It’s a new year and many of us have high hopes that 2022 will be at least marginally better than the dumpster fire that was 2021 (I know we said the same thing about 2020 too…) 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.

This article was updated in December 2021.