In a spoken story (action in late-Edo, early-Meiji period) there was a passage describing someone's life situation (a street peddler selling dubious medicines) using the following words:


The meaning of the second part was unclear. At the time I was trying to analyze what was being said, a native Japanese speaker claimed it was 破竹ぐらいで食べられません however I could no confirm any other metaphorical usage of 破竹 except for [破竹]{はちく}の[勢]{いきお}い. And this sentence did not make much sense to me.

Now something made me revisit the notes and I started to wonder about this comparison. Even if the second part is incomprehensible, what might be the reason to compare someone (selling snake oil) to a quack? They sound similar, no use for が.

Is there any preconception of 藪医者? That you could negate to describe someone's situation? Like "rich" for example (I doubt though). As I understand the concept of saying と言いたいが here is to express something in line with "If I called him X, it would mean he is rich, but he was not."

Even if I have no way to get back to the original story, how to tackle with what I have? Are there any clues in either in the meaning of 藪医者 or the phrase wording?

  • 1
    – chocolate
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 9:16
  • @Shoko It's complicated.
    – macraf
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 0:22

1 Answer 1


My guess would be that it is some kind of variation of:

I'd like to say he is a “bamboo thicket” doctor (= quack),
but he's barely a bamboo shoot.

筍医者 is a humorous term for a person who is so utterly incompetent they cannot even be called a fully-grown quack. I think it's safe to say that this term was in existence during the time frame of your story.

  • Wow! やぶ医者にも至らない... So the perception of a quack was not that negative, at least their skills were recognised to a degree. Is there any chance for さかい being Kansai-ben here? さかい for ので makes no sense followed by ありません, right?
    – macraf
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 3:02
  • @macraf I clarified my post in case it was misleading. タケノコ医者 is even more incompetent than a やぶ医者. As for the Kansai-ben possibilities, Choco or l'électeur will be of better help…
    – mirka
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 3:21
  • That was super-clear from the beginning and I just wanted to say I was impressed. Anyway, that was exactly what I was asking for ("how to deal with ambiguity"). To disparage a person 藪医者 was used here as a positive point of reference; although used stand-alone it would be highly negative in reference to a doctor.
    – macraf
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 3:27
  • @macraf Ok, I see what you're saying now. I enjoy your laser-sharp logical approach to things!
    – mirka
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 3:35
  • 1
    @macraf Never heard of it, but I guess so. Maybe older or more cultured people are familiar with it. Could also be regional thing. foodslink.jp/syokuzaihyakka/syun/vegitable/hachiku.htm
    – mirka
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 6:31

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