The bold part is the sentence in question, the rest is for context:

今日は、日本で長くお暮しの4人の外国の奥様においでいただきました。一番長い方は15年、短い方でも6年はいらっしゃるそうです。 その間のご苦労や嬉しかったことなどを伺いたいと思います。

The full text can be viewed here.

First, my attempt at translation:

"The longest time person shall be here for 15 years, but the shortest time person shall be here for 6 years."

1) Is は in




in a contrastive way here?

2) The positioning of でも is a bit unusual compared to what I've seen so far.
It seems almost like a suffix to 方, although it surely isn't. However, does this position have any consequence on its meaning? Does it become nuanced in a different way?

3) I still feel a bit uncomfortable translating "一番長い方" into "the person who has lived (here) the longest." I know there is very strong contextual support here, but it still feels like I'm adding too much xD So I just wanted to know if this is a common way to express this? Or do I have to be cautious in cases where the context isn't as strong as it is here?

3 Answers 3


1) No. The first は before "15年" is not necessary contrastive and it can be taken as a simple topic marker. The second は is a variant of the contrastive usage of は and means at least or no less than. See: Does は mean 'at least' in this sentence?

2) This でも is even, not but. "even the person who has lived the shortest ..." See: "Even a crab" - Japanese proverbs (?) / What does でもわかる mean and what does あって+か do? / いくら+pronoun+でも usage/meaning

3) 彼は日本に来て(から)長い is a perfectly normal way to say "It's been long since he came to Japan." (Notice the difference in subjects; It in the English version is what's called a dummy subject). So 日本に来て(から)長い方 is also perfectly fine, and if there is enough context, even 長い方 is okay in the same vein.


1) The は in 一番長い方は is meaning 'is' or 'has been'. But は in 短い方でも6年は is meaning "at least she has been" or "in spite of the fact she is the shortest resident in 4 persons here, she's been in here 6 years long". (To me as English learner difference between "shall be" and "has been" is not clear. I used 'has been' based on my instinct. Please fix it if it was inappropriate as English.)


The usage of は in 短い方でも6年は is meaning 'at least'. Here is example of same usage of は.

「駅まで行くのに1時間かかる」(It takes at least 1 hour to go to station.)

「給料として毎月25万円欲しい」(I want at least 250000 yen per month as salary.)

2) The 方 here is meaning 'person'. And でも is meaning 'but' or 'in spite of the fact'. 短い方でも6年はいらっしゃる is meaning 'The shortest resident in 4 persons here has been in Japan for 6 years long in spite of the fact she is the shortest of 4'.

3) Your interpretation is correct.

  • I think 短い方でも is the writer emphasizing shortest period she has lived here is 6 years. Therefore I guess "no less than 6 years" fits in this context.
    – user25382
    Oct 20, 2017 at 23:31
  • 1
    No, writer is comparing persons, not one person's periods. If the writer comparing one person's periods, 短い方 will be pronounced as "Mijikai hou" and "hou" in this usage is not polite. And writer is clearly being polite here by saying いらっしゃる. Therefore 短い方 must be pronounced "Mijikai kata". "Kata" is polite and it means person, therefore writer is comparing persons.
    – user20029
    Oct 20, 2017 at 23:48
  • Sorry, I should have written it as the writer wants to emphasize the fact "6 years time one of them has lived in Japan is the shortest" with a surprise.
    – user25382
    Oct 21, 2017 at 0:07

As for 1) and 2), noruto's answer is perfect. I'll only give an explanation of 3).

The complete sentence for "一番長い方は" is, I think, "日本に来てからの生活が一番長い方は the person who has lived for the longest time since coming to Japan".

In Japanese language, as you also know, what is already commonly understood among people involved is generally omitted. Before the phrase with "一番長い方は", the narrator has already introduced the four foreign wives who have lived long in Japan. Therefore, the part with "日本に来てからの生活が the life after coming to Japan" of "日本に来てからの生活が一番長い方は" is generally omitted.

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