In my JLPT practise book, there is this section of text. Sorry, it's a little long, but I hope the question isn't overly complex.

(前略{ぜんりゃく})かつて私{わたし}たちの国{くに}では、花{はな}の美{うつく}しさというように、抽象{ちゅうしょう}観念{かんねん}によって美{うつく}しいものをとらえようとする言{い}い方{かた}も乏{とぼ}しく、したがってそのような考{かんが}え方{かた}もほとんどなかった。(  )、というようなことばや考{かんが}え方{かた}を私{わたし}たちに教{おし}えてくれたのは、やはり西欧{せいおう}舶来{はくらい}のことばであり、その翻訳語{ほんやくご}だったのである。

Not a direct translation, but my general understanding is that, "Japan (well... "our country") didn't used to have words for abstract concepts, like the beauty of a flower. Abstract concepts were learned from the west, drawn from terms used in translation." Maybe. Something like that.

The question is to place one of the following two terms in the brackets:

  • 花{はな}の美{うつく}しさ

  • 抽象{ちゅうしょう}観念{かんねん}

I chose 抽象{ちゅうしょう}観念{かんねん}, but the correct answer turns out to be 花{はな}の美{うつく}しさ.

I think where I got confused was with the very last sentence, after where it says やはり. It says something like "Of course, there are words from the west, those translation terms were there"...? I think maybe it's だったのである that is throwing me off.

What would be an accurate translation for the last sentence in this text, and how does it support the right answer for what goes in the brackets?

  • @Chocolate, sorry for the confusion. I had a copy/paste error. I've corrected the question to now represent the mistake I was making, and what the correct answer should be.
    – Questioner
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 9:16
  • @DaveMG おぉ・・了解・・
    – user1016
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 23:30

4 Answers 4


(I'm going to only give you tips for finding the answer to the test question since an accurate translation for the last sentence is already provided by the other answerers)

In the first sentence:


you can see 「花の美しさというように~~する言い方」 and 「そのような(=花の美しさというように、抽象観念によって美しいものをとらえようとする)考え方」, so here 花の美しさ is referred to as a 言い方 and 考え方:

「花の美しさ」= (抽象観念によって美しいものをとらえようとする)言い方
「花の美しさ」= (抽象観念によって美しいものをとらえようとする)考え方

Now in the second sentence:


you can see 「XXというようなことば」 and 「(XXというような)考え方」, so 「XX」 should be a ことば and 考え方, so you go back to the first sentence and find what has been given as a ことば(=言い方) and 考え方:

「XX」 = ことば (=言い方)
「XX」 = 考え方

My advice is, "try to find 言い換え/paraphrases".

And, as you may have noticed, you'd need to pay attention to / read carefully the first sentence rather than the second one to find the answer to this question.

Good luck ^^

  • 1
    By the way, the やはり means "again" or "also", and it's used here because other things were introduced to Japan from the west through western terms and their translations, and the word やはり shows that it's just been talked about right before this passage (in the 前略 part).
    – user1016
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 1:14

It simply means, "it was the [translated words] that ...taught us...".

A はBだったのである

I guess we can all agree that A はBだった can be glossed for the time being as "A was B". So what does the のである add here? It factualizes, or predicatizes, the "A was B" conjecture. You could translate this VERY roughly as "It is the fact that A was B", or more fluently as "We can conclude that A is/was B", or "It turns out that A is/was B", or "The fact is that A was B", or restructuring the sentence a bit, "A was in fact B".


It is a parallel rephrasing.


To make the sentence clearer, we can move 言い方も乏しく、したがって to front, delete redundant phrases, and change the ように to ような because the it modifies 美しいものを抽象観念によってとらえる, which at last modifies 言い方. The sentence becomes 花の美しさというような言い方も乏しく、したがって美しいものを抽象観念によってとらえる考え方もほとんどなかった (Sorry if the typesetting looks messy in your browser.)

花     の 美しさ  と    いうような 言い方 も 乏しく
↑        (ように)       ↓    ↑   したがって   ↓
美しいもの を 抽象観念 によって とらえる  考え方 も ほとんどなかった

Note the word to word correspondence, as well as the clause to clause correspondence, that is 花の美しさという←ように→美しいものを抽象観念によってとらえる and ~言い方も乏しい←したがって→~考え方もほとんどなかった.

Then we can leave out the overlapping part and reduce this sentence to 花の美しさというような言い方も、そのような考え方もなかった, which can further converted to 花の美しさというようなことばや考え方もなかった, whose subject exactly matches the first noun phrase the following sentence, which is the question.

Regarding the last part, we can again change the word order to make it simpler.


教えてくれたのは翻訳語であった:It was 翻訳語 that taught us.

のである :That is / we can conclude that / I can see that

  • I've not heard of "Parallel rephrasing" before but I guess it is a recognised technique. Do you have a reference, prefarably one that shows how to do it with Japanese?
    – Tim
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:40
  • This term was coined by me, ^_~ .
    – Yang Muye
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:58
  • How about the technique?
    – Tim
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 0:05
  • @Tim, At first I though it, like this question, was not a language question, but a logic question. But you can pay more attention to its logic and meaning only if you are familiar enough with the language itself. I happened to find the original book. In fact, there is an instruction in front of it: 前後に関係を、よく非常して考える。 [...] これらの( )の前に、必ず、同じ内容について書いてある文がある。対比になっている言葉を選ぶ。 主語の部分に( )がある場合も、 前の文で同じように使われている言葉 を選ぶ。 * いずれの場合も自分の考えや感情を入れないで!
    – Yang Muye
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 0:27
  • @Tim, Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any. You can't expect every sentence can be rearranged like this.
    – Yang Muye
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 7:37

The Translation

(  )、というようなことばや考え方を私たちに教えてくれたのは、やはり西欧舶来のことばであり、その翻訳語だったのである。

Breaking this down a bit:

  1. (  )、というようなことばや考え方を
    The object: XXX kind of word or way of thinking
    Since this XXX could be more than just one word, maybe we'll say wording instead of just word.

  2. 私たちに教えてくれたのは、
    The topic: [the thing / person / etc. that] taught [1 above] to us

  3. やはり西欧舶来のことばであり、
    One of the things that did 2 above: I guess was the words brought over from the West, and
    Given the context of ...であり...だった and overall sentence structure, we can tell that these two であり and だった clauses describe two things that both apply as predicates to the preceding は clause. So we translate であり here as was ... and.

  4. その翻訳語だった
    Second of the things that did 2 above: [and] their translations
    For the だった, we've already supplied the was just above.

  5. のである。
    End of explanation. Could be clunkily rendered in a literal fashion as it is the case that [everything before the のである ]...

Putting it all together into normal English,

What taught us that XX kind of wording or way of thinking must have been the words brought over from the West and their translations.

The Test Question

In terms of test-taking strategy, I see two clues for what goes in the brackets. Both of these ultimately come from the phrase というようなことば in the second sentence. In this phrase, XXというようなことば explicitly mentions a ことば. A ことば isn't really a 観念, a ことば expresses a 観念; so 抽象観念 is not a good match to fill in the XX. Then, in the preceding sentence, we have another clue in the parallel construction:


So those two both point towards 花の美しさ being a good match for the XX. In free-form writing, many other things could theoretically also replace the XX, but presumably this is a multiple-choice test, so if 花の美しさ were presented as one of the answer options, that's probably the best bet.

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