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Intermediate Japanese Language Learning with Dazai Osamu

Complimentary Japanese Short Story Reading Lessons From Maplopo Schoolhouse

Season ONE—水仙 (Page TWENTY SIX)

 

EP26. Spotlight: べきはずはない, Dazai Osamu (太宰治), Daffodil (水仙)

Video file / Japanese Podcast Episode / Online Intermediate Japanese Course

Read the full EP26 transcript, Spotlight: べきはずはない | Intermediate and Advanced Japanese

[Chill Music Playing]

In this sentence, Dazai gets a little creative with some phrasing. So, let’s take a look  at this sentence. First, the Japanese

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

So, how might we translate this sentence? Something  like: “The resulting trouble shouldn’t have occurred. But, of course, life is as it is… and  a significant tragedy was to be the outcome.”

Alright. So, there is some trickiness to this  phrase in Japanese, right? Let’s isolate it for you.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

This phrase might not seem so familiar to  you. So, let’s break it down into a few parts. First up is: べき. Our example sentences:

(Speaking in Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking in Japanese—2nd Reading)

“You’re the one who’s to blame, so you  should be the one making the apology.”

(Speaking in Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking in Japanese—2nd Reading)

“As a student, you should be studying  without needing to be told to do so.”

(Speaking in Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking in Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Children should hit the rack  before ten (p.m.) at the latest.” Okay, now get to bed. But, finish the lesson first.

So, as you can see in these examples, べき essentially means “should.” It’s an auxiliary verb, and so it  works in concert with the preceding verb in the sentence. A while ago… a long time  ago… traditionally… this word used to be: べし. And the modern usage is what we see now: べき.

When we use this word, we’re effectively stating a very strong opinion, and a belief that something should  be a certain way, right? And, usually, that’s because we’re prompted by some sort of circumstance that  we’re in… or, maybe we… were seeing something… a particular case that we have a very strong opinion  on… so, if you look at our second example with the student… and, if you’re a student you should  be studying, right? You don’t need to be told to study—it’s kind of inherently built into the  description of you being a student. And, so, if you possess a certain sense of conviction about  THAT THING… that it “goes without saying” that, if you’re a student, you should study… then, you  would be using this word. It helps you get that point out there, and allows for that nuance and  context built into “should” that needs to be there.

In this next set of examples we’ll take a look at  the second part of the phrase, はず. First example:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

A little dialogue here: “Do you  think that the tea shop is closed on Children’s Day?” “Yeah, most  likely I’d assume it is.” Number two:

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

Are you hungry? A little self-talk maybe if  you wander down into the kitchen:

“Hmmm… this bread that’s sitting here on the kitchen counter…  that’s meant for me, right? Can I eat it?” Last one.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“If you use express mail your package  should arrive first thing tomorrow.”

In these three examples, we see a different side  of the word “should” in はず.

Here, it’s classified as a noun, but basically, it still does mean  “should.” The difference is this is less about conviction and internal kind of surety, and  more about an assessment that you might be making about a situation, or maybe  even, an assumption. So, you’re not 100% sure about this. You’re near certain about these things. So, the tea shop is probably closed because it’s a holiday, right? That bread is most likely to be yours because maybe your husband left it out for you. And, express mail is fairly reliable and  it’s probably going to be there around the time that they say it’s going to be there. Now, I say “probably” but really it’s more near certain, right?

And the cool thing about this word is if you pair  it with たしか (as we see in the first example), it really does boost the certainty of that  sentence. So, there’s a little “I’m not sure…” with たしか… I’m pretty sure if you remember  the たしか lesson… it’s a cool lesson… go back to that… but when you stick はず in there, (it) really kind of  gives you some some assurance that things are going to happen.

What’s also worth noting about  this, is that you’re not able to confirm this, right? So, it does kind of rely on another party or  some sort of outside circumstance, uh, that’s where … the con… [stuttering] the confirmation lies. But, you’re…you’re…  pretty sure about things, right? So, that’s はず.

So now we have はずはない or はずがない. Let’s  look at our three examples and then we’ll talk about them a little bit after that.  It’s a little easier to get it afterwards.

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Seven potatoes cost only 百円? That couldn’t be possible.”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“You’d think that manager—famous for being  stingy—would never treat anybody to lunch, but sure enough, he covered the whole thing!”

(Speaking Japanese—1st Reading)

(Speaking Japanese—2nd Reading)

“Snow shouldn’t be falling in May, but  yesterday in Hikone I heard it did.” はずはない or はずがない. And what this phrase does, is it presents  a sense of conflict. And the conflict between what it is that you’re so sure about and reality, right, so it introduces this idea of disagreement between what you believe… and, what you’re seeing. Because it  goes against はず, which you’re nearly 100% certain about, right? So, this reality is questionable: the  potatoes are way too cheap, the cheap manager is buying people food, and it’s snowing in Hikone. 

Why is this? Right? And, so when you use this phrase you find yourself saying… “Well, that can’t  be… there’s something odd about that.” … and… “Why is it that way?” So, it forces you to ask “Why?” And then  be puzzled as to the motive, or the reason, or the cause, for this thing that you’re now witnessing. And when that happens, that leads to doubt. So, what we see in Dazai’s sentence, then… he throws  the whole “kitchen sink” at it, right? He’s got べき in there, AND はずはない.

Because his conviction and  assumption are now kind of in conflict with reality… in disagreement with reality… Dazai is left  puzzled. You might remember earlier in this passage Dazai kind of comes to the realization that the  lord does possess mastery over the retainers, and that they’re not intentionally losing. And then, therefore, he kind of assumes that it would be natural that they would lose  and he would win. But that mindset is in direct conflict with the reality that he ends up learning which is that a great tragedy is to occur.

What might these last three examples  look and sound like, then, if we threw べき into the sentence?

(Speaking Japanese—Cheap Potatoes Example)

(Speaking Japanese—Cheap Manager Example)

(Speaking Japanese—Snow in Hikone Example)

So there you have it. A rather complicated, but  in-depth, nuanced, neat little piece of information that you can play with.

I’d encourage you to listen  to this episode more than once… it took a while for us actually to kind of get to that nuance, so hopefully it’s really beneficial for you.

And that wraps up this part of the paragraph… so on to the second part summary of paragraph five.

Get more examples, and even more audio and video so you can solidify your understanding by visiting the full course at maplopo.com … forward slash… schoolhouse.

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