J-WOTD: 二足のわらじを履く

にそくのわらじをはく (nisokuno waraji wo haku)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

Two pairs of WarajiTo “Have one’s fingers in two pies“, or to “have the best of both worlds“. (Literally: To “Wear two pairs of straw sandles” – waraji being the straw sandles, pictured here.)

There are situations everyday where we would like to do two things at once, or be in two places at the same time. Sometimes this seems impossible right? As hard as having the best things from two worlds even? That’s how we English speakers express the concept, which seems a little to exaggerated when you think about it. Well, the Japanese have a more earthly approach, and think that the ideal analogy for having your fingers in two pies is, wearing two pairs of straw sandles at the same time. We have all used best of both worlds and its equivalents in English, and now its time to start in Japanese!

This phrase is used in a positive meaning. For example (the actual example where I heard this phrase being used), a man at my work is a head of marketing department, a typical Tokyo white-collar salaryman job description. However, he also has a farm in Northern Hyogo where his hometown is. He often returns there on weekends to plant his rice, and several times during the year to check it constantly and finally do the harvest. When speaking about this to another colleague, he said, 「おれにはできないなぁ、二足のわらじを履いてるよね」(There is no way I could do what he does, he has the best of both worlds).

Leave a comment, and tell us your「二足のわらじを履く」story!

3 thoughts on “J-WOTD: 二足のわらじを履く”

  1. Hi John, yes, you are right. “soku” is the counter for pairs (the kanji is leg), so “2 soku” means two pairs. Thanks for clarifying.

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