Go west, young man!

The apple is flung far from the stem?

(Kawaii ko ni wa tabi wo saseyo; “Send the beloved child on a journey”)


If you love your children, your impulse may be to protect them from harm and hardship – but instead you should send them out in the world to learn from experience. Letting your children make mistakes, suffer, and fail (within reason, obviously) will help them more over the long run than ensuring their success. Don’t let worry make you keep your children locked in safe, controlled environments all the time; don’t be that one parent at the softball game.


We’re going right to left again on this complete breakfast sentence. Our verb is actually さす (sasu), a causative helper verb, (i.e. translatable as “make [someone] do [something]”) in imperative form (させ; sase), with interjectory particle (yo) taking on an emphatic or assertive role. To the left of the verb we have the object-marker (wo) and the verb’s direct object, the noun (tabi), “travel (away from one’s home).”

Like many Japanese sentences, this one contains no subject – technically the subject would be the addressee. Instead, we have the directional particle (ni) and topic marker particle (wa) working together to show that the preceding element is both the indirect object of the verb, and the topic which the sentence is focusing on. That object is (ko), “child,” modified by the adjective 可愛い (kawaii). This adjective is usually translated into English as “cute,” but – as the applied kanji suggest – the base meaning is something more like “lovable” or “beloved.”


Many of my sources suggest “spare the rod and spoil the child” as an equivalent, but I disagree. The focus in the English saying is on discipline and punishment, while the Japanese saying focuses on the importance of real-world experience and, at the harshest, simply not going out of one’s way to shield someone from the consequences of their actions.

The characters given above for kawaii are not, in some sense of the term, “proper.” Instead they are ateji, that is, characters applied to a Japanese word to make it seem more Chinese; equivalent perhaps to an English speaker inventing fake Latin roots for terms they use. Thus, while most of my sources give 可愛い instead of all-kana かわいい, the latter is perfectly acceptable.

There are several variations on this phrase; for example, kawaii may be replaced with 愛しき (itoshiki), another adjective meaning “beloved,” ending in ki due to taking an archaic prenominal form.

Example sentence:


(“Sumisu-san, ima no joukyou, chotto kahogo to omowanai no? Kawaii ko ni wa tabi wo saseyo tte iu shi, semete kinjo no kouen de asobasete mo daijoubu nan ja nai? Betsu ni Nyuu Yooku made hitori de ikaseru wake janain dakara, daijoubu yo.”)

[“(Mr./Mrs.) Smith, don’t you think you’re being a little overprotective right now? They say ‘send the beloved child on a journey,’ so isn’t it okay to at least let them play at the neighborhood park? It’s not like you’re sending them alone to New York; it’ll be fine!”]

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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