeed” here. But you’re also right that Japanese stories – stories for children in particular – use words like these for stylistic purposes. This also includes injections from the perspective of the narrator or possibly the audience, e.g. なんと! to build up tension. It’s quite common, though in this case I think なるほど can be just used like this. I added some similar examples from the jisho corpus:


Indeed! 笑

I like your way of thinking! Sometimes I get the impression that all of these “official” JLPT grammar points try too hard to turn language into an exact science. Maybe it would be better to approach all of this in a more intuitive way.


Just a complement to what NicoleRauch先輩 wrote (source: Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterms )


Anybody else feel that that third chapter starts with a way too long sentence? The meaning is not that hard to understand but I still have hard time turning all those phrases into one cohesive sentence in my head :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

The one thing I really don’t understand yet is the やら in the following phrase:


What is that やら? Does it go with the いつのま in front of it or with the 日 after it, or is it an independent word?

I did like how the old man speaks, by the way. All those short informal sentences really give him a ‘weird hermit’ kind of vibe for me. ”It’s me! The one who woke you up!” :joy: And then Kei is all like, well, a young man like me has no choice but to obey an old man’s wishes. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Here’s another reference that might be useful. What I took from it is that 〜と言っては is an archaic way of saying 〜としては, meaning “speaking of 〜”, “as far as 〜 is concerned”, etc.

Some questions of my own…


I am having trouble figuring out how 我慢をして眠るのではなかったが works, especially のではなかったが. I imagine it means something like “I should’ve endured and not slept”…?


Also not sure what to make of 彼は臆する色なく here. Any ideas?


こういって confuses me. It would’ve made more sense to me if it had been こう言った, cause then it would’ve governed じいさんの. But as a て-form it just confuses me :sweat_smile:


いつのまにやら is a set phrase. Nowdays it’s usually いつのまにか (“before one knows”) and in this case か and やら are basically the same.


I think that 色 here is used in the sense of appearance; air; feeling (Jisho, definition 4). So, “without appearing to hesitate”?

Huh, I had read it as こう言った, oops! It could be a conjunctive て, as in “having spoken thus, when asked by the old man…”. That’s two different subjects though, not sure if that works. Or it could be いう being weird again and used in all sorts of ways. こう言う is listed in Jisho as such; this sort of; like this, so maybe it could just be that said, or (being asked) like this ? I tend towards that last one.


Yes, I think so to. The 三省常国語 and 大辞林 dictionaries both happen to give this exact phrase as an example phrase for 臆する, so it might be a set phrase.

Yes, that’s how I interpreted it too.