I was writing in my Japanese study journal, and I realized that I don't really know a good phrase for "...ironically, ..." Like so:

Work as of late hasn't been busy. Ironically, even though I prefer to have a busy schedule, I just can't find enough to do.

To me, 嫌味{いやみ}and 皮肉{ひにく}seem to carry a little bit of a negative context with them. I can make the sentence work with 逆{ぎゃく}に、but that doesn't really capture that I think that the situation has a light-hearted kind of irony. Am I wrong in thinking that there is another way to express this kind of light-hearted irony?

Here's my translation:


Am I on the right track? Is there a better way for me to express that I think this ironic?

  • Are you sure 楽 means "piece of cake" or "easy"? – user4092 Jun 9 '17 at 22:06
  • What do you mean? @user4092 – ajsmart Jun 9 '17 at 23:57
  • 1
    日々のスケジュールが忙しいなら楽 means "if my schedule was busy, my work would be easy". 楽 doesn't mean "fun" or "prefer". – user4092 Jun 10 '17 at 0:18

As you said, I think 皮肉にも has a bit negative nuance and I can't think of the appropriate word for a light-hearted kind of irony.

I translated your sentence as "最近仕事は忙しくないんだ。忙しく過ごしたいんだけど、(?)やることが見つからないんだ". I can't think of (?).

| improve this answer | |
  • So merging your question with @philippe's, there isn't a good way to point out the irony? In other words, is irony/sarcasm frowned upon in Japan? – ajsmart Jun 10 '17 at 17:04
  • I can't think of the appropriate word for a light-hearted kind of irony if you don't want a word close to "somehow". – Yuuichi Tam Jun 10 '17 at 17:29
  • Out of curiosity, this negative feel for the word irony interests me. Is this related to why the Japanese people rarely use sarcasm in polite conversation? – ajsmart Jun 10 '17 at 18:48
  • Maybe so. Many Japanese may not like irony and sarcasm. – Yuuichi Tam Jun 10 '17 at 19:18
  • 1
    @ajsmart From Japanese standard, sarcasm like saying "such a quiet place" in a noisy place is below standard. You'd be just finished by simple counterargument. Acceptable examples will be, say, "everyone's beloved (name of a dictator)" or saying "it's good for you to be so lively" to noisy people in a public place. The point is that it points out somewhat truth and logically stands in terms of intellectual argument too. So, sarcasm has to be rare. – user4092 Jun 10 '17 at 23:28

There's something of a cultural gap at play here. Even after almost 20 years living in Japan, I still find it different to convey light-hearted irony.

You're correct, however, in thinking that neither 嫌味 nor 皮肉 would be appropriate.

If I were trying to express your English sentence in Japanese, I'd probably say something along the lines of:


Incidentally, if I were to keep your 「どうせ」, then I'd probably go with:


I'm not entirely certain of the extent to which either of the above conveys the sense of irony you're looking for, but I think they're reasonably close to what someone in your situation might say.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    「スケジュールが詰まってるほど忙しい方が良い」 sounds wordy to be completely honest. – l'électeur Jun 10 '17 at 9:49
  • You could always shorten it to just 「忙しい方が良い」and leave the schedule part implicit. I was just trying to keep as much of the original poster's wording as possible. – Philippe Jun 10 '17 at 10:06
  • I'm not necessarily looking for an exact literal translation, just as long as I learn if conveying the idea is possible. – ajsmart Jun 10 '17 at 15:49
  • 1
    @ajsmart In that case, I think the closest cultural equivalent you'll get is something centered on 忙しい方が良い and 暇, without mentioning the word schedule explicitly. Now that I think about it, my Japanese coworkers almost never express how busy they are (or are not) directly in terms of their schedule. They do use indirect references such as 仕事がいっぱい入ってる or することがない, to express how full (or not) their schedule is. – Philippe Jun 11 '17 at 13:38


I'm not entirely sure a native will speak the same way though.

| improve this answer | |
  • I'm not sure either... The more I look at it, the more I think that the usage of どうせ might be incorrect. 不思議な真似 is an interesting way of getting the idea across though! Where did you come up with that? – ajsmart Jun 9 '17 at 19:34
  • I don't know about どうせ, sorry. "Ironically" had no good word so I looked up "strangely". 不思議 seemed like the best choice. Although I recall hearing it as 不思議な真似を, which makes no sense to me... – holyeyeolo Jun 9 '17 at 20:06
  • If think 不思議 would convey a sense that the speaker's schedule inexplicably never fills up, but to express that, I'd use either 「不思議と」or「不思議なことに」. 真似 refers to behavior and would either simply puzzle the listener or give the impression your strange behavior is what prevents your schedule from filling up. The 「不思議な真似を」may have been something like 「不思議な真似をやめて」: "Stop acting so strangely". – Philippe Jun 10 '17 at 6:04
  • 2
    「不思議な真似に」はちょっと意味がわかんないですね・・ – Chocolate Jun 10 '17 at 8:08
  • @Philippe That's exactly what I was trying to convey by using these words. Since not being able to fill up your schedule even though you like being busy does sound a bit inexplicable. By using 真似, I wanted to refer to the behavior of the schedule. I think you might be wrong here, although your forms do look more accurate – holyeyeolo Jun 10 '17 at 12:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.