Gori in the mist

(Title cf.)

五里霧中
go.ri.mu.chuu

Literally: five – ri – fog/mist – middle

Alternately: Completely lost. Unable to grasp the current situation, and therefore unable to foresee what may come or lay out any sort of meaningful plan.

Notes: The ri (sometimes called a “Japanese league” or “Chinese mile,” depending on which culture you’re interacting with) is a unit of distance ranging from about 600 m to about 4 km. The character can also refer to a village or small town, specifically one’s hometown (in contrast to “the city”), or to an administrative division of 50 homes, or to an equivalent area. There’s a lot of history bundled up in there, and I suggest looking into it, but for our purposes here it essentially means that the fog is extensive.

This yojijukugo apparently comes from a brief story in the Book of the Later Han, in which Zhang Kai is famed for being able to magically raise a fog-bank five ri wide.

Some people mistakenly render the latter half of this compound as 夢中 (also pronounced muchuu). The term means “engrossed,” or “in a daze / trance,” so it may seem appropriate, but this is an error that loses the reference to the five-ri fog.

GoRiLoSea

It’s not Japanese culture, but I thought I’d take the chance to recommend this less-famous but quietly moving story by the creator of the Scott Pilgrim series.

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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