This story was such a pleasant surprise in terms of difficulty compared to the last one. It had some beautiful, calm imagery too. Very fairy-tale-like. And the “huh?” feeling at the end was as strong as ever. I have a niggling suspicion about what the story may be leaving unsaid, but I may well be wrong, and anyway I’ll keep it for later.
Some language questions
やさき - Jisho tells me this means either an arrowhead, or the very moment (when); the point (of doing). I don’t see how any of those would fit. Could it mean “being at the stage of” or is it something else entirely?
かけつける, according to Jisho, means to run to; to come running; to rush (someplace); to hasten, but I can’t make it to fit here. Could it be a combination of かける and つける and just mean 'put on glasses?"
ようす is such a general word. In this case, do you think it means that her appearance changes, that her circumstances change (in that she can see better) or that her actual vision changes (the way she sees/looks at things)?
This is used twice in the story. Does it simply mean “say”, or does it have a more specific meaning? So far I haven’t been able to find more info on it.
I doubt she was still trying with the thread while she was talking to the man through the window, but sure, she was having difficulty just before, so maybe the definition of the “very moment” is just a little wider than I imagined.
yea I agree, I don’t think she was doing her needle work out the window, but I figured she was struggling right before the man came to the window, and so I guess I attached やさき to that moment. Is it too much of a leap
I've finally gotten to the やさき moment you've been talking about and I also wouldn't over-interpret it
「私の目に合うような、よく見える眼鏡はありますかい。」と、おばあさんはたずねました。 At this very moment the old lady’s eyes were blurring and not being able to properly fit a thread through the eye of a needle, she was getting anxious, so she inquired: Do you have a pair of glasses fitting my eyes and that would let me see better?
Also, umm, I filled out the vocab sheet for this week, in case someone needs it .
@omk3 I have finally gotten to your かけつける and ようす parts. I think you are right, but below is my attempt at translating the entire sentence:
ちょうど子供のように珍しくて、いろいろにしてみたかったのと、もう一つは、ふだんかけつけないのに、急に眼鏡をかけて、ようすが変わったからでありました。 Being curious just like a child she wanted to try many things and for one thing, despite usually not wearing (glasses), she suddenly put them on and her circumstances changed.
What troubles me is that 眼鏡 appears in the clause after and not in the one with かけつけない, so かけつけない ends up with no object. Feels weird. ようす could mean both “appearance” and “circumstances”. I don’t see more context around that sentence to point towards one or the other.
I would agree with @Niiccckkk on this one. 内 means “inside” so if it was 口の内 I would translate it as “to say to oneself” or to “say under one’s breath”.
It feels like Mr 小川 likes the word たずねる in both flavors: 尋ねる and 訪ねる .
Alright, finished reading! Really liked it. The “aha!” moment was kinda out of nowhere, but okay.
Agreed! This was a surprisingly easy read after last week and I also really liked to peacefulness of the story. The ending was a bit sudden in my first read-through, but it has grown on me. It’s just a really nice slice-of-life/fantasy story and the only moral that I took from it, is that magic might be right at your doorstep even if you don’t recognise it as such.
I think this is my favourite story so far! (but I tend to like the fantasy stories more than the ones about shopkeepers and lords )
Yes, and at least in this story it was clear which was which
No, I agree. That’s how I interpreted it too. It’s like ‘just now’ in English, I think, that also doesn’t have to be “right at this moment”.
Okay, please don’t open the spoiler if you haven’t finished the story and formed your own opinion, because I really don’t want to affect anyone’s interpretation.
But I have a strong suspicion that this story, beautiful and calm and magic as it is, may actually be about death. It felt so random before it hit me. On that one nice moonlit night, first a peddler brings the old woman the perfect glasses out of the blue, then a wounded butterfly appears all of a sudden. There is a constant mention of an alarm clock, which seems to be entirely unrelated to anything else. The old lady is kind of lost in her own daydreaming, more in the past than in the present. The glasses help her see the clock and the calendar, and they also help her realize that there’s no girl, just a butterfly (moth? it’s nighttime after all). She leads that butterfly to a quiet, dark garden, full of flowers that look like snow, then goes to finally “rest” after a long night. I’ve been trying to find concrete sources about possible symbolism here, but I haven’t so far. Still, the butterfly, the white flowers/snow, the quiet garden, the clock ticking, they all seem to point me to a quiet passing, to a beautiful stillness. Or maybe I’m just in a weird mood.
Yes, I think so too. I found it odd that there is so much discussion about this expression but then I realised that in Dutch we also say that someone talks inside their mouth (“binnensmonds”) when they are saying something softly/to themselves, so for me it was a perfectly normal figure of speech. I can imagine that it’s a weird expression if your native language doesn’t use the same expression
Good point. It’s like a maths problem with missing parentheses - which calculation do you do first?
Your interpretation (which I believe to be the correct one) goes:
and mine goes
(and I totally overlooked the potential 思い出せないin my translation, sorry)
For what it’s worth, KNP breaks it down like this:
This has been a atmospheric and serene story which is a welcome change! I enjoyed that one. Your interpretations also put an interesting twist to it.
I’ve got some rather nooby questions:
Around the middle of the story we have the sentence 『私は、おまえさんを知らないが、だれですか？』, spoken by the old lady. Does the が here mean something along the line of “so”? I don’t really see the contrast here that Jisho suggests. The best fitting definition IMO would be “and”. Maybe it’s just a Japanese thing I’m trying to force too much English into but it would be weird if Jisho didn’t have that definition.
All-including particle も?
A little further in the story we have 『もう、どの家もみんな眠ってしまいました。』, said by the little girl. Does this mean something along the lines of “Now, whichever house I went to, everyone fell asleep”? Does the も indicate that she means every house she came across?
Some thoughts on the old lady using おまえ
So I was wondering about this: Isn’t おまえ considered to be kind of rude? I looked it up on Jisho and it seems like おまえ used to be honorific which would explain the お. Do older people (I can’t tell how old those stories are) use おまえ in casual/everyday speech? If an older person used it in conversation with me I would’ve assumed that they be rather annoyed dealing with me haha
That’s a Japanese thing. It’s more of an introductory が than “but”, but usually it’s preceded by んです in spoken conversations or のです in writing. There could also be variants with だ instead of です, but I’ve never seen that.
EDIT: I was just doing Tobira and encountered an example where ん／の wasn’t used so perhaps it’s more suited when emphasis is required, but otherwise can be omitted.
The reason Jisho doesn’t have this definition is because it’s a very context dependent thing. Sometimes the が will just be a regular subject marker が and the author simply decided to put a comma after it for extra emphasis.
Yes, that’s how I would interpret it as well, but again, usually it’s でも for nouns and the 〜ても form for verbs. The clause typically opens with a question word like the どの here, but that’s not mandatory.
The honorific form would’ve been お前方（おまえがた）. That’s what we had in the previous story. Since the lady is older than the girl, おまえ is fine, I think . In day-to-day conversations it would kind of depend on the tone. If it’s clearly a much older person, a grandma or grandpa, I wouldn’t have been offended by an おまえ, especially if it’s not spoken harshly, but if it’s a younger person, still somewhat older than me, あなた would’ve been preferred, I think.
Also, the language of this story feels a lot more modern than of the previous stories, but that might just be me slowly getting used to 小川’s style.
おまえ is one of those strange words that I’m never sure of. The Japanese dictionary has as the first meaning〈神や仏／身分の高い人〉の前の尊敬語。Which I think means that it’s a sonkeigo word you use towards gods and those above you (did the old lady secretly already know she was speaking to a spiritual being?). I think that’s what the second meaning in Jisho refers to.
Perhaps it wasn’t even a rude word in Ogawa’s time (especially if it’s followed by さん)? I’ve always thought that words like おまえ and 貴様 have only become rude over time because they ended up being used ironically (but maybe that’s just a wrong assumption on my part).