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Hoping Against Hope: Part 2

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Around the holidays, people like to hear old stories again, whether they involve Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the Ghost of Christmas Past. This time of year also fills people with hope, so much so that adults temporarily suspend fears of pedophilia and let their children sit on strange men’s laps to spout off consumerist fantasies.

You’ll find both storytelling and hope with . You already know that it often means “hope,” because we learned the following last week:

(BŌ, MŌ, nozo(mu): hope, wish, aspire to, desire, look afar, look forward to)

As for the storytelling, a few sample sentences with form a tale of hope and longing. We start the story with this sentence, which a Tokyo resident named Satoshi-san once emailed me during our very brief language exchange:

2008年より英国の大学院への留学を希望しています。
2008-nen yori Eikoku no daigakuin e no ryūgaku o kibō shite imasu.
Starting in 2008, I hope to study at a graduate school in England.

Breakdown of the Kanji #1 …

In other words, he had a clearly defined 希望:

希望 (kibō: hope, wish, aspiration)     hope + hope

On

In applying to graduate schools, Satoshi-san became a 希望者:

希望者 (kibōsha: applicant; candidate; person interested in doing something)     hope + hope + person

In fact, he was a very specific type of 希望者:

留学希望者 (ryūgaku kibōsha: person wanting to study abroad)
     to stay + to study + hope + hope + person

Returning to the core word 希望 (a very useful word, as we’ll see), we could say this about Satoshi-san and his graduate school dreams:

これが彼のたった一つの希望であった。
Kore ga kare no tatta hitotsu no kibō de atta.
This was his one and only hope.

Breakdown of the Kanji #2 …

I know he was in the business world, so let’s say he’d pinned his hopes on the London School of Economics. If so, he might have said this at one point:

あの大学は私の第1志望だった。
Ano daigaku wa watashi no dai-ichi shibō datta.
That university was my first choice.

Breakdown of the Kanji #3 …

In other words, he harbored a 志望:

志望 (shibō: wish, desire, ambition)     ambition + to aspire

But why the use of past tense in his sentence? It might indicate both a wistful and a wishful way of thinking. That is, it could have been an instance of this:

希望的 (kibōteki kansoku: wishful thinking)
     hope + hope + adjectival suffix + view + to observe

The English translation includes “thinking,” but 観測 means “observing.” Hmm. “Wishful observing” just doesn’t have a ring to it.

Or maybe Satoshi-san used the past tense after receiving a rejection from LSE. The letter might have said that he failed in this respect:

希望に沿う (kibō ni sou: to meet someone’s requirements, meet expectations; go along with what somebody wants)
     hope + hope + along

On 沿

In fact, that phrase typically appears in rejection letters from corporations and universities. Those letters tend to contain this sentence:

残念ながら今回はご希望に沿うことができませんでした。
Zannen nagara konkai wa go-kibō ni sou koto ga dekimasendeshita.
Unfortunately, we were not able to meet your expectations this time.

Breakdown of the Kanji #4 …

Wait, the company or university couldn’t meet the applicant’s expectations? Isn’t it the other way around? What a kind way to let someone down!

If Satoshi-san did indeed receive a rejection from his 第1志望の大学, oh, what a crushing blow that would have been (and it’s all hypothetical, because Satoshi-san disappeared from my life soon after writing those words). Maybe he was qualified, and maybe he wasn’t. But rejection is hard for anyone, especially for those who really have their sights set on a goal:

ご希望の向きは (go-kibō no muki wa: those who want it)
     hope + hope + direction
The ご- is an honorific prefix.

However, Satoshi-san needed to do just one obvious thing. If he wasn’t the least bit squeamish about bribery, he should have inquired into their 希望価格:

希望価格 (kibō kakaku: asking price)
     hope + hope + price + status

In the end, we all have our price. (I should note that that price is not actually called 希望価格. This term refers to, say, the sticker price on a car. The price of a successful bribe is another matter altogether.)

If Satoshi-san still found himself locked out of his LSE dreams, he would have felt immense frustration, given that the following must be true of him:

彼の大望は企業家になることだ。
Kare no taibō wa kigyōka ni naru koto da.
His ambition is to be an entrepreneur.

Breakdown of the Kanji #5 …

That is, he must have a 大望:

大望 (taibō: aspiration, ambition)     great + to aspire

Ambition is a good thing, right? Ambition means he’ll be determined to succeed (成功を望む, seikō o nozomu: to hope to succeed, to achieve + result + to hope), no matter how many rejections and challenges he encounters. At least that’s what I would have thought. But the Japanese (who have coined sayings about pounding down the nail that sticks up) don’t necessarily look fondly on ambitious types. So it is that you find sentences that cast aspersion on those who try to better their circumstances:

彼女は野望に燃えていた。
Kanojo wa yabō ni moete ita.
She was consumed with ambition.

Breakdown of the Kanji #6 …

It’s 野望 that gives us “ambition” in this sentence:

野望 (yabō: ambition; aspiration; designs; treachery)
     wild + to aspire to


This word can mean both “ambition” and “treachery”! I guess only the low achievers can be trusted!

More on 野望

One word lays out this anti-ambition attitude plainly:

高望み (takanozomi: aiming too high)     high + hope

Too high? The moon is too high, but somehow that worked out for astronauts a while back. Here’s another soul-crushing word (and breakdown):

非望 (hibō: inordinate ambition)     not + hope


Don’t listen to any of this! You’re obviously ambitious, or you wouldn’t be studying Japanese. Keep being that way! Kanji Curiosity is on vacation until January 8. Having a three-week break from all my rambling gives you ample time to set your intentions for 2010 (and for the next decade, while you’re at it). Be as ambitious as you can possibly be! But first enjoy the holidays!

Thanks for helping to make 2009 a great year for me! See you in 2010.

Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz. Enjoy!

Verbal Logic Quiz …

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