A man has just opened his newspaper and pulled out a bundle of leaflets. He then says:

It's full of adverts. The year-end gifts are (also?) great/terrible.

I've never properly understood 大変. How do I know if the man is happy or upset by the year-end gifts? My guess is that he's not happy because leaflets in newspapers are a pain, but it's not clear to me at all.

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    What else do we know about the man? Is there more to the conversation? I think we need a little more context to truly know what he means here.
    – lc.
    Feb 26, 2016 at 8:56
  • This is how the story starts. Afterwards he starts reading the newspaper. I think from the previous story he's quite an enthusiastic, excitable man, but there's no context here that really helps me. Feb 26, 2016 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


While I agree that 大変 doesn't necessary indicate the man is happy or not, I'd say that he is feeling some sort of sympathy, because, in this case, 大変 refers to the competition among companies being tough.
What do I mean by competition? Considering lots of people give out end-year gifts in Japan, those companies must be trying their best to win as big sales as they can.

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    – chocolate
    Feb 26, 2016 at 5:40
  • I must assume from the comment and upvotes that this is correct. I guess I'm missing some cultural knowledge that makes this more obvious? Feb 26, 2016 at 17:09
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    I thought the man is implying 「お歳暮商戦」 which you might want to know. In the near-end of the year, Japanese gives away the gift to those who have been helpful / kind to them (or お世話になった人, to be precise.) There are so many items purchased as gifts in this season, which is a huge chance for those stores to get big sales - the stores makes desperate efforts to make the best of it. This competition has become so intense that we use the word "商戦" (sales war) for it. While the man isn't really involved in selling, he feels the hard work of stores from those ads. Feb 27, 2016 at 1:03

I think it's neither of those definitions. I think in this sentence it has definition 2 from here:


and the sentence means something like:

It's full of adverts. There's way too many year-end gifts too.


It's still ambiguous if it refers to customers or sellers but anyway, you can take sense of costing too much or a lot to do into account.

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