As we journey through this world…

…Let’s wear our hearts on sleeves unfurled

(I should have written a post in advance, but yesterday was taken up largely by my sister getting married. Today’s kotowaza is in honor of that long-awaited joyous event as well as a general hope and reminder for the coming year. Meanwhile, I apologize for the delay, but please look for this week’s “Magic Monday” post to come out tomorrow.)

旅は道連れ世は情け
(Tabi wa michizure yo wa nasake;
“Fellow travelers for a journey, compassion for [our journey through] the world”)

Definition:

Just as it’s a source of comfort to have a traveling companion when you’re on a trip, it’s also important to exercise empathy and kindness while traveling through life. It’s just as important to treat your fellow humans well at any point in life as it is when you’re specifically traveling together from point to point on the earth, because in the end we all depend on each other for help, support, protection, and comfort. We all need human kindness and companionship.

Breakdown:

This saying is not a full sentence on its own; rather, it’s a repeated pattern of topic-noun pairs that draws a deliberate comparison to make, essentially, an “A is to B as C is to D” analogy. The first topic is (tabi), “journey” and the second is (yo), “[this] world.” (The term can carry Buddhist connotations of the mortal realm in contrast to other higher or lower worlds, or social connotations of “the world of aristocratic society.”)

Each topic is marked by the particle (wa), setting up the comparison. The second half of the first part is 道連れ, comprising the noun (michi), “road,” “way,” and the verb 連る (tsuru) “to go with,” in conjunctive form, which allows it to act as a noun as well. The second half of the second part is the noun 情け (nasake), “compassion,” “mercy,” “affection.” If you wanted to be cute, then, you could translate this kotowaza as [travel : fellow-travelers :: life : kindness].

Notes:

This is the entry of the Edo iroha karuta set. The saying can be used in contracted form as simply 旅は道連れ. There are several variants of the phrase, such as one that replaces 道連れ with (kokoro), “heart,” “spirit,” but none of my sources cite an origin for the saying.

Example sentence:

旅は道連れ世は情け、一緒に行きませんか」

(Tabi wa michizure yo wa nasake, issho ni ikimasen ka?”)

[“Life is a journey and we all need companions; won’t you travel along with me?”]

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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