While studying for JLPT N2 I came across this expression の折に. It appears to be almost identical to の時に. My reference suggests that it's basically the same, but simply less polite.

What I find suspicious is that I've been studying Japanese for quite a number of years, and I have never seen or heard of this until now, and dictionaries such as アルク suggest that it is not very common.

Is there a difference in meaning / nuance? Is it actually common and I've just been blind all this time? (I wonder why it's not taught in any normal textbook / Japanese course in that case). Should I avoid it?

I would appreciate if anyone can shed some light onto the usage.

  • Don't avoid it, it may be asked during the JLPT :) Though it may be a little too formal/rare for casual use around a drink, I think it's a great way to vary one's language, though. I'll adopt it :)
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 11:45
  • Are we stuck with "の" in "の折に"? Or can I say: "飲み屋に行った折に、店員をナンパした"? (the question is about grammar, not word choice)
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 1:31
  • The JLPT study guide that I learned this from has examples of using simply 折に after a verb, as you suggested.
    – Zach
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 7:24

3 Answers 3


A の折に B 'B on the occasion of A' may have the nuance that A is some special occation and is not that frequent. A の時に B 'B when A' is neutral in this respect. Depending on the context, this may make some difference.

I had thought that 折に is rather the polite one. 折に is slightly archaic or formal, and you do not see it in casual conversation so often. That's probably why you hadn't seen it; there was a reason for it.

  • Would you distinguish: "友達の結婚式をきっかけに田中さんに会った" and "友達の結婚式の折に田中さんに会った"?
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 8:37
  • @Axioplase I feel that the one with きっかけに has to be coincidential, whereas the one with 折に may or may not be intended (planned). What do you think?
    – user458
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 8:47
  • 1
    Well, I never encountered 折に, that's why I was asking :) But besides probable formal use, another difference may be that 折 doesn't seem to have that nuance that it was the beginning of something, which きっかけ has.
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 11:43
  • @Axioplase That's definitely right.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 15:22

My dictionary, A Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar, says that the difference between ori (折) and toki (時) is

S1 折に S2

Toki "when" can be used in place of ori in most situations but without the nuance of "taking advantage of a good opportunity" or "doing something on a special occasion". Unlike ori, toki can be used in the following situations

When S1 represents an undesirable occasion

When the action in S2 is routine

When the actions/events in S1 and S2 are not related

When S1 represents a brief moment

Ori is also only used in formal writing and formal speeches. Ori is also similar to Sai and Setsu.

  • And what are S1 and S2?
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 1:29
  • edited answer to explain s1 s2 Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 4:28
  • I think S1 and S2 still need more explanation. Are they sentences? Can you include them verbatim?
    – Amanda S
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 17:12
  • they are sentences, they are subject 1, as the subject before orini and subject is the one that comes afterward. there are example sentences, but they aren't related to this explanation Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 23:23

Sample sentences with 折. This seems to be used in greetings, and definitely formal written communications:

  • ご多忙の折、恐縮ですが平成22年3月16日(火)までにご提出頂けますようお願いいたします。
  • 寒さの折から、お風邪など召しませぬよう
  • 暑さの折からくれぐれもお体をお大事に

The first example is from an email I received, the two others from a list of "season greetings".

So the difference seems to be (1) use 折 in formal greetings, (2) use 折 in formal communications as an "abstract" time, not to express something like "during lunch". All the rest with 時, and you'll be good.

  • Maybe we can think of 折に as translating to / from English on the occasion that. It is similar more formal than English "when", as well as being more abstract. the distinctions between on the occasion / when seem at first glance to match up quite well with those of (の)折に and (の)時に
    – Zach
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 22:07
  • Rather than "occasion", I'd go for a different wording: "as". "As you're busy", "In these times of difficulty" and so on. "Occasion" sounds too much like a chance to take…
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 1:13

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