The sentence in question: しかし、不思議なことに、そう答える親たち自身の幼い時の記憶には、自分がおんぶされていた頃の思い出が強く残っているのです。

For full context: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/web_tokushu/2018_0521.html?utm_int=news_contents_tokushu_004

My attempt at translation: "However, about the strange thing, the parents who answered that way, in their memories of the time where they personally were young, there are strong memories left where they were carried on the back themselves."

I wonder how 自身 and 親 are related. The way I parsed this sentence is

...そう答える親たち | 自身の幼い時の記憶には... => The parents who answered that way
concerning the memories of the times where they personally were young...

I wondered wether one could put a の between 親たち and 自身 but I couldn't come up with a meaningful translation for that one. Splitting the sentence into two parts worked quite well for my translation, but I have no idea wether this reflects the actual japanese construction.

1 Answer 1


自身 can be suffixed to a noun or pronoun to emphasise an unexpectedly appropriate or contradictory subject, in pretty much exactly the same way as the English reflexive pronouns "yourself" "himself" and so on can.

For instance, "We were talking about Bob, when who should show up but Bob himself!" can be translated as ボブの話をしていたら、ボブ自身がやってきた. Or "I can't believe you were trying to blame Tanaka when you yourself were the culprit!" would be something like さっきまで田中さんを責めていたのに、あなた自身が犯人だったなんて!

In the same way, そう答える親たち自身 here is a single noun phrase, meaning "the parents who answered in this way themselves". The sentence would not be much different grammatically if 自身 was removed and the phrase was just そう答える親たちの幼い時の記憶には…, but the addition of 自身 draws attention to the seeming contradiction in the fact that the parents who advocated for the front-hold over the piggyback were the very same ones who had fond memories of riding piggyback themselves.

As a fairly literal translation of this sentence, I'd go for something along the lines of:

However, strangely enough, in the childhood memories of the same parents who gave these responses, there remained vivid recollections of a time when they themselves were given piggybacks.

(I didn't use "themselves" for 自身 in this translation because it sounded both somewhat awkward in the English sentence structure and also quite repetitive since "themselves" is also the most natural translation of 自分 shortly afterwards. Instead I used "the same" to convey the same sentiment.)

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