When it really means a lot, say it with ‘sekkaku’

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Sekkaku Tōkyō-ni kita-n-da-kara … (Since you came all the way to Tokyo …)

Situation 1: Mr. Okubo’s brother comes to Tokyo from Fukuoka on a business trip and visits his house, but says he can’t stay long.

大久保: せっかく東京に来たんだから、ゆっくりしていけばいいのに。

兄: うん、そうしたいんだけど、なかなかそうもいかないんだよ。

Ōkubo: Sekkaku Tōkyō-ni kita-n-da-kara, yukkuri-shite-ikeba ii-noni.

Ani: Un, sō shitai-n-da-kedo, nakanaka sō-mo ikanai-n- da-yo.

Okubo: Since you’ve come all the way to Tokyo, why don’t you stay a bit longer?

Brother: I’d like to, but I really can’t.

Today we introduce the adverb せっかく, which has a subjective connotation and is used in various ways to express feelings. In Situation 1, Mr. Okubo’s せっかく shows that he sees his brother’s visit to Tokyo as a rare and valuable chance. He insists on making good use of it, using the pattern of せっかく~のだから. One more example: 母(はは)がせっかく作(つく)ってくれた料理(りょうり)が さめてしまった (The dinner my mother prepared so carefully has gotten cold). Thus, せっかく is used to show that the speaker is thankful for what the person did (e.g., that the mother cooked) and feels sorry that his/her action was of no use. In these kinds of cases, the pattern せっかく~のに is often used, as in: せっかく彼 (かれ)に会(あ)えたのに、なにも話(はな)せなかった (I had a good chance to see him, but I couldn’t tell him anything). So, the above sentence can be changed like this: 母がせっかく料理を作ってくれたのに、さめてしまった (My mother went to all the trouble of cooking the meal, but it got cold). せっかくですから/だから is used to accept a favor or invitation, as in せっかくですから、いただきます ( I accept, thanking you for your kindness). For declining, せっかくですが/けど is used, as in せっかくですけど、その日は先約(せんやく)がありまして … (It’s very nice of you to invite me, but I’m sorry to say that I already have an appointment that day). You will find one more example in Mr. Tian’s first sentence in the Bonus Dialogue.

Situation 2: At the office, two young colleagues are chatting.

三田:   せっかくの正月休みだったのに、風邪でずっと寝ていたよ。

グレイ:  まあ、気の毒に。三田さんが風邪なんて、めずらしいね。

Mita: Sekkaku-no shōgatsu-yasumi-datta-noni, kaze-de zutto nete-ita-yo.

Gray: Mā, ki-no-doku-ni. Mita-san-ga kaze-nante, mezurashii-ne.

Mita: I was stuck in bed all through the New Year’s holidays because of a cold.

Gray: How awful for you. It’s not like you to catch a cold, Mr. Mita.

せっかくcan be used as a noun in the form of a noun-modifier with the particle の, as in Mr. Mita’s せっかくの正月(しょうがつ) 休(やす)み ([rare and valuable] New Year’s holidays). Here is one more example: 山田(やまだ)のせいで、せっかくの苦労(くろう)が 水(みず)の泡(あわ)だ (“Because of Yamada, all my effort was in vain,” or, literally, “my effort was bubbles in water”).

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Tian visits his former landlady, Mrs. Mori, to return a lady’s photo and profile that Mrs. Mori sent to him.

ティエン: 森(もり)さん、せっかくですが、このお話(はなし)は お断(ことわ)りさせてください。

森:    あら、残念(ざんねん)。あちらは、ぜひティエンさんと お会(あ)いしたいとおっしゃっているんだけど。

ティエン: 森さんのせっかくのご厚意(こうい)なのに、申(もう)し わけありません。恋人(こいびと)とか、結婚(けっこん) とか、まだちょっと考(かんがえ)えられなくて…。

森:    そう…、じゃ、このお話は、私(わたし)からお断りして おきますね。もしかして、ティエンさん、もう、どなたかいらっしゃるとか…?

ティエン: いたら、森さんに一番(いちばん)に紹介(しょうかい) しますよ。ところで、森さん、歌舞伎(かぶき)のチケットが余(あま)っているんですけど、今度(こんど)の日曜 (にちよう)、ご一緒(いっしょ)にいかがですか?

森:    まあ、じゃあ、せっかくなので、よろこんでご一緒 しますよ。[ひとりごと]やっぱり、恋人がいない というのは、うそじゃないみたいねえ…。

Tian: Mrs. Mori, It was very nice of you [to send me this photo and profile], but please allow me to decline this.

Mori: Oh, how disappointing! She says she’d like to meet you.

Tian: I am sorry to have to decline your kind offer, but for now I can’t be thinking of having a girlfriend, marrying, or any of that.

Mori: I see. Then I’ll let her know that you’re not interested. I wonder, Tian, if you already have a girlfriend … ?

Tian: If I did, you can bet I’d introduce her to you first, Mrs. Mori. By the way, I have an extra ticket for the kabuki next Sunday. Would you come with me?

Mori: Oh, how nice! I’ll love to. [Talking to herself] Ah well, I guess he wasn’t lying about not having a girlfriend at the moment.