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In a book I was reading I found this expression:

私は瞼を閉じて、彼の頬にキスをした。上目遣いに、彼の表情を見る。

I understand the girl is like "I close my eyes, and kiss his cheek." and then "I gaze at his expression."

上目遣い is "upturned eyes" however how is it used here? Why is に used? My reading would be either she's looking upward, or maybe "toward his upward eyes"?

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The usage is the following:

8 動作・作用の行われ方、その状態のあり方を表す。「直角—交わる」「会わず—帰る」 「桐の木の花、紫—咲きたるはなほをかしきに」〈枕・三七〉

It expresses 'the way or state in which something is done', In this case, 上目遣い describes how (表情を)見る is done.

As for translation, 'with upturned eyes' should make sense as long as 'upturned eyes' reasonably conveys the meaning of 上目遣い (of which I'm not sure). Note that 上目遣い means looking up without moving the face, just by the movement of eyeballs.

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  • As a note of curiosity: In my old 和英辞典, there is only an example sentence その子は上目遣いで見た, which is translated as "The kid looked at me with guilty eyes". Is there a nuance here of guilty implicit in this expression? And why is でused in my dictionary, which it what I would have defaulted to, versus に in the OP's example, which gives me more of an impression of an adverbial usage?
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 0:11
  • @A.Ellett Re で/に, で shares the same usage (#5). In this case, both are almost the same. Either way, it works adverbially, but に may imply a subtle nuance of movement of eyes (not totally logical, but the usual towards sense に may play a role).
    – sundowner
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 9:38
  • As regards the implication, partially yes. One typical situation of using 上目遣い is when it is awkward to look straight in the face, so that a child keeps face down and looking up only by the eyes to read the parent's expression (for example). Another implication is when a woman uses 上目遣い trying to be coquettish.
    – sundowner
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 9:44

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