For a research project I am trying to understand a paper that originally appeared in Japanese and that also has an official English translation.

In the original, 当り前 appears. In the official translation it is rendered as "must-be", but as far as I can tell, this means "natural", "obvious" or "taken-for-granted".

Can anyone clear this up for me?

Thank you

I have included a scan of the title of the original paper. why is 当り前 must be?

  • This original paper doesn't seem to be written by a native Japanese speaker, from a view of a Japanese native speaker, sir. It is rather a made-up word.
    – user20428
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 1:35
  • 1
    Thank you for your answers. „Meeting a basic need“ is indeed the author’s intent and „must-be“ is universally used in English. It appears (with 35 years hindsight) that the decision to render „natural“ by „must-be“ (which are two very different concepts) is misleading, because it is now interpreted as „demand“ or „require“. There is a significant difference between expecting something because it is normal and demanding it. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 8:00
  • 2
    This original paper doesn't seem to be written by a native Japanese speaker <-- @psw1747 That's written by Japanese researchers. See: ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110003158895
    – chocolate
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 15:00
  • that would extremely surprising. the authors are, KANO Noriaki, SERAKU Nobuhiko, TAKAHASHI Fumio and TSUJI Shin-ichi. i have the original paper, if youre interested in looking at it. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 18:17
  • 1
    ^ It's a catch copy <-- 「キャッチコピー」って、和製英語なんで、英語では通じないと思います・・・
    – chocolate
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 1:11

3 Answers 3


While it may be an 'official English translation', that does not mean that it was originally done by a native English speaker.

That being said, it is not really wrong, as individual translations need not have consensus.

当たり前 means 'it is or should be considered as obvious/natural/a given'. It should 'go without saying'.

The quality of our product is so obvious/natural that it would be absurd to assume otherwise. For us and our customers, this level of quality is 'a must'. It 'must be' this level of quality for us to put our name on it.

Must-have quality might sound a mite better and make more sense, but they're not going to reprint everything now.

Edit: Thanks to @Locksleyu 's answer and reference of the Wikipedia entry, 'Having special appeal and meeting basic (obvious;given) thresholds' seems to be the intended message behind the paper you posted.


I generally agree with the points that user27280 has raised, but I wanted to give some additional context here.

From the viewpoint of modern English, "must-be" sounds outdated and perhaps even hard to understand for some native speakers. So I was to translate the passage in question I might not use such a phrase.

However, 当たり前品質 looks like a domain-specific term which may have been invented by Kano (狩野), and seems to be translated frequently as "must-be". (See the English Wikipedia page on the Kano model)

In light of this, while a bit cryptic and aged, "must-be" does seem like an apt translation given the fact that it is a single (compound) word that expresses the concept efficiently. As user27280 mentioned, it would be possible to translate as "considered as obvious", but that would be too wordy and clash with the feel of the original term in Japanese. Note, it could be argued that "当たり前な品質" would be a more everday way of expressing this in Japanese.

Furthermore, even if someone wanted to translate this term in a different way and use a more modern-sounding English expression, it might be frowned upon since it would deviate from what appears to be an industry standard term.

  • Thanks for the info. I should have checked the Wiki page earlier 💦
    – BJCUAI
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 2:06

The paper wanted to say something like an English phrase "Certificated quality" or so to be equivalent.
But he doesn't know English as well as I do.

当たり前 itself would be translated into another Japanese word 当然 touzen, which has various meanings.

  1. matter of course
  2. foregone conclusion

are the best translations.

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