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Wednesday, June 4, 2008


gori muchuu

I think that this yoji describes how it can feel studying Japanese sometimes. I know that when I first started, I could barely introduce myself, much less do more important things like ask where the bathroom was or pontificate on the legal status of the Ainu in late Taisho/early Showa Japan. I think the seeming impenetrability of the language, at least for English speakers, is part of what keeps otherwise capable people from its pursuit. For those people who do take the plunge, I think there's a point where you realize just how much effort goes into learning Japanese, a point where it can really feel like you're just pushing on but not necessarily making progress towards a real goal. Luckily, as I went on, I think I got a better grasp of where things were going, and my Japanese ability began to take shape. I can definitely see the same thing happening to certain other people whom, I believe, I don't need to name.

As some of you may know, a 里 (り, ri) is an old measure of distance imported from China, which the interwebs inform me is equal to roughly 4 miles. 霧, read as む(mu) here but きり (kiri) in kun-yomi, is fog. 五里霧中 is what happens when the future, represented by the 20 miles or so in front of you, is shrouded in uncertainty, represented by a dense fog.

(people studying for 1/2-kyuu, I think you're supposed to know what -ga gotoku means, right?)

1) not knowing how things are going to turn out (and being nervous about it)
2) the opposite of "shrouded in the mists of time" (ie, shrouded in the future mists rather than those of the past)

At present, the manufacturing sectors of all the developed countries are facing an uncertain future, and those regions dependent on manufacturing are the subject of particularly bleak predictions.

Often times, people will use this when trying to be encouraging. Although I feel weird saying this, especially because I've gotten so much worse at Japanese since coming back to the US, for those of you having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the Japanese-study tunnel:



AzzidisRidden said...

I'm supposed to go back to America soon, but since I haven't found work or a place to live yet, I'm feeling pretty lost and foggy.

AzzidisRidden said...

Also, I wonder if this could ever be used in conjunction with 百鬼夜行?

lisze said...

今日私の生徒は未来の夢を書きました。私は中学校の時に、未来は五里霧中でしたから, びっくりしました。

Today my students wrote down their dreams for the future. I was surprised, because my future was a complete blank* to me when I middle school.

*Is this an all right way to translate the idea of the phrase? (The uncertainty and anxiety)

Nirav said...

I pretty much agree with your use of 五里霧中, but I would change your example sentence to read:


Or something along those lines.

I wish I had a sentence that used this in conjunction with 百鬼夜行, but considering that 百鬼夜行 is the most ridiculously difficult yoji-jukugo to use in a sentence EVER...

I came to this hellish battleground with all of its dangers and lost sight of what lay ahead of me.

Or perhaps you meant a sentence that used both in order, in some kind of 8 character phrase?

Nirav said...

Lisze: looks like you commented while I was trying to come up with a 百鬼夜行五里霧中 sentence.

I might change your example sentence to read:

Not to say that its 100% right, but this sounds more natural to me. I think your translation works fine (except for the "when I middle school..." part).

Claytonian said...


Well Jeff already wrote a comment like this but... I'm planning to move to Saitama and am not sure what the future holds and am bewildered. Holding concern about the future is the human condition I guess.

Claytonian said...

by the way, I know ごとく, but am mystified as to why you used a が before it. Please, elucidate.

Also, Jeff, your site be acting funny. Did you mess with somethin you shouldnna?

Nirav said...

Clay: The short answer is that they are essentially the same thing (in my understanding). There is a slight tonal difference, and particle considerations do come into play depending on what the the subject of the ごとく/がごとく statement is (if its a verb, a noun, etc etc), but its too complicated to parse out in a comment (and I don't trust myself to hit every relevant point). One of these days I'll do a 1/2-kyuu grammar point a la Brett and get into it further.

Claytonian said...