Language | WELL SAID

After learning how to use 'irai' properly, you'll be able to look back with confidence

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Yūshi-irai hatsu no funka to iu koto desu. (It was the first eruption in recorded history.)

Situation 1: An announcer is reading news about the explosion of a volcano on TV.

アナウンサー:5日、南太平洋のカドバー島で大規模な火山噴火がありました。噴火したのはカドバー島中央部に位置する標高365メートルの山で、有史以来初の噴火ということです。

Anaunsā: Itsuka, minami-taiheiyō no Kadobā-tō de daikibona kazan-funka ga arimashita. Funka shita no wa Kadobā-tō chūōbu ni ichi suru hyōkō sanbyakurokujūgo mētoru no yama de, yūshi-irai hatsu no funka to iu koto desu.

Announcer: There was a large volcanic eruption on Kadovar Island in the South Pacific Ocean on the 5th. The eruption occurred from a 365-meter mountain located in the center of the island. It is said to be the first eruption in recorded history.

The grammatical structure X以来(いらい) can mean since “X” or after “X.” In Situation 1, X is replaced with the noun 有史 (ゆうし, recorded in history) and so 有史以来 translates as “since historical records began” or “since we started keeping historical records.” Therefore, the noun X would be something that relates to a point in time such as 建国(けんこく, the founding of a nation), 出産(しゅっさん, giving birth) and so on.

金融(きんゆう)関連(かんれん)の人々(ひとびと)はバブル以来の株価(かぶか)上昇(じょうしょう)に浮(う)かれているのではないだろうか。 (Those engaged in finance might be going on a spree with stock prices rising for the first time since the economic bubble.)

Situation 2: Mr. Sere notices Mr. Mita looks glum and asks him what’s wrong. Mr. Mita responds.

三田: この間の、大学のホームカミングで、ぼくたちの 隣のグループにいた女性、覚えてる?あの人を見て 以来、他のどんなことも考えられなくなってしまって…。

Mita: Kono aida no, daigaku no hōmukamingu de, boku-tachi no tonari no gurūpu ni ita josei, oboeteru? Ano hito o mite-irai, hoka no donna koto mo kangaerarenaku natte-shimatte ….

Mita: At that university Homecoming the other day, do you remember the woman who was with the group next to ours? Ever since I saw that person, I haven’t been able to think of anything else.

When X is a verb or verb phrase in the X以来 pattern, the verb is used in its te-form, just like with Mr. Mita’s 見(み)て以来 (since I saw her) in Situation 2. Other examples include:

母親(ははおや)を亡(な)くして以来、あの子(こ)は一言(ひとこと)もしゃべらなくなった。 (Since her mother passed away, she hasn’t uttered a word.)

50年前(ごじゅうねんまえ)に結婚(けっこん)して以来、一度(いちど)もけんかしたことがない。 (Ever since we got married 50 years ago, we haven’t had a single fight.)

Bonus Dialogue: While Mr. Sere is walking down the street he runs into Mr. Tamura, a friend from his university days.

田村: あれっ、セレくん!?

セレ: あ、田村(たむら)くん!久(ひさ)しぶりだなあ。卒業(そつぎょう)以来だね。

田村: ぼくは商社(しょうしゃ)に入(はい)ってすぐ中東(ちゅうとう)に行(い)っちゃったから。こんな所(ところ)でセレくんに会(あ)えるなんて、今日(きょう)はいい日(ひ)だなあ。セレくんは、どうしていたの?

セレ: ぼくも、就職(しゅうしょく)以来ずっと日本(にほん)と海外(かいがい)を行ったり来(き)たりだよ。本当(ほんとう)に久しぶりだね!ところで田村くん、同(おな)じゼミの石井(いしい)さんと付(つ)き合(あ)っていたよね?

田村: うん。だけど海外勤務(きんむ)になってからメールもとだえがちになって、そのうちに音信不通(おんしんふつう)になっちゃって…。

セレ: それが、この間(あいだ)、大学(だいがく)のホームカミングデーに行ったら、石井さんが来ていて、転職(てんしょく)したり引(ひ)っ越(こ)ししたりしているうちに田村くんと音信不通になってしまったって残念(ざんねん)がっていたよ。名刺(めいし)をもらったから、連絡先(れんらくさき)、わかるよ。

田村: うわあ!さっそく連絡(れんらく)してみるよ。今日は本当にいい日だ。もしかしたら、何(なに)かの記念日(きねんび)になるかもしれないなあ。

Tamura: Eh, Sere!?

Sere: Oh, Tamura! Long time no see. Since grad, right?

Tamura: Yeah, I joined a trading company and soon went to the Middle East. Meeting you in a place like this, wow! What a great day. How’ve you been?

Sere: Me too, since getting a job I’ve been back and forth to Japan from abroad. It really has been a long time (no see)! By the way Tamura, you were seeing Ms. Ishii from the same seminar class, weren’t you?

Tamura: Yes. But, since I was transferred abroad, we quit emailing so often and then she totally ghosted me.

Sere: Actually, the other day when I went to our university’s Homecoming Day, Ms. Ishii also came and said while she was changing jobs and moving she ghosted you and it was too bad. I got her business card so I know her contact information.

Tamura: Oh wow! I’ll contact her immediately. Honestly it’s such a good day. Maybe by some chance it’ll become like an anniversary of sorts.