With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have taken a step back to reevaluate who we are and what we want to do in life. By asking ourselves probing questions like “What is worth my time and energy, and what isn’t?” or “Are my daily routines reflective of my long-term goals?” and countless others, we can learn a lot about who we are and, more importantly, who we want to be. Whether you do this in the form of journaling or quiet meditation, in Japanese it’s called jimonjitou. 

Jimonjitou (自問自答)

Meaning: Answering one’s own question, soliloquizing, talking to oneself, answering to monologue, wondering to oneself, self-reflection, self-examination, listen to your heart, self-inquiry

 Literal translation and kanji breakdown: Jimonjitou breaks up into a beautifully literal expression, making it easy to visualize:自 (self-),  問 (question), 自 (self-) 答 (answer). This form of self-question, self-answer — or self-inquiry in short — eventually leads to self-awareness and hopefully, becoming a better person.

Jimonjitou: In Practice

In lieu of a deep dive into the expression’s background, let’s work on some emotional intelligence and self-inquiry in Japanese instead. 

私の日常生活は、長期的な目標を反映しているだろうか。Watashi no nichijou seikatsu wa, choukitekina mokuhyou wo hanei shiteru darouka. Do my daily routines reflect my long-term goals?

難しい仕事だ。どうすれば自分ができるようになるだろうか?Muzukashii shigoto da. Dou sureba jibun ga dekiru you ni naru darou ka. This work is difficult. What should I do to ensure I can do it?

5年後、10年後の自分は何をしたいのだろうか?なぜ、そしてそのためには何をしなければならないのか?Gonengo, junengo no jibun wan ani wo shitai no darou ka? Naze, soshite sono tame ni wa nani wo shinakereba naranai no ka? Where do I see myself in 5 or even 10 years? Why and what do I have to do get there?

Jimonjitou: Related Expressions

自己観察 Jikokansatsu Self-observation, self-reflection

一人芝居 Hitorishibai One-person show, monologue, performing solo

自分自身 Jibunjishin Onself, myself

目標 Mokuhyou Goal, target, objective

目標設定 Mokuhyou-settei Goal setting

目標達成 Mokuhyou-tassei goal achievement

Using “jimonjitou” in a sentence

Browse any life hacker or business site in Japanese and jimonjitou will undoubtedly crop up at some point. It’s often used as a tool to improve both work performance and general self-awareness.

これで本当に良いのか、心の中で何度も自問自答を繰り返した。Kore de honto ni yoi no ka, kokoro no naka de nandomo jimonjitou wo kurikaeshita. I asked myself over and over again if this was really the right thing to do.

自分らしく生きているどうか自問自答している。Jibunrashiku ikiteru douka jimonjitou shiteiru. I wonder if the life I’m living is true to who I am. 

目標を達成するために自問自答した。Mokuhyou wo tassei suru tame ni jimonjitou shita. I took some time to think about how to achieve my goals.

どうしたら仕事がうまく回るか、自問自答した。Doushitara shigoto ga umaku mawaru ka, jimonjitou shita. I reflected on how to make my work go smoothly.

Want more? Follow our weekly Yojijukugo Japanese Idiom series, published every Friday. Learn the meaning of “mikkatenka” here, “yujufudan” here and “taifu-ikka” here.