Language | WELL SAID

In Japanese, turn to ‘omoi’ when something weighs on your shoulders or mind

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Sekinin ga omoi yo. (It’s a heavy responsibility.)

Situation 1: At the office, Ms. Tamachi is talking to Mr. Sere, who works in another department.

田町: セレさん、新しいプロジェクトチームのリーダーになったんだって?

セレ: うん。責任が重いよ。大丈夫かなあ。

Tamachi: Sere-san, atarashii purojekuto-chiimu no riidā ni natta-n datte?

Sere: Un. Sekinin ga omoi yo. Daijōbu ka nā.

Tamachi: Mr. Sere, did I hear you’re the leader of the new project team?

Sere: Yeah. It’s a heavy responsibility. Wonder if I’ll be OK.

Today we’ll introduce the i-adjective 重(おも)い/重たい (heavy). Its antonym is 軽(かる)い (light). As well as when something weighs a lot, like 重い荷物(にもつ) (heavy baggage), 重い can also express when something requires a lot of power or time, as in: 自転車(じてんしゃ)のペダルが重い (My bike’s pedals are heavy (hard to turn)); パソコンが急(きゅう)に重くなった (My PC has suddenly become slow). It can also mean “serious” or “great” when used with nouns like 責任(responsibility), 病気(びょうき, disease), 話題(わだい, topic of conversation), 気分(きぶん, feeling), etc. 重々(おもおも)しい(solemn) is an i-adjective derived from 重い. It’s an abstract word that is used as in 重々しい口調(くちょう) (a solemn way of speaking), or as in the following example: 議長(ぎちょう)は重々しく開会(かいかい)宣言(せんげん)をした (The chair solemnly declared the conference open). Its antonym is 軽々(かるがる) しい (lightly), and here is an example: 彼(かれ)が犯人(はんにん) かもしれないなんて、そんなことを軽々しく言(い)うものではない (You shouldn’t say something like “He might be a criminal” so lightly).

Situation 2: At the office, as Ms. Gray is carrying baggage, her colleague Mr. Mita appears.

グレイ: あ、いいところに来た! この荷物、会議室に運ぶの、手伝って。

三田: いいよ。うっ、重たいなあ!

Gray: A, ii tokoro ni kita! Kono nimotsu, kaigishitsu ni hakobu no, tetsudatte.

Mita: Ii yo. U’, omotai nā!

Gray: Ah, good timing! Please help carry this stuff to the conference room.

Mita: OK. Wow, it’s heavy!

In Situation 2, Mr. Mita could say 重い instead of 重たい, another word that means “heavy.” 重たい is more colloquial and expresses the speaker’s physical feeling of heaviness. This means it can’t be used in rhetorical or abstract expressions, such as in Situation 1.

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. and Mrs. Shiba are walking. Mr. Shiba has a big bag and his wife is carrying their sleeping son.

夫: 重そうだね。僕(ぼく)が抱(だ)っこしようか?

妻: 眠(ねむ)っちゃうと、よけい重たくて…。でも、そっち の荷物も重いでしょ。大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)、がんばるから。

夫: 早苗(さなえ)はもともとやせているのに、いつのまにそんなに強(つよ)くなったんだろう。

妻: 腕(うで)も脚(あし)も、子育(こそだ)てしているうちに、どんどん太(ふと)くなっちゃって。

夫: やっぱり、「母(はは)は強し」だよなあ。

妻: みんな当(あ)たり前(まえ)のように親(おや)になってしまうけど、実際(じっさい)に自分(じぶん)がなってみると、責任(せきにん)も重いし、一時(いっとき)も気(き)が抜(ぬ)けないし。これは、世界(せかい)で 一番(いちばん)大変(たいへん)な仕事(しごと)だわ。

夫: 僕もそう思(おも)う。だけど、この一番大変な時期(じき)が終(お)わると、あの頃(ころ)は幸(しあわ)せだったって、みんな言うんだ。

妻: そう、そう。今(いま)が幸せだということを、この腕で重く受(う)け止(と)めているわ。

夫: 重たいよね? やっぱり僕が抱っこしよう。

Husband: He looks heavy. Shall I carry him?

Wife: When he falls asleep, he gets heavier. But your baggage is heavy too. Don’t worry, I’ll manage.

Husband: Although you’re so lean, Sanae, you’ve become so strong without me even noticing.

Wife: My arms and legs have grown bigger taking care of our baby.

Husband: It’s like they say, “Mother is strong.”

Wife: We all get to be parents in due course, but when I actually became one, I felt a heavy responsibility that I couldn’t escape even for a moment. This is the hardest job in the world.

Husband: I think so too. But when this hardest time is over, everyone says they were happy in those days.

Wife: Yes, that’s right. With this heavy arm, I accept that I am happy now.

Husband: He is heavy, isn’t he? OK, let me carry him.