An English website wrote an apology in Japanese after it took down an image of cracked hinomaru (日の丸) — the hinomaru linked to a donation page for the disasters following the March 11 earthquakes.

It read: 我々が 起こした偉大な犯罪の謝罪 (われわれが おこした いだいな はんざいの しゃざい) 

I understand the meaning, but I don't really get how this sentence works.

It's really tricky for me because no one explicitly apologizes, or there is no actual apologizing here. Is something like です dropped, or する? If a です is dropped, I see that as saying they are the apology...is that a valid way to apologize?

And is 偉大な犯罪 strange in this context? I thought 偉大 was more along the lines magnificence rather than greatness in terms of magnitude.

4 Answers 4


This is some very obvious example of Google Translate gone out of hand.

At the very best, it is missing some bits. But best I can tell, it's mostly nonsensical.

Edit: OK, so I was hoping we could swiftly address that: put it under "machine-translated gibberish" and move on...

But it seems like some people are not fully convinced that this is absolute gibberish. For some reason, they think there is a point in trying to fathom what the transistors at Google's Data Center were thinking when they came up with that (to be clear: "What is a good way to give an apology in situation X?" would make a very good and separate question).

Oh let me count the ways Google Translate is wrong:

  • 我々: is almost certainly not the right word here (but would need context to be sure)
  • 起こす: probably not, either.
  • 偉大な: is pretty much the opposite of what they want to say ("great", but in a positive way, i.e.: "awesome")
  • 犯罪【はんざい】(crime): is hilariously inappropriate. I suspect an unforgivably literal translation of "offense"...
  • that の between 犯罪 and 謝罪 makes no sense, any way you look at it...
  • 謝罪【しゃざい】(apology): probably not the word you want. 謝る【あやまる】 or 詫びる【わびる】: more likely...

Are we satisfied that no part of this sentence makes any sense now?

And just before anyone says anything: no, this wasn't a useful exercise in any way... Your time and brain cells will be much better used, reading human-generated Japanese...

  • 2
    "we apologize for the great offense we have caused" gives "我々は原因がある偉大な犯罪について謝罪" +1 for the one who finds the original sentence ;P
    – repecmps
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 14:24
  • @recemps: I gave up after a couple combinations... But yea, they were all close enough ;-)
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 15:02
  • 1
    @recemps: "apologies of the great offense we caused" is frustratingly close, but for some reason, it then stops using the '起こした' which it otherwise uses for most other sentences: "we apologise for the offense we caused"... I'm wondering if this even came from English...
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 15:27
  • 2
    xD I think I hurt myself trying to make sense of it. Thanks for putting this to rest Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 18:13
  • What's wrong with 我々, の and 謝罪?
    – dainichi
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 3:24

我々が起こした偉大な犯罪の謝罪 is not ungrammatical for the reason you mentioned, but is not an apology either. It is just a nominal phrase that points to an apology (from the third person perspective). Its translation will be:

Apology for the great crime that we committed

This will never mean by itself that they are apologizing.

What is more problematic about this phrase is that 偉大 means great with positive connotation. This phrase can never be used as pointing to a serious apology. It may be taken as ironical.

The word 犯罪 may not be appropriate here too. It usually means legally stated crimes. In this context, maybe 'sin' or 過ち 'mistake' will be more appropriate.

  • I think this is the most concise answer. Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 2:49

They aren't saying they -are- the apology... They've saying the apology refers to them. は and が don't actually mean 'is', it's just that sentences using them and no verb often get translated that way into English. It's a cultural thing.

Here they are just saying "We have an apology for the great crime that occurred." In other words, they are providing an apology for committing a great crime.


Whether or not it was Google translated is one thing. But it just sounds like a newspaper headline, which often aren't full, grammatically correct sentences. Even in English, you'll hear like "Government Budgets Tighten; Economy in Slump".

If it was supposed to be a complete sentence, I think a more polite, correct apology might be something along this lines of


And yes, 偉大 does not have negative connotations.

  • There is "odd/unnatural" and then there is machine-translated nonsensical. This firmly belongs in the second. And that's really all we need to know: trying to remember or re-use this sentence can only serve for comic purposes.
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 15:03
  • "This firmly..."の「this」= my translation or the one in the OP?
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 15:09
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    @istrasci: "this" = the original bit of Japanese... and therefore anything trying to make sense out of it... To give you one example out of many, the use of 犯罪 in such an apology is ridiculous.
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 15:16
  • btw, you realise your suggested sentence would make sense for perhaps a convicted child killer... not for some random person who uploaded the wrong graphic of the hinomaru on their website... right? I mean, I know some net-uyoku out there, are quite strict on hinomaru fashion, but I don't think anybody would call it "a serious crime"...
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 17:08
  • 1
    "犯罪 does not always imply a crime"? Keeping in mind that no word is ever a 1-to-1 translation, I think 犯罪 is as close as you can get. I can't think of a single non-criminal nuance for 犯罪. Wikipedia sure seems to agree with me... Can you give me examples of non-criminal use? As for 'offense', I think you might be confused, like Google Translate was, by its euphemistic (I think) use in English. When someone says "No offense!" or "I apologise if I caused offense", this refers to a non-criminal, moral "harm"... definitely not a 犯罪...
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 23:30

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