Making light of parental influence

(Oya no hikari wa nanahikari; “A parent’s light is seven lights”)


Children benefit from their parents’ fame, fortune, and status. This is less about hereditary succession to a position, or straight-up nepotism, than it is about the fact that a parent with resources (including intangible ones like contacts, name recognition, or education) is able to leverage these in various ways to make things easier for their children to get ahead in the world. Often this kotowaza is used for cases where the child’s abilities are lacking and wouldn’t be enough to get them ahead in the world without a boost from a parent’s aura.


This one starts in the center, with noun 光 (hikari), “light,” marked as the topic of discussion by the particle は (wa). The kind of light being discussed is revealed by associative particle の (no), associating the light with noun 親 (oya), “parent.” And the comment on parental light is that it is number-noun 七光 (nana hikari), “seven lights.” In this case, the number seven shouldn’t be taken literally; it functions as an example number implying “many.”


On first sight what this reminded me of was hanafuda’s scoring system, which includes 三光, 四光, and 五光 combinations, but as far as I can tell the saying is unrelated.

This already-brief saying can be contracted even further to the noun phrase 親の七光 (oya no nanahikari).

It’s hard to say that something is “in honor of” Fathers’ Day when the nuance is largely negative, so let’s just say that “today’s theme was inspired by” the day instead. Here’s to all the dads out there trying to give their light to their children in a positive way.

Example sentence:


(Oya no nanahikari ni tayoritakunakute, gaigoku no daigaku bakari ni shutsugan shimashita.”)

[“Not wanting to rely on parental influence, I applied exclusively to overseas universities.”]

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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