I'm stuck with this sentence (from An Integrated Approach To Intermediate Japanese):


My attempted (literal) translation is the following:

At that time I didn't have money (and), at the chinese food lunch, between a 30 cents or 35 cents fixed price lunch, at most once or twice a month, it would have been the right choice if I managed to eat expensive things.

I translated the のうち as equivalent to の中 (I think it is correct in this case). What I'm struggling with is the 高いのにありつければ良い方だった part. My current understanding of that portion is that "~にありつく" means "to get/eat with difficulty" so "高いのにありつければ" means something like "If I manage to eat something expensive..." since I'm treating "高いの" as "高いこと" and ありつければ is the conditional form of the potential form of ありつく. Finally I translated "良い方だった" as "It was the right way/thing to do".

I think I'm missing something since the translation I provided is not very cohesive. Could you please help me getting a better understanding of these sentence?

  • What is the context of this sentence? Is this a dialogue? Or an essay? – rebuuilt Apr 21 at 8:42
  • The context is a kind of auto-biography. The guy is talking about an invitation that he received from another student to eat at a chinese restaurant. The previous sentence is this one: "[...] 大学院生がやってきて、「あなたは毎日のように中華料理をたべているそうですが、今晩、 私と一緒に下さいませんか」と誘われた。" – Genfu Apr 21 at 9:59

の in 高いの indeed is a pronoun, but in this case it's not 高いこと "that is expensive; expensiveness" but 高いもの "what is expensive; expensive one". More specifically, 「~のうち(の) [adj.] の」 means "the more [adj.] one (of two things)", which is what you see here. Thus 高いのにありつく should be understood "manage to eat the more expensive one (= 35 cent lunch)".

Now, 良い方だ is a kind of idiom that is not comparing anything inside the sentence. It is often used to describe how the situation is wretched, by saying a bad example is still "less bad" than the rest, or an unsatisfactory one all you can wish.

You could by no means call them soldiers. Who willingly went through your training were much praiseworthy when some did go back home without leave because they felt hungry. When you let them shoot arrows, you could at most expect one hit on target every ten.

Thus, I'd translate せいぜい月に一度か二度、高いのにありつければ良い方だった as:

I considered myself lucky if I could (manage to) have the expensive one once or twice in a month...

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  • So essentially I can use ~ば良かった whenever I to express a situation in which even a small quantity represents a big accomplishment.So for instance can I say something like this? 彼は貧しい人で、毎日食べ物を買えれば良い方だった。(He was a poor man and it was an exceptional thing/he was lucky enough if he could buy food every day) – Genfu Apr 21 at 14:58
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    @Genfu ~ば良かった is another expression "one should have (taken another way)" so don't confuse them. Other than that, your understanding is good in this context and your example is very natural. It doesn't necessarily have to be "small" and "big" in quantity though, rather like how far from your expectation. – broccoli facemask - cloth Apr 21 at 15:07
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    Yeah sorry I made a typo there I was intending ~ば良い方だった. The weird thing is that I couldn't find anything about this grammatical pattern (neither on the internet nor on the series "A dictionary of ~ Japanese grammar"). This is weird since it doesn't seem like a rare pattern...but anyway thank you so much for the help! – Genfu Apr 21 at 15:16
  • @Genfu I'm just wondering about the same thing. More often than not I find phrases that rather felt as if "advanced" to me on the earlier part of JLPT list, so I thought I might as well be able to get some... It's a quite common expression, though. Maybe they think it too literal to be an idiom? – broccoli facemask - cloth Apr 21 at 15:24

From goo辞書: 「のに」 , one of the definition is

…時に。…場合に。「地震が来るのに備えておこう」: "Let's prepare in case the earthquake coming."

This time, there are two options of meals for "30 cents or 35 cents". So, 「高いのに」means choosing more expensive one i.e. price of 35 cents.

Also goo辞書: 「ありつく」

「ありつければ」 = 「ありつく」 + 「ければ」: conditional form


"manage to ~" seems appropriate here since it literally means "A lot of effort have been needed to get what you wanted".

「 "良い方だった"」here means "better off" rather than "the right way/things to do".

It is not talking about 「方法」. Here, 「方」 here means "choose one comparing to others". So, 「良い方」: "choose better one comparing to others"

So, All in all "It was better off if I managed to eat Chinese food which costs 35 cents at most once or twice. "

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  • Thank you so much! Now everything seems clear. – Genfu Apr 21 at 12:15
  • Just to clarify...so in general can I assume that ~ば良い方だった is equivalent to ~ば良かった? – Genfu Apr 21 at 13:48
  • @Genfu I think it depends . 「~ば良かった」can be the same if you are mention "making a choice" in the sentence i.e. 「こちらを選べば良かった」sounds similar to「こちらにすれば良い方だった」. – kimi Tanaka Apr 21 at 14:13

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