In English, we have constructions like "Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York" (MLK's I Have A Dream speech) and "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3, KJV and other versions).

Is there an idiomatic Japanese equivalent of this construction? I can imagine circumlocuting around it with something like ニューヨークの偉大なる山から自由が響くようにあろう, but I'm not sure if that's idiomatic (or even correct) Japanese.

The Japanese Living Bible seems to translate "Let there be light" as 「光よ、輝け」, but that seems to me to mean "Shine, light", which is not really the same thing.

  • 1
    A couple very similar translations of "let freedom ring": 「自由の鐘を打ち鳴らそう」 and 「自由の鐘を鳴らそう」.
    – user1478
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 22:13
  • There are no subjunctive verbs in your examples. "ring" and "be" in "let ring"/"let be" are infinitives.
    – dainichi
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 1:26
  • @dainichi Duly noted.
    – senshin
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 3:21
  • 1
    @dainichi That's not correct: the "present subjunctive" in English happens to coincide with the bare infinitive.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 7:19
  • 1
    @ZhenLin They do coincide, but dainichi is correct in noting that it has an infinitival function in this context. Not that this is germane to the existence or lack thereof of a corresponding Japanese construction.
    – senshin
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


I don't think they're idiomatic at all, but you've touched on both of them. "Let" in these cases translates to either a command, or to what basically amounts to "may". With the former, you would use the 命令形 as you noted. In my Japanese Bible (新共同訳), that verse in Genesis simply says 光あれ!. With the latter, you're essentially describing a "wish" or some desire that is more-or-less out of your control. In this case, you use ~ように ("may it be (such) that..."). Refer to the following topic for more info on this usage.

xref: How does this ように work?


One of Maaya Sakamoto's songs is called 「光あれ」 which seems to mean "Let there be light". Lyrics.

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