AIUEO – Japanese Learning Blog -そ – そうだ – Souda

In this blog – Matsumoto Sensei teaches us the meaning behind one of Japan’s longest running advertising Campaigns.

Posted by on June 1, 2018 – AEIOU - Staff / Teachers Blog

「そうだ 京都、行こう。」”Sou da Kyoto, ikou.”

(I know, Kyoto, let’s go there.)


This sentence is the copy for a famous advertisement promoting tourism to Kyoto by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (High Speed Bullet Train). (See an example of the advertisement above.) This same slogan and campaign has been running continuously since 1993.

Each year, before the season of cherry blossoms in Spring or Autumn leaves in Autumn, beautiful footage of the scenery in Kyoto is broadcast as a television commercial with a song called “My Favorite Things” as the ば. and large posters with the slogan are displayed at JR stations.

So this is one famous example of Sou da.
But how can we use the phrase sou da in daily communication.

“そうだ Sou da (I know).”

The “sou da” that everyone usually learns at the beginner level could be –

  1. (looking at the sky) 「雨が降りそうだ。」 “Ame ga furisou da.” (It seems like it’s about to rain.)
  2. (listening to the weather report) 「雨が降るそうだ。」”Ame ga furu sou da.” (Apparently it’s going to rain.) …And so on.

Unfortunately, the “sou da” in “Sou da Kyoto, ikou.” is neither of these.

This “Sou da” is used when a good idea pops up in your head. It is used when emphasizing something.
(“Sou da” turns up nothing in the dictionary.)

Examples of そうだ

Sou Da used in Sentences

おなかがすいたなぁ。……そうだ! 先週買ったカップラーメンを食べよう。
“Onaka ga suita na. … Sou da! Senshuu katta kappu ra-men wo tabeyou.”
(I’m so hungry. …I know! I’ll eat the cup ramen I bought last week.)

この日本語の宿題、難しいなぁ。どうしよう。……そうだ! いっしょにアルバイトをしている木村さんに手伝ってもらおう。
“Kono nihongo no shukudai, muzukashii naa. Doushiyou. …Sou da! Issho ni arubaito wo shiteiru Kimura-san ni tetsudatte moraou.”
(This Japanese homework is so difficult. What should I do? … I know! I’ll get Mr. Kimura, who I work part time with, to help me.)

そうだ 京都、行こう。」 is a short line of text that consists of only ten characters, even with a comma and period. However, I imagine that many factors must have been taken into account before this slogan was decided on.

For example, this slogan is neither

「そうだ、京都行こう。」 (I know, let’s go to Kyoto.)
「そうだ! 京都行こう!」(I know! Let’s go to Kyoto!).

When written horizontally, there is a little half-width space character in between 『そうだ』”Sou da” and 『京都』 “Kyoto.” Also, Kyoto is in the middle. It is then followed by a comma and 『行こう』”Ikou” (Let’s go).

◎ 「そうだ 京都、行こう。」”Sou da Kyoto, ikou.” (I know, Kyoto, let’s go there.)
⇒ Emphasizes on thinking of “Kyoto.”

△ 「そうだ、京都行こう。」 (I know, let’s go to Kyoto.)
⇒ Emphasizes on thinking of “going to Kyoto.”

By writing it like this, I think they wanted to leave a stronger impression of only “Kyoto” in the reader’s mind.

Even when written vertically, it is split into three lines, with “Kyoto” in the middle. As you can see in the example below.


Thus, there are times when Japanese is written not just with emphasis placed on word choice, but also while thinking about how the reader would feel when reading the text.

For example, in passages written in novels, the impression left on the reader changes depending on whether the same word is written in Kanji, Katakana or Hiragana.

(Example … “Hito” (Person): 『人』 『ヒト』 『ひと』)
While Japanese is difficult, don’t you think it’s interesting…?

About the Author: Mr. Matsumoto, was a junior high school Japanese teacher for 23 years before joining Coto Japanese Academy. Therefore, he is a Japanese language pro. He currently teaches Coto’s Intensive Courses (intermediate and advanced), Business Courses and the Part Time N1 grammar and reading classes. He is also involved in developing teaching materials at Coto.

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