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I have trained for 25 years with a local (European) Aikido master, but now I have to move, albeit temporarily, to another town, and I would like to give a gift to my teacher to represent the "debt" I have with him for all he taught me.

I also practice Shodo, so my idea was to make a scroll with the Kanji "義理" and give it to him before leaving.

I just want to add that I will keep practicing at another dojo in the place I move to, and that I may very well come back to my hometown in a year or so, just so that you get a complete picture.

My question: is "義理" appropriate here? If this is not the case what would you suggest?


I opted for "礼" in the end - thanks to everyone who answered or commented this.

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I think that 義理 "social obligation" is a neutral term when used to describe a fact, e.g. 義理のお父さん "father-in-law", but whenever it is intended to convey some sort of emotion, 義理 always has a negative (e.g. burdensome) connotation. (For example, 義理チョコ, the chocolate every woman is obliged to give to their male coworkers/boss for Valentine's day).

Either your European teacher doesn't understand enough Japanese to be irritated by that, or he does understand Japanese well enough to know that you don't understand enough Japanese. In either case, the intention of giving a gift will be understood.

Still, if I were to choose, I'd choose some concept/word/short phrase that I found particularly interesting/moving/profound and that has some connection with you personally, with Aikido, or with your teacher (or all three).

(Imagine for a second Aikido didn't have anything to do with Japanese. Would you give a beautifully written version of "debt" to your teacher?)

  • 1
    Thanks - what about "gratitude"? 礼? – p.marino May 18 '14 at 6:09
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    Or maybe 恩 would be better? – p.marino May 18 '14 at 6:25
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    Yes I think is good, also how about 感謝 – user1016 May 18 '14 at 7:04
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    I agree that 恩 is much better. Still, I'd recommend going for something that you understand, rather than something you just looked up in a dictionary (or something that was recommended to you by someone else). – Earthliŋ May 18 '14 at 16:05
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    Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure I fully understand 恩 myself, so I would recommend 感謝 if you need to ask. Conversely, if you want to stick with debt please write it in blood. – virmaior May 19 '14 at 14:11
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報本反始 seems the exact word, I think. It means something like "Thank you (teacher, parent or mother nature) for many things. I will keep practising."

  • Hmm... What's your source? Where did you get the translation? – user1016 May 19 '14 at 8:58
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    Apparently, this can be found here: dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/idiom/… – virmaior May 19 '14 at 10:50
  • @virmaior ええ、私も辞書などのページをいくつか見ましたが、どこも「天地や祖先など、存在の根本に感謝し」「自然や祖先の恩恵に報いる」とか書いてあるけど、「恩師に・・・」とか書いてないんで・・・ – user1016 May 19 '14 at 13:02
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    @Chocolate 当てるというつもりは一切なかったです。まず、無意味と思いましたが、それは熟語と気づいてびっきるしました。それだけです。 – virmaior May 19 '14 at 14:09

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