Regular Feature

Greetings from the Outskirts of Kyoto vol.22

INOUE Shōichi (Director-General)
July 29, 2022

When I was a young man, I frequently went to Brazil, a country whose official language is Portuguese. While staying there, I would often hear stories connected to the Portuguese language. This is one such story.

The Japanese express thanks with the word arigatō. The Portuguese expression for thanks is obrigado. And the Japanese arigatō has its roots in obrigado

Maybe you think I am joking. But while in Brazil I often heard that the origin of arigatō was obrigado. Some told me in all seriousness that obrigado entered the Japanese language thanks to the sixteenth century trade between Japan and Portugal.

The Japanese word arigatashi, the precursor of arigatō, was around long before any encounter with the Portuguese. There is a possibility, though, that arigatashi was overlain with obrigado and morphed into arigatō. In my advanced years, I now think that, to be agreeable, I should probably have acknowledged as much. But this was beyond the younger me.