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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page Seventeen)


EP17. Spotlight: ~ては~ものだ, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Audio File / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP17 transcript, Spotlight: ~ては~ものだ | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Soft Jazz Music Bed Playing]

Let’s shine the spotlight here on the final sentence of the fourth paragraph.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Your loose translation here would be: “Sometimes I’d recall the lord, and sigh.”

So, in this first expression here, ては, what we have is something that tells us that the action represented by the preceding verb (in this case “recall”) occurs repeatedly. So, more than once, right? And, by more than once, I mean there’s a certain interval in between the memory (or the recollection of these events), right? So, you might remember it today, and then maybe a month from now you might remember it… two months from now, a year from now… this sort of thing.

So, the interval is not exact. It doesn’t mirror the prior interval. But it comes back to memory frequently, right?

—Some sort of repeated action.

Then, here in this second expression, ものだ… this expression essentially accompanies the
word just prior to it, right? So, here in this sentence we have “sigh.” And what ものだ does is it kind of brings up this emotion attached to the the previous word, and in this instance it’s talking about, um… you, remembering something that you used to do, or reminiscing about something that’s habitually done—in the past.

You’re looking back… and, you’re not just looking back, but you’re looking back with some emotion. It makes you feel a certain way. You’re reflecting back on this thing, and it makes you feel happy, or sad, um…, and in this case Dazai is feeling (mmm) kind of, uh, in the middle of those feelings…, I think. And, so he sighs when he’s thinking about the lord.

Some examples:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“In college, I used to read Tanabe Seiko and would discuss her work with my best friend.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“When I was a kid, my sister and I used to fight, and our dad would scold us.”

Of course he would, right?

Okay. So. Let’s pull these apart a little bit.

In this initial example here, there are a few things I just want to point out. Uh, first of all, we’re talking about ては. But, you’ll notice it says では. That’s, of course, because, uh, 読む is conjugated into 読んで.

So, we have: では, right? Okay.

(The) second thing that’s worth noting about this first expression, in general, is that when you use it you can kind of get away from using a frequency adverb. So, in Dazai’s example, he uses “sometimes” … and then he has ては. But, in this example here, you notice we don’t really have a frequency adverb, we simply say: “used to.”

And, “used to” encourages the listener to think, and, uh, imagine that this “thing” has happened more than once, right? But you don’t have to be so specific about it. Kind of a cool little function of using this ては or では.

With the second expression, ものだ, I mentioned earlier this idea of emotion being attached to the expression. Now, when you read this last part it says “discuss her work with my best friend.” You might not really feel a lot of emotion there, but, in Japanese—and even in English, I think—it’s just kind of an understated emotion, right? To reflect back… is going to fill you a little bit with some memory and there is emotion there. It’s very, very quiet, if you will, but it’s definitely there.

In this final sentence, you can see that the repeated action is “fighting,” right? As kids were always [making grunting sounds] fighting with each other, right? [laughing] And in the second part of the sentence you’ll feel some emotion in this part where Dad is scolding you, right? Or, scolding this person of the sentence. By the way, did you notice this little “れ,” here? That’s probably familiar if you listened to the last lesson, right? れる, or, られる… Right? From the last lesson. So, let’s pull this apart a little bit and give you a little bit of insight as to how the sentence might look if it were written a little differently. So, first… present “active voice”:

(Speaking Japanese)

Now, present “passive voice”:

(Speaking Japanese)

But, here, this sentence is past passive. So, let’s hear “past passive voice”:

(Speaking Japanese)


So, I blessed you with Reiko’s pronunciation, because I seem to pronounce this like an Italian man. Okay, so pretty cool little, uh… expressions here, right?

[Doc pronouncing in very bad Japanese] [Reiko laughing in background]

Too much Spanish in high school, I think.


[Soft Jazz Music Bed Playing]

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