What is Shoganai

My Mother recently sent me a page copied from a book she read and it contained the fantastic expression below.

“well-informed futility syndrome”

This is from a book by Sandra Steingraber

Here in Japan there is a well used and classic phrase shoganai. I think it is generally translated as, “it can’t be helped,” but when I read about “well informed futility” I realized that shoganai is just the surface word that refers to this syndrome in many cases.

Japanese people use shoganai a lot, in all kinds of situations, including the recent Earthquake and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. It is a great word that forgives pretty much everything and takes the blame off anyone or anything. So you hear people throwing it around a lot. Unfortunately, in some cases it also stops people from taking positive action when it is most needed. A massive earthquake and the ensuing cleanup is understandably shoganai, but a preventable nuclear disaster and bad decisions by politicians should never be considered to be shoganai, in my opinion.

The word しょうが無い or shoganai originated from the word 仕様が無い which is read shiyouganai. The original meaning is ‘It Can’t Be Helped.’

A quick Google search even turned up a few related sites. I found this quote on Shoganaijapan

The Japanese phrase shiyouganai is more commonly spoken as shoganai and is composed of the word shiyou meaning “way; means” and nai meaning “not; no”. This is a common expression that is used when there is nothing that can be done about something and that one should just accept what is.

And another blog that talks about “The Power of Shoganai”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s