The shoganai: meaning

The translation of this Japanese word Shoganai means “there is no choice” or “nothing can be done about it.” The Shoganai expression, in addition to being a word. Is also a way of looking at life. From a Western perspective, it can give the impression that this is conformism. However, the Japanese mentality is very different from the Western one in many things, and Shoganai is a good example of this.

On the other hand, it indicates cultural norms over which you have little control. This notion of suffering is partly derived from shikata ga nai: failure to follow cultural norms and social conventions lead to a life of few options, but endurance in suffering.


Shoganai: How to interpret it?

The phrase can be interpreted with certain negative connotations, since some may perceive the lack of reaction to adversity as complacency or conformism, both with social and political forces.

However, Shoganai is a Japanese expression that is difficult to translate. At least, if you want to translate with its full meaning, since, although it is true that in our language we have words or expressions that can convey the idea behind the Shoganai with some closeness, the reality is that it is of one of those expressions of the Japanese language that does not have a faithful translation into another language.

The Japanese are adept at accepting life as it is presented to them, and they use a word called Shoganai to describe this concept. But Shoganai is not just a word, it is a philosophy of life.

The literal meaning of Shoganai is “that cannot be helped”, however, it does not hint at despair or discouragement. It means accepting that something is out of your control. It encourages people to realize that it was not their fault and to move on without remorse.

Uses of the phrase

The phrase has been used by many Western writers to describe the ability of the Japanese to maintain dignity in the face of inevitable tragedy or injustice, especially when circumstances are beyond their control.

Historically, it has been applied to situations in which masses of Japanese people as a whole have been made to endure, including the Allied occupation of Japan and the internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians.

Thus, during the first press conference given by Emperor Shōwa, in Tokyo in 1975, he was asked what he thought of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima, he replied: “It is very regrettable that nuclear bombs were dropped, and I feel sorry for the citizens of Hiroshima, but “it couldn’t be helped” because it happened in wartime. “

Do not worry

Saying Shoganai does not mean conforming to what you have, but accepting it if you have no choice. Behind this expression is the thought that, in life, there are things that depend on us and things that do not.

The things that depend on us, those that we can solve, will not be a problem, since we can influence them with our actions, so it is not worth worrying about them. Likewise, with respect to the things that we cannot control, those things that happen accidentally and that are beyond our control, are things that we cannot influence.

Consequently, worrying about them, or simply devoting our attention to them, is a waste of useful time, as well as a counterproductive action, because it will generate a negative feeling in us. For this reason, nothing good comes from worrying about what has no solution

Shoganai: Japanese way of thinking

The Japanese mind-set is not conformist, but practical and full of wisdom. They prefer to focus on what does have a remedy and avoid wasting time and energy on what we cannot change. In this way, we avoid suffering excessively and unnecessarily, at the same time that we can take advantage of our full potential in things that will make us happy and that do depend entirely on our actions and attitudes.

This word has to do with the impermanence of things. It is impossible to have control of everything that happens and when something goes wrong: Shoganai. that is to say: let it go and move on.

In a literal translation it could mean: “there is nothing to do about it.” It may sound negative as letting go of having nothing to do can seem insensitive, compassionate, or negligent. But like all philosophy, it must be applied and carried out in the best way and without discouragement.

Moving Forward

So instead of complaining, the Japanese use Shoganai to keep going. It was used a lot in natural disasters when people lost everything. It was a way to continue and have strength in the face of tragedy.

We are certainly faced with a practical mind-set. It is better to focus on what can be solved than on the inevitable. A great way to manage your energies and channel them into what they are worth. The possibility of suffering is also reduced.

The Japanese are aware that there is suffering and injustice in life. When it cannot be changed or avoided, it is better to accept it. The less energy we waste on the inevitable, the more we have for the avoidable. For example, if a dangerous storm forces us to delay the plane we are going to take: Shoganai.

Japanese Culture

All this makes us think a bit, in all the time we lose in wanting to change the things that we cannot, and we suffer tirelessly in it.

Time is something that once lost cannot be recovered. How much time would we have saved in our lives, just by accepting things and moving on?

Perhaps that lost time, we could have invested in something useful, that would have brought us something beneficial. But sadly it is not in our culture.

We want to be in control of our entire life, from the first to the last day, but unfortunately, this is not the case.

In short, to conclude, I can say that the next time something happens in our lives, where we are not in control, well …Shoganai.