Useful Expressions

すみません Sumimasen
The expression, sumimasen can be used in various ways, and its subtleties can be difficult to make sense of. It is used to make an apology, express thanks, or make a request.

The root word, sumu means to clarify or finalize or to be done with. It can also be used to talk about one's feelings as being settled or at peace. Sumimasen is the polite, negative form of this root. Therefore, "sumimasen" literally means to become unclear or murky or to become mixed up. It can also mean that one's feelings are unsettled or not at peace. It is from this second meaning that we get this expression.

When used as an apology, it means that your heart is going to become muddled or uneasy because you will do a discourtesy to the person you are talking to or inconvenience him/her is some way. Usually, however, when used as an apology it is used as a shortened form of sumimasen deshita which is the past tense of sumimasen and means, "I am sorry for having inconvenienced you" or, "I feel bad about what I've done." It is similar to the expression, gemonnasai. Both are used to mean, "I'm sorry." However, the basic meaning of gomennasai is more like, "Please forgive me." Because of this, its usage is more limited. Because you are asking something (forgiveness) of the other person, it is more childish and not as elegant. Sumimasen, on the other hand, implies that you are feel bad about what you have done and won't be at peace until you do something to make amends or repay the other person. Therefore, you usually hear gomennasai used with family members or good friends whereas sumimasen can be used with anyone.

When used for expression gratitude or thanks to someone, it is usually used to thank someone for something they have done for you. It has the feeling of, "My heart is in turmoil because you have done such a thing for me." It also implies that you are uneasy because now you are in the person's debt. It is Japanese custom that, if someone gives you something or does something for you, you owe them something in return. Therefore, you will not be at peace until you can repay the debt. Sumimasen can be used similarly to arigatou. However, there are some subtle differences. Arigatou is a more straitforward, "thank you." You are expressing your gratitude to the other person. Sumimasen, on the other hand, is more passive and reserved. You are almost apologizing for inconveniencing the other person who went out of his or her way to do something for you or get you something. Because of this, sumimasen can be considered more polite and is easier for Japanese people to say, especially to people they don't know very well.

When used to make a request, sumimasen is similar to "excuse me." Basically it means, "I'm sorry to bother you but..." You are making a light apology for inconveniencing the other person with your request. You can use this for situations such as when you want to talk to someone on the street or you are interrupting a conversation. You can also use this to get attention if you go into a shop or restaurant and nobody is there to greet you. In this case, you would say it in a loud, attention-getting voice: "Sumimasen!" In this case, it is similar to saying, "Gomen kudasai!"

Basically, sumimasen is an apology. You can think of it as meaning as, "I'm sorry." "I'm sorry for what I have done." "I'm sorry you went out of your way to do this for me." "I'm sorry to inconvenience you, but..." In each case, you are saying that you feel bad about whatever it is. To many people, this may make it a complicated and confusing expression. However, it is really very simple because you can use the same expression in a variety of situations.

さようなら Sayonara
Sayonara originally comes from the expression, sayoo naraba with the "ba" omitted and has become a salutation. Sayoo naraba means, "If that is the case..." Similarly, the parting expression, saraba comes from sa araba, an abbreviated form of soo de aru naraba which also means, "If that is the case..." Sayonara evolved in a similar fashion to the older expression, saraba.

There are three types of parting expressions in the world.

1. A wish for devine protection to be with you. "Good-bye," "Adieu", "Adios", "Addio", etc.
2. Let's meet again. "See you again," "Au revoir", "zài jiàn", "Auf Wiedersehen", etc.
3. Be well. "Farewell", "annyeonghi gyeseyo", etc.

Sayonara and saraba are essentially, "If that is the case..." and are conjunctions used when taking what was said before and connecting it to making one's next action or decision happen. This does not fall into any of the three previously stated categories.The often used expressions, de wa or sore jaa are basically expressing the same thing.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of the famous American pilot Charles Lindbergh, had this to say about sayonara in her book, North to the Orient.

'For Sayonara, literally translated, "Since it must be so," of all the good-bys I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike the Auf Wiedersehens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado 'Till we meet again," any seductive to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking Farewell.

Farewell is a father's good-by. It is "Go out in the world and do well, my son." It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little.

While Good-by ("God be with you") and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it. Good-by is a prayer, a ringing cry. "You must not go - I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God's hand will be over you" and even - underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible - "I will be with you; I will watch you - always." It is a mother's good-by.

But Sayonara says neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-by, the pressure of a hand, "Sayonara."' (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient, 1935)

Based on the writings of Seiichi Takeuchi from his book, Nihonjin wa naze 'sayonara' to wakareru no ka.

The Japanese saying, "Mizaru, iwazaru, kikazaru" corresponds pretty directly to the English, "See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil." It was originally use to teach children that they should not look at anything bad, say anything bad, or listen to anything bad. It has another layer of meaning because, in Japanese, the "zaru" part of it means, "don't do" but it also means "monkey." Thus, you have the three famous monkeys-one covering its eyes, one covering its mouth, and one covering its ears—carved into the temple in Nikko. Recently, it has also developed another meaning. It is sometimes used when one doesn't want to get involved with something. In this case, I guess it means something like, "I don't see anything, I won't say anything, I don't hear anything." Kind of like Sgt. Shultz in the TV show "Hogan's Heroes" when he says, "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!" whenever he sees Hogan and his cronies doing something they shouldn't be doing.

Do you know why bad actors are called, “daikon yakusha”? The daikon radish is good for digestion, so if you eat it you will rarely ever be “hit” with a case of upset stomach. If you say, “fugu ni ataru,” it means to be poisoned by a pufferfish. If you say, “tabeta sakana ni atatta,” it means the fish you ate gave you an upset stomach. But, if you eat daikon, you won't get an upset stomach. In other words, ataranai. It is from this that it has become common to call a bad actor, “daikon yakusha.” Yakusha is the Japanese word for actor. The Japanese word for becoming a hit is also ataru and the negative form of the word is ataranai. An “ataranai yakusha” is an actor who will never become a good actor no matter how hard he tries.

Do you know the saying, “Daikon doki no isha irazu”? The literal translation would be, “In radish season, you don't need a doctor.” It means that during the season for harvesting the daikon radish, everyone is healthy and doesn't need a doctor. Daikon doki means the daikon season which is from fall through winter. Daikon are high in nutrition and prepares the stomach and aids good digestion, so it has come to be known to be good for the body since ancient times. It is from this that the saying arose.

In Japan, Saba is considered a “blue fish.”It is very popular to eat and fish vendors can sell a lot of it. But, Saba also has a very short shelf life, so it must be sold and eaten quickly. Fish vendors must count out large numbers of fish quickly for their customers. Rather than counting out each individual fish, the vendor would guess about how many fish he had, then tell the customer a higher number. So, for example, a customer might pay for 100 fish but only get 50. When we say “Saba o yomu,” it means that we are lying about something that has to do with numbers. When an actress lies about her age or weight, we can say “Saba o yonde iru.”

Sanma ga deru to anma ga hikkomu
During the fall the sword fish is filled with fat that contains a lot of nutritious value. When you eat this fish you become healthy and you have no need for the doctor. By eating this fish you withdraw from having to get massages, this is an interesting proverb. There is another thing that is similar to this. When you eat the Kaki fruit you don't need to go to the doctor. These are the most delicious things to eat as well for their seasons. Since it is Salmon season you should eat it, so you will become healthy and don't have to see the doctor.

Lords, cook fish! Peasants, cook mochi!
Do you know why this is? This is about lords' and peasants' knack for cooking fish. Since peasants are always hungry, they want to eat fast, so they keep checking the fish even though it's not done, yet. The lords are opposite: they just sit back and wait. Mochi is easy to burn, so you have to keep flipping it while it's cooking. However, you only have to flip fish once when it's about 70% done. And so fish is best cooked by lords, and mochi is best cooked by peasants.

Ichi go ichi e meaning “one lifetime, one party”is a very useful and powerful saying used to describe how important it is to treat every situation with careful thought and seriousness. For example when meeting someone for the first time you should treat that person with much hospitality as if it were the last time you meet with that person.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu ― Please do good for me
One of the most common uses is when you meet someone. Of course you can say "hajimemashite," but inevitably one person or the other―often both―will say, "yoroshiku onegaishimasu." In this case, it has the feel of, "We just met, but I hope we can be friends" or "if the opportunity ever arises, I hope I can count on you" or "I hope you will look favorably upon me" or, I don't know, something like that. It shows that you respect and want the good will of the person(s) you are being introduced to. If you are joining a group, be it a company, a school, a sports team, a club, or any social circle, you would definitely use this expression to show you want the good will of the other members. In any case, it implies you are looking forward to a good relationship with the other person(s).

Another common usage is when you are asking someone for a favor. After you are finished asking for what you want, you would add, "yoroshiku onegaishimasu." This would have the feeling of, "Please take care of it for me." You can use this whether you are asking a superior or a close friend for a favor, or you can even use it when dropping your laundry off at the cleaners. You can even use it when asking someone to look after a person. If you are dropping off your daughter for her first day of school you might say to the teacher, "Musume o yoroshiku onegaishimasu." "Please take care of my daughter and teach her well."

Let's see, depending on the situation, here are some possible things it could mean. Nice to meet you. I look forward to our good relations. Please look favorable upon me. I look forward to doing business with you. Please accept me as one of you. Please take care of me. Please take care of it for me. I'm counting on you. Please do whatever you can for me. Thank you in advance. Please treat him/her well. I'm entrusting my son / daughter / husband / wife / mother / father / good friend to you. I'm counting on your support / cooperation in this matter.
more will be posted in the future

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