TOPTokyo LifeGuides & InsightsWeekly Japanese Idiom: “Shinki-itten” — A Fresh Start

Weekly Japanese Idiom: “Shinki-itten” — A Fresh Start

This week’s yojijukugo is all about turning over a new leaf

By Lisa Wallin

It’s a new year and many of us have high hopes that 2021 will be at least marginally better than the dumpster fire that was 2020. While turning the page on a calendar may seem like an arbitrary occasion to make life-changing decisions and goals, one can’t overlook the power of symbolic prompts. So let’s make the most of it and consider the New Year a chance to shinki-itten suru — make a fresh start — on our Japanese studies. 

Shinki-itten (心機一転)

Meaning: A fresh start, turning over a new leaf, changing one’s attitude, change one’s mind, making a clean sweep, a new beginning

Literal translation and kanji breakdown: Splitting shinki-itten into two kanji compounds makes this yojijukugo easier to digest. Shinki (心機) combines the words heart/mind and opportunity. Paired together, they mean a mental state or attitude. Meanwhile itten (一転), literally “one turn,” means a reversal, about-face or sudden transformation. 

Shinki-itten: The Origins

There are, sadly, no mysterious origin stories for this compound that we can find, outside of the clever combination of characters that very literally depict a change of heart.

Shinki-itten: Related Expressions

  • 気分転換 Kibuntenkan A change of pace, a mood change, mental break
  • 気分一新 Kibun-isshin A complete refreshing of one’s spirit or change in mood
  • 気を取り直す Ki wo torinaosu Pull oneself together, regain control of oneself
  • 気持ちを改める Kimochi wo aratameru Gain a change in perspective

Using “shinki-itten” in a sentence

Shinki-itten is often used for external changes like a new year, a new job or moving house that help create a new mindset. If you want to portray smaller changes that you can easily and quickly control — like taking a walk to get into the right headspace for a project — then kibuntenkan is a better choice. 

転職したので、心機一転、新たな気持ちで頑張ります!Tenshoku shita no de, shinki-itten, atarata no kimochi de ganbarimasu! Since I changed jobs, I feel like I can start afresh and I’ve decided to work really hard.

40歳になってから、心機一転して新しい趣味を見つけた。40 sai ni natte kara, shinki-itten shite, atarashii shumi wo mitsuketa. When I turned 40, I made a clean sweep of things and found a new hobby.

心機一転するため、新しい場所に引っ越した。Shinki-itten suru tame, atarashii basho ni hikkoshita. I moved to a new place to make a fresh start.

新年の抱負は、心機一転して、毎日運動することに決めた。Shinnen no houfu wa, shinki-itten shite, mainichi undou suru koto ni kimeta. My resolution for the New Year is to turn over a new leaf and start exercising every day.

Want more? Follow our weekly Yojijukugo Japanese Idiom series, published every Friday. Learn the meaning of “karotousen” here, “happoubijin” here and “shikuhakku” here.