Saturday, August 29, 2015

親孝行 (おやこうこう, oyakoukou)

親孝行 (おやこうこう, oyakoukou) is one of the terms that comes up fairly often in class, whenever people are talking about family, their parents, their childhood, growing into adulthood. . .When my students look up this word on their electronic dictionaries, the most frequent definition is "filial piety."  When I try to recall situations, or times, in which I've heard anyone ever mention this English phrase, I draw a blank.  So I never advise my students to use the phrase in conversation; instead, I suggest that a clearer (albeit stiff-sounding) option might be "dutiful son/daughter/child."  More naturally, one might simply call an oyakoukou a good son/daughter/child.

The term can be used as a suru verb, e.g. 親孝行したい for "I want to be a good son/daughter,"  "I want to do right by my parents," etc.  To 親孝行する can take many forms.  In childhood, perhaps helping around the house and keeping up with school.  In adult years, it could mean taking your parents on trips or buying them nice things for the home.  Later on in life, it might mean taking care of them in their twilight years.  Beautifully, it can mean whatever each of us thinks it means to be thankful and appreciative to our parents (or to whomever raised us and cared for us).  One of my friends once told me that her parents told her to simply live a happy and healthy life, and that by doing so she would be an 親孝行.

That so many of my students have asked me about this term reminds me of the importance of this aspect in Japanese (and generally in Asian) culture.  I don't mean that only children in Asian cultures are good to their parents; I don't mean that Asian children are any better to their parents than people in other parts of the world.  I imagine it depends on the person, every time.  But it's nice that a word exists to embody this concept, in Japanese or in any other language

Recently, Back to the Future was on TV, and I was reminded of a terrific example for what it means to be a good child to your parent.  I supposed this will only make sense if you've seen the movie; in this clip, after the kiss, when George (Crispin Glover) waves to Marty (Michael J. Fox), I always feel like "Marty本当に親孝行しました!"  What better way could a son do right by his father than to help him become a better man?  God, I love it when a movie gets the moment right.

This scene's got nothing to do with  親孝行, but it's in the movie and I really like it. . .


icelava said...

Filial piety - a common phrase well understood by us, because our culture actively emphasizes it.

Wesley H.W. Tong said...

うん! It's an admirable trait. May it continue in future generations!

TKG, 卵かけご飯 (たまごかけごはん)

卵( tamago ) = egg ご飯 ( gohan ) = rice Kake (かけ, full form かける) means you're putting or pouring egg onto rice, preferably hot steaming...