Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Basic Japanese : Historical “I” in Japanese

Old-fashioned / historical “I” in Japanese

The following “I” pronouns are well-known and can be quite often heard / seen in historical stories especially those which are set in the Edo period.
But, these are rarely used in the present time.

Neutral

[Temae]

Temae

  • “Temae” literally means “before hand(s)”.
    The near side of someone / something.
  • Not for a regular use.
    Mostly used in business on speaking or writing to customers.
    (Actually, I can’t think of any other cases to use this.)
    It’s still acceptable to use this in business now, but I suppose the plural form “temae-domo” is more common than the singular, “temae”.

[Ware / Wa]

Ware

Both Kanji can be used for "ware", but the top one is more common.

  • Used as “I”, “myself” or “you”.
    Now it is seldom used as “I” or “myself”.
    “Ware” for “you” is probably more often used by men in Kansai-dialect area, and it sounds rough.
  • In the present fictional stories, I feel “ware” for “I” is sometimes used by non-human characters with tremendous power – summoned demons, for example.
    So, this sounds aloof, haughty to me.
  • The Japanese title of the novel “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov is “Ware wa robotto”.
  • Character using “ware”:
    (In Kanji) “Hakumenn no mono” (lit. a person with a white face) from the manga “Ushio and Tora”
    Akuma (in Japanese version, “Gouki” – lit. “powerful demon”) from the game “Street Fighter”

– Tips –
The word “wa(ga)” is often used as “my”.
For instance, “my home” can be translated as “wagaya”.
“Ga” in this case is the same as Japanese “no” (“of” in English) to show possession.
“Ya” is “house / home”.
So, the literal translation of “wagaya” is “a home of I” in English.

For male

[Chin]

Chin

  • Similar to the royal “we”, “chin” can be used only by the Emperor or the King.
    This was from China, and it could be used by anybody in China before Qin Shi Huang.
  • In Japan, the Emperor seemed to have used this until the end of the Pacific War.
    When the Emperor announced on the radio to Japanese people that the Japanese Government surrendered without any conditions on August 15th of 1945, “chin” was used in the speech.
    Then, Ango Sakaguchi wrote in his essay published in 1948 that the word “chin” had disappeared.
  • The French phrase “L’Etat, c’est moi” by Louis 14 of France is translated as “Chin wa kokka nari” (lit. “I am the state”) in Japanese.

[Maro]

Maro

  • In the old times, this was used by anybody regardless of age, sex, or background.
    Also used in a first name (ex. Hitomaro) or as a suffix to show people’s affinity, like calling monkey (“saru” in Japanese) as “saru-maro”.
  • Now, I suppose this is used by “kuge” (Japanese aristocrats) only in fictions.
  • Character using “maro”:
    The title character from the TV anime “Prince Mackaroo (Ojarumaru)”
    Yoshimoto Imagawa from the TV game “Sengoku Basara”

[Yo]

Yo

Top Kanji means "beforehand".
Bottom one is "left-out".

  • One of the Kanji characters for “yo” literally means “left-out”, and the other is “beforehand”.
  • This was used commonly by people in every class except “tennou” (the Emperor) or “kuge”.
    Kafu Nagai (1879 – 1959), a Japanese writer for example, used this.
  • Now, this might be used in formal text or speech (quite rare, at least I’ve never seen anybody using it), although it sounds arrogant to a certain degree.
    It probably owes to historical TV dramas, in which “yo” is used chiefly by ruling samurai.

[Sessha]

Sessha

  • The literal meaning of the Kanji characters is “clumsy / bad person”.
    It’s a humble pronoun used mostly by samurai, but could sound self-important depending on the user’s behaviour.
    Often used by ninja too in fictions.
  • Mainly in Kanji.
  • Characters using “sessha”:
    (In Kanji) Kanzo Hattori from “Ninja Hattori-kun”
    Kenshin from “Rurouni Kenshin”
Samurai

- Samurai -
Illustration from Illust-ya

[Soregashi]

Soregashi

  • The Kanji character literally means something / somebody, like English “X” for uncertain things / people or to avoid mentioning the name clearly.
  • A humble pronoun, often used by samurai.
  • Characters using “soregashi”:
    Yukimura Sanada from the TV game “Sengoku Basara”
    (In Hiragana) Mamezou from “Kekkaishi”

Kekkaishi

[Wagahai]

Wagahai

Top Kanji : Used by Armstrong in "Fullmetal Alchemist"
Bottom : Used by a cat in "I am a cat"

  • Can be used as plural, but usually singular.
  • It may give an egotistic impression.
  • This pronoun always reminds me of a man stroking his mustache.
    Don’t ask me why.
  • Characters using “wagahai”:
    (In Kanji) Alex Louis Armstrong from “Fullmetal Alchemist”
    A cat with no name from the novel “I am a cat” (“Wagahai wa neko de aru”) by Soseki Natsume

Fullmetal Alchemist

[Asshi]

Asshi

  • Derived from “atashi”.
  • Used by general public, especially craftworkers.
    In mysteries which are set in the old Tokyo of Edo era, henchmen of “okappiki” (a sort of policemen back then) frequently use this.
    Maybe because of that, I have got an impression that “asshi” is mostly for men from the lower-middle / lower class.
Common people in Edo

- General person in Edo -
Illustration from Illust-ya

For female

[Warawa]

Warawa

  • The Kanji character is much more often used as a “mistress” (in this case, its pronunciation is “mekake”).
    Perhaps it’s the reason “warawa” is usually written in Hiragana in stories.
  • The word “warawa” for “I” is the same as the word for a small child “warawa” (identical pronunciation but its Kanji character is different).
    Warawa for "child"

    Kanji for child "warawa"

    Thus, it was originally a modest pronoun for women.
    Later, “warawa” was used chiefly by women in samurai families.

  • Now in historical dramas or stories, this is sometimes used by women in the upper class like a princess, a queen, etc.
    So, “warawa” perhaps gives a pompous impression.
  • Character using “warawa”:
    (In Hiragana) Dakki from the manga “Houshin Engi”

 

Actually, there are more words for “I” in Japanese including local variants.
To introduce all of them is almost impossible because how many are left is unknown.

 

Related posts:
#“I” in Japanese (1) (2)

The following two tabs change content below.

kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Vowing Man

Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese

“Thank you” in Japanese other than “Arigatou” “Arigatou (gozai masu)” is the common phrase, but there are other phrases for “Thank you” in Japanese. Sumimasen The phrase is also very common and frequently heard in Japan. (Maybe more often used than “Arigatou”). This has several meanings : “I’m sorry.” “Excuse me.” “Thank you (and I’m […]

Read Article

Number List 4

Basic Japanese : Large numbers in Japanese – Thousand and over

Large numbers in Japanese : Thousand to quadrillion From thousand to quadrillion, the common units you hear in everyday life in Japan including in the news. As I wrote in the previous post, for digits over ten, “4” is always read as “yon” and “9” as “kyuu”. “7” is generally “nana”. For bigger numbers than […]

Read Article

Red paper, blue paper

Japanese urban legends – Part 2 –

“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (2) In this post, there are only two Japanese urban legends. The main topic is a Japanese toilet.   Yume (Dream) A high school girl had a nightmare that she was mangled by a psychopath with his knife on the way home from her school. It was so vivid […]

Read Article

daiso japan

Go Shopping at a 100 Yen Shop

I’m sure many of those who have been to Japan would agree that one of the places that got them spend money are 100 yen shops. These are shops that sell items that mostly cost 100 yen exclusive of tax. The items range from food to housewares to accessories, or in other words, there’s a […]

Read Article

Itadaki masu image

Basic Japanese : “Itadaki masu” – Phrase before meal

When I watch foreign TV dramas, I sometimes see Christian people praying before meal. It seems that the prayer is to appreciate God who have given them food. In Japan, maybe Christians do the same, but I guess most of people say certain phrases before and after dinner instead of a prayer. If you love […]

Read Article

Michizane with his poem

Go west : Dazaifu and Sugawara no Michizane

Sugawara no Michizane is the person who is worshipped as god of study at the shrine, “Dazaifu Tenman-guu”. “Sugawara” is the family name and “Michizane” is the first name. He is also well-known as one of the Big Three Onryou (vengeful spirit) in Japan, along with Taira no Masakado and Emperor Sutoku. Life of Sugawara […]

Read Article

Inogashira park

Japanese urban legends – Part 3 –

“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (3) Mary-san (Ms. Mary) A girl had an old Western doll and called it “Mary”. When her family moved to another place, she disposed it because it was old. One night, a telephone rang at her new home. The girl got it, then heard the voice saying, “Hello, I’m […]

Read Article

Hyaku

Basic Japanese : Numbers in Japanese from eleven to hundreds (and Zero)

Numbers in Japanese : Zero and over ten to hundreds Zero and from 11 to 999. Zero in Japanese “Zero” or “Rei”. “Zero” from English, and “Rei” from Chinese. The pronunciation of “rei” is almost the same as English “lay”. Both are very commonly used, and generally considered as the same meaning. In fact, they […]

Read Article

Tsukudo shrine

Mystery tour: Taira no Masakado – Part 2 –

Barrier for Masakado? There are seven main shrines (including “Kubi-zuka”) for Masakado. They are said to have been built to seal the powerful spirit of Masakado as well as to make use of it. [1. Torigoe shrine] It is not officially admitted, but this shrine is said to be the place where Masakado’s hand(s?) is […]

Read Article

Dazaifu 06

Go west : Sugawara no Michizane – Legends

There are mysterious legends around Sugawara no Michizane. Most of them are episodes after he was framed by his political enemy. Michizane and the flying plum tree This legend is very well-known along with the following poem. The night before he left his home in Kyoto, the capital at that time, he composed a poem […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑