Try walking a mile in *these* shoes!

金の草鞋で探す
(Kane no waraji de sagasu; “Seek with iron sandals”)

Definition:

Searching for something tirelessly. Patiently looking everywhere. Normal straw sandals break down with use, but iron sandals will endure – as will the person whose search is described with this phrase, no matter how far they have to walk or how many hardships they have to endure. If you’re “seeking with iron sandals,” you’re not just looking for a thing: you’re thoroughly and determinedly questing.

Breakdown:

Our opening noun is (kane), meaning “gold”… or “metal” in general… or, in this case, “iron” (cf. 鬼に金棒). (no) is our associative particle, connecting kane to the following noun 草鞋 (waraji), a term for a type of traditional woven-straw sandals. Read this combined noun phrase as “sandals of iron,” and modify it with the particle (de), which indicates the means by which an action is performed. All that’s needed now is a verb, and our verb is 探す (sagasu), “to search for,” in sentence-final form.

Notes:

The verb can be replaced with 尋ねる (tazuneru). Although the latter verb is commonly translated into English as “ask” or “visit,” it can also be rendered as “to investigate” or “to search (for something known, the whereabouts of which are unknown),” and this is the meaning it takes here.

Incidentally, the difference between 草鞋 (waraji) and 草履 (zouri), another term for traditional woven-straw sandals, is apparently that the latter are more like flip-flops, with a strap that is gripped between your two largest toes, while the former include bindings that are fastened around the ankles, making them more secure (and thus more appropriate for long-distance travel). Also, if you add (mushi), a generic term for amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, microbes, and other miscellaneous creepy-crawlies, you get the name of a living thing in each case: 草鞋虫 are apparently isopods (aka woodlice, aka pillbugs, aka roly-polies etc.) – although as you can see, the image search above returns some arresting pictures of very leggy centipedes – while 草履虫 are paramecia. (Interestingly, paramecia were called “slipper animalcules” for a long time in the West as well.)

As long as we’re making distinctions in word use, there are two ways to write sagasu in kanji: 捜す and 探す. The former refers to looking for something you’ve lost, or something that you were aware of but lost track of. The latter is seeking something that you hope to find, but which you haven’t encountered or confirmed the existence of yet.

Example sentence:

「うちの弟、先月彼女が欲しいって言ってから、金の草鞋で探している」

(“Uchi no otouto, sengetsu kanojo ga hoshii tte itte kara, kane no waraji de sagashiteiru.”)

[“Last month my younger brother said he wanted a girlfriend, and he’s been looking for one tirelessly ever since.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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