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Japanese News: 「九十歳。何がめでたい」

I have found an interesting article this morning. Published on Asahi, the article’s title is 年間ベストセラー発表 1位は「九十歳。何がめでたい」.

Link to the article

The title would not have caught my attention if I hadn’t read recently an article about the “アラハン” (around hundred) phenomenon in Japan. I read about this in the magazine 일본어 저널, which is a Korean monthly magazine to learn Japanese (see my review here).

I find it to be a very interesting topic, so I will first write about アラハン and then move to the Asahi article.

アラハン

Source: 일본어 저널, 2017 November, p.74-75.

The term アラハン comes from “around hundred”. Recently, many women around 100 have published books where they look back on their lives and transmit something to younger generations, especially women who could be their daughters and grand-daughters. Even if they lived at a time when women didn’t work, these women all pursue diverse activities, among which, writing books.

It seems that these books’ main readers are women in their 40’s or 50’s. The article says that they want to learn from their “senpai” how to lead a healthy life, even at a great age.

Here is some vocabulary found in the article:

First, アラハン is not the only term used to describe a group of person around a certain age. We also have:

  • アラサー around thirty
  • アラフォー around forty
  • アラフィフ around fifty
  • アラカン around sixty. This word comes from 還暦・かんれき which means “one’s sixtieth birthday”.

All these words are 呼び名・よびな, that is “an alias” or a “popular name”. Giving a name to someone or something is called 名付ける・なづける. I thought that this word was only used to say “giving a name to a baby”, but it is not, obviously.

The books written by アラハン women sell well, which in our article is said: 売り上げも好調のようだ.

  • 売り上げ・うりあげ the sales.
  • 好調’な・こうちょうな good, favourable, satisfactory.

There is a term that I have always found strange. It is 専業主婦・せんぎょうしゅふ which means a “full-time” housewife. I guess that it refers to housewives who don’t have any other professional activity besides looking after their home and children. The アラハン our article is about have not been 専業主婦 but they had other activities.

Finally, an expression worth remembering is “looking back on one’s life” which in Japanese is “自分の人生を振り返る”

  • the verb 振り返る・ふりかえる means “to look back” but it can have a concrete meaning like “look over one’s shoulder” and a figurative one like in our article “think back”, “recall”.

「九十歳。何がめでたい」

The 일본어 저널 article said that books from アラハン women made good sales, but only looking at the Asahi article’s title, we know that it is more than that. The book 「九十歳。何がめでたい」written by 佐藤愛子・さとう あいこ is the best best-selling book of 2017.

This book was published by 小学館 in August of last year and more than 1 million copies  (105万部) were published. Since September of last year, that is, one month after it’s publication, the book has been ranked among the 20 first bestsellers for 63 weeks in a row.

Asahi’s article then cites a rather long word from the author 佐藤愛子.

She says that she finds it strange that her book should sell so well, because she started it when she was experiencing melancholy or depression ウツ病・うつびょう, or to write it in kanji 鬱病. This was after the publication of her previous book called 「晩鐘」which she thought at the time would be her very last book, or to be more precise, she meant it to be her last book.

  • 晩鐘・ばんしょう  means “the evening bell” or the “curfew bell”.

She also says that she does not understand why reading her book has given courage to her readers. She already has written a lot of books and she says that she has always written her own way, as she pleases. This last book is not different, but she remembers having been frowned at for this before. Now, the same writing style arises courage and vitality among her readers. As she says, the times have changed and Japanese people have changed, too.

She uses interesting expressions like:

  • 勇気が湧く・ゆうきがわくwhich can be translated, I think, as “inspire someone with courage” or simply “be filled with courage”.
  • 顰蹙を買う・ひんしゅくをかう be frowned at, invite frowns of disapproval.
  • 悪し様に・あしざまに is an adverb that means “ill”, “unfavourably” like when you say “speak ill of somebody” (悪し様に言う).
  • 好き勝手・すきかって just as one likes, as one pleases, as the fancy takes one. In my dictionary, this expression is linked to another one with the same meaning: 好き放題・すきほうだい.

Conclusion

It is maybe not that surprising that such a book should be ranking among the bestsellers, but I would not have expected it to be the first bestseller of 2017. Even if I am not going to read Mrs Sato’s books, I like to know what books are popular in Japan at the moment. I also liked this CM from the publisher to promote 「九十歳。何がめでたい」:

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