Language | WELL SAID

'Uchi' is where the heart is

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Uchi wa san-nin kazoku dakara, konna ni ōkina uchi wa hitsuyō nai desho. (Our family (consists of) three people, so this large a house wouldn’t be necessary, right?)

Situation 1: Mr. and Mrs. Shiba are taking a walk in their neighborhood and come upon a large house.

夫: こんな立派なうちに住めるなんて、すごいなあ。

妻: うちは3人家族だから、こんなに大きなうちは必要ないでしょ。

Otto: Konna rippana uchi ni sumeru nante, sugoi nā.

Tsuma: Uchi wa san-nin kazoku dakara, konna ni ōkina uchi wa hitsuyō nai desho.

Husband: Wouldn’t it be great to live in such a splendid house?

Wife: We’re a three-person family, so this large a house wouldn’t be necessary, right?

The word うち has many meanings. In Situation 1 it is used to mean house or home. Mr. Shiba’s use of the word refers simply to a building someone lives in, like 家 (いえ) does, but it can have a more personal nuance as well:

近所(きんじょ)に変(へん)なうちが建(た)った。 (A strange house was built in my neighborhood.)

今度(こんど)うちに遊(あそ)びに来(き)て。 (Next time, come hang out at my place.)

明日(あした)は午前中(ごぜんちゅう)はうちにいます。 (I’ll be home all morning tomorrow.)

The first time Mrs. Shiba uses うち she is referring to her family, specifically describing her family of three, 3人家族 (さんにんかぞく). In a similar way, うちの人(ひと) can mean one’s husband or family members in general:

留学(りゅうがく)するかどうかはうちの人に相談(そうだん)してから決(き)めます。 (I’ll decide whether to study abroad or not after discussing it with the rest of my family.)

Situation 2: Section chief Mr. Okubo and his client Mr. Suzuki are talking about their companies.

大久保: 人手不足が深刻ですね。

鈴木: ええ、うちのような中小企業は人材を集めるのに苦労しているんです。

Ōkubo: Hitode busoku ga shinkoku desu ne.

Suzuki: Ee, uchi no yōna chūshōkigyō wa jinzai o atsumeru noni kurō-shite iru-n desu.

Okubo: This labor shortage is severe.

Suzuki: Yeah, a small enterprise like ours is struggling to bring together capable people.

In addition to family, うち can express other groups you belong to, such as companies, schools and so on.

うちのテニスクラブは女性(じょせい)が多(おお)い。 (There are lots of women in our tennis club.)

When you speak with someone who is そと, or outside your group (people in other families or at other companies), you should use humble expressions to describe the actions of those in your own group, うち, even if that person has a higher position than you do:

「お母(かあ)さんはいらっしゃいますか。」 (“Is your mom home?”)

「母(はは)は今(いま)外出(がいしゅつ)しております。 (“She is out just now.”)

Bonus Dialogue: Continued from Situation 2.

鈴木(すずき): ところで、うちの新(あたら)しい部長(ぶちょう)がヤマニ部長にお会(あ)いしたいと申(もう)しております。いつごろがよろしいでしょうか。

大久保(おおくぼ): ヤマニは今週(こんしゅう)、出張(しゅっちょう)しておりますが、来週(らいしゅう)はずっと東京(とうきょう)におります。

鈴木: そうですか。では、日程(にってい)を調整(ちょうせい)したいと思(おも)うのですが。

大久保: 担当(たんとう)の者(もの)に話(はな)しておきます。

鈴木: ありがとうございます。話(はなし)はかわりますが、うちの社内(しゃない)では、SNSでの連絡(れんらく)が多くて、直接(ちょくせつ)話すのが苦手(にがて)という若(わか)い社員(しゃいん)が多いんですよ。

大久保: ああ、うちもそうです。会って、話さないとなかなか伝(つた)わらないと思うんですけどねえ。

鈴木: うちの息子(むすこ)は母親(ははおや)にラインで話しているんですよ。二人(ふたり)ともうちの中(なか)にいるというのに。

大久保: ああ、うちも同(おな)じようなものです。笑(わら)ってしまいますね。

Suzuki: By the way, our new division head would like to meet your company’s division head, Ms. Yamani. When would be good for her?

Okubo: She is away on a business trip this week. But, she’ll be in Tokyo all next week.

Suzuki: I see. Well, I’d like to coordinate our schedules.

Okubo: I’ll talk to the person in charge.

Suzuki: Thank you. Changing the subject for a minute, we use SNS for correspondence in our company and there are a lot of young employees who are not good at speaking (with others) directly.

Okubo: Ah, same with us, but I don’t think we can communicate well without meeting and speaking.

Suzuki: My son talks to his mother via Line. Even though they’re both in our house.

Okubo: Oh, it’s similar in my home. It makes me laugh.