In Kiki's Delivery Service there is a scene where the 2 girls discuss about their passions and at some point (at around 1h27m) the older one says:


From my understanding 惜しい is closer to: "It's a pity that" so I unconsciously translated it as:

It was a pity I slept (It's a pity I wasted time sleeping when I could have been painting)

In the movie it is translated as

I loved painting. So much that I couldn't sleep.

  1. Which translation is correct/appropriate?
  2. Why does she say 惜しいくらい and not just 惜しいだった?
    Does くらい mean "at least" here? what is its purpose exactly?
  3. Is there anything else I am missing in 惜しいくらい?

2 Answers 2


It looks like you're understanding the sentence fine. I also feel like some subtle nuances of the original sentence were lost in the translation. ねるのが惜しいぐらい is hard to translate in a short phrase, but like you said, it's expressing the sentiment that it would have felt like a waste to spend time sleeping (if the time could be spent painting). Maybe an alternative translation could be

I loved painting — so much so that sleeping almost felt like a waste

くらい means "about/approximately" — when comparing her love about painting, she says it "approximately" felt like sleeping would be a waste, but that would be quite extreme, so it's relativized by saying くらい (I translated it as "almost"). This usage of くらい is quite common (relativizing some extreme statement, but still strengthening some other the sentiment to which it is compared). For example, I think one could say

I love dorayaki so much so that I almost [but not exactly] want to eat to the extent of throwing up

Edit. For more information about this usage of くらい see also @naruto's answer on Postpositional or prepositional くらい



Sometimes くらい does this linguistically.

I haven't seen that film yet (it's on my list), so I might be missing context, but it seems like the speaker is saying it was "kinda unfortunate/regrettable/disappointing." Maybe, on the one hand, they enjoy drawing/painting, but on the other hand, they were really tired and enjoyed the shut-eye.

It's ironic, though, that I am attempting to give an exact description when I often use ぐらい to do the opposite.

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