A friend asked me to translate into English a short text. The context is Tokyo being a global city where people gather and experience a variety of lifestyles and values (価値観), and where art, culture, beauty, etc are combined together.

I came across this sentence:


I have never heard that "+ alpha" before. Doing a little research it seems to mean "something extra, a little more". I even found a short wikipedia page defining it as a 和製外来語 from the english "plus x". I understand the meaning I guess but I wonder if there is a better way to translate it into a more natural English.

I was thinking of translating that as a "enhanced status". Could that work?

Something like this:

It is our duty/business to send out into everyday life that enhanced status and sense of values (or to enhance that status and values in everyday life?)

But I'm not very satisfied with it. Also I find 価値観 in general not very easy to translate.

2 Answers 2


A bit of Etymology

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"プラスアルファ" comes from Japanese baseball players' misunderstanding X as α when American baseball players marked X in the second half of 9th inning for the record. If the bottom team had more scores than the top team when they finished in the first-half inning of the 9th inning, they don't have to play in the bottom inning. So, they could have been able to score more if they had the bottom inning. Hence, they marked top:5 - bottom: 7 + X for the record.

A bit of Analysis of Meaning and Translation

As I mentioned above, "プラスアルファ" implies adding something onto quantity or quality. It is normally used when you need/can add something more than the expectation.

"ステータス" is difficult to define. Having an imported car, wearing Armani or ROLEX would have been "ステータス" 30 years ago, but I guess fewer people care about having that stuff in Japan. The definition of "ステータス" has been changing quickly. So "価値観" does. Businessman and Artist would have different images for "価値観".

All in all, it seems to me this sentence wants to encourage us to bring synergy to Tokyo through fashion, art, lifestyle, and diversity.

  • Thanks! The explanation about the etymology of alpha is very cool! :)
    – Tommy
    Nov 14, 2017 at 0:34
  • The only problem is that etymology is disputed in Japanese sources as an urban myth.
    – macraf
    Nov 14, 2017 at 10:38
  • @macraf The etymology might be unreliable though, I didn't mean that Tommy should believe UFO.
    – user25382
    Nov 14, 2017 at 10:45

Within the given context, I don't think you need to include that phrase at all in the English translation.

"Status" already has a connotation of "high standing", "prestige".

プラスアルファ is a Japanese adaption and comes from mathematical expression ±α or +α expressing a variation (in math α can be negative, so it doesn't always imply addition), expressing an uncertainty level "more or less", "around".

Here however it implies aiming at elevating, going beyond one's current standing.

価値観 - just "values" - "our values", maybe "our principles", or "our value system" (the latter is more direct but less natural, I guess)

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