Language | WELL SAID

There's nothing more important than learning how to distinguish between 'taisetsu' and 'jūyō'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Sore wa otōsan ga taisetsu ni shite-iru hon. (Your father cherishes that book.)

Situation 1: Takako asks her mother if she can look at her father’s book to help with her homework.

たか子: お母さん、この本を見てもいい? 宿題で調べなきゃならないの。

母 : あ、それはお父さんが大切にしている本だから、汚さないように気をつけてね。

Takako: Okāsan, kono hon o mite mo ii? Shukudai de shirabenakya naranai no.

Haha: A, sore wa otōsan ga taisetsu ni shite-iru hon dakara, yogosanai yō ni ki o tsukete ne.

Takako: Mom, can I have a look at this book? I have to use it to do research for my homework.

Mother: Oh, your father cherishes that book, so be careful not to get it dirty.

In Japanese, the idea of “importance” can be split into two different na-adjectives: 大切(たいせつ)な and 重要(じゅうよう)な. 大切な includes the nuance of being precious, valuable or sentimental, and is used mainly in conversation:

海外旅行(かいがいりょこう)に行(い)ったとき、パスポートは 命(いのち)の次(つぎ)に大切なものだ。 (When you go on an overseas trip, it’s your life and then your passport that are most important.)

この時計(とけい)は高(たか)いものではないが、両親(りょうしん)からもらった大切なものだ。 (This watch isn’t an expensive one, but I got it from my parents so it is sentimental.)

In adverbial form, 大切に can be translated as “carefully” and this idea can be made into a verb by adding suru, 大切にする:

図書館(としょかん)の本(ほん)は大切に扱(あつか)ってください。 (Please handle the books in the library carefully.)

お体(からだ)を大切にしてください。 (Please take care of yourself.)

Situation 2: Takako’s mother is having a meeting with her daughter’s junior high school teacher about her progress.

母: たか子はがんばっているんですけど。やっぱり結果が重要ですよね?

教師: いいえ、結果ではなく、途中でどれくらい努力をしたかが重要なんです。

Haha: Takako wa ganbatte-iru-n desu kedo. Yappari kekka ga jūyō desu yo ne?

Kyōshi: Iie, kekka dewa naku, tochū de dore kurai doryoku o shita ka ga jūyō nan desu.

Mother: Takako is doing her best (but). All the same, results are what’s important, right?

Teacher: No, it’s not the results, what’s important is how much effort she makes during the process.

重要な conveys importance but has the nuance of being significant or of high necessity. It tends to be used with more formal language, and has an element of objectivity. A 重要な人(ひと) means that a person has a special role, but a 大切な人 means that the person is considered to be very precious to someone subjectively and emotionally.

重要な問題(もんだい)から検討(けんとう)しましょう。 (Let’s examine things from [starting with] the most important problem.)

秘書(ひしょ)は社長(しゃちょう)の仕事(しごと)を支(ささ)える重要な人だ。 (The secretary is an important person who supports the president.)

Bonus Dialogue: Ms. Gray, Ms. Tamachi and Mr. Mita are having a farewell party for their colleague Mr. Kitano.

グレイ: これ、私(わたし)たちからの感謝(かんしゃ)の気持(きも)ちです。どうぞ。

北野(きたの): ありがとう。あ、使(つか)いやすそうなペンだね! 大切にするよ。

田町(たまち): 重要な役職(やくしょく)にいらしたのに、それをやめてNPOの仕事を始(はじ)めるんですね。

北野: いやあ、それはたいしたことじゃないよ。本当(ほんとう)にしたいことをするのが大切なんだって思ってね。社会(しゃかい)には深刻(しんこく)な問題があるんだから、それを解決(かいけつ)するのが重要だと思(おも)って。

グレイ: すばらしいですね。私もただ与(あた)えられた仕事をするんじゃなくて、自分(じぶん)にとって何(なに)が大切なのか、考(かんが)えなくちゃ。

三田 (みた):でも、自分や家族(かぞく)のためにお金(かね)を稼(かせ)ぐのも大切だよ。

北野: うん、それもそうだ。みんなも体を大切にして、 がんばってね。

Gray: This is a small token of our gratitude. Here you go.

Kitano: Thank you. Oh, it’s a pen that looks easy to use! I’ll cherish it.

Tamachi: You held an important position (here), but you’re quitting it to start a job at an NPO.

Kitano: Well, it’s not a big deal. Honestly, I think it’s important to do something you want to do. I think there are serious problems in our society, so it’s important to solve them.

Gray: That’s wonderful. I shouldn’t just be doing the work I’m given, but should take time to think about what is important to me.

Mita: But it is also important to earn money for ourselves and our families.

Kitano: Yeah, that’s true, too. Well, please take good care of yourselves, and do your best.