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Recently, while playing through Persona 4, I've learned that apparently Natsume Soseki translated the English phrase of "I love you" into

月が綺麗ですね。

and I, wondering if there was a source for this, did some googling. Some seem to indicate the actual phrase is

月がとっても青いなぁ

or

月がとっても青いから

Which one of these is it actually? And is there a source for this?

P.S. Apparently, "I love you" is translated as 死んでもいいわ by 二葉亭 四迷

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The most popular version is:

月が綺麗ですね。

But it's an unsupported anecdote, which is very close to urban legend.

A library reference request was recorded regarding this topic, and the librarians' conclusion was, they could find no direct source for the story, though many books cite it in various forms from hearsay.

That said, this episode itself I think makes one of good illustrations about how translation—or adaptation—was practiced in early modern period where the East and the West started to communicate.


By the way, 死んでもいいわ for "I love you" is not strictly true, either.

According to this article, the expression 死んでもいいわ appears in the translation by 二葉亭四迷 of Asya by Turgenev. The original passage was, however:

死【し】んでも可【い】いわ…」とアーシヤは云【い】つたが、聞【きゝ】取【と】れるか聞【きゝ】取【と】れぬ程【ほど】の小【こ】聲【ごゑ】であつた。
(『片戀』二葉亭四迷訳 (1896))
Ваша... — прошептала она едва слышно.
(И. С. Тургенев, Ася (1857[1980]))
"Yours". . . she murmured, hardly above a breath.
("Acia", A Lear of the Steppes and Other Stories, tr. by Constance Black Garnett (1899))

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It is 月が綺麗ですね.

Apparently Souseki used it to teach the phrase "I love you", because as you might know saying I love you is considered too bold for many Japanese even nowadays. Just imagine how hard was it to say that sentence back in the 1900s.

As for the origin of phrase, that is unfortunately not clear, as every written record of it is dated after the Second World War.

By the way it's Natsume, not Natsumi.

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Whoops that was a brain fart in typing Natsume. – Ringil Feb 28 at 16:48

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