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Advanced Japanese Lesson:手塩にかける







Salt is an essential flavoring for cooking. Not only has it been used to make food delicious since ancient times, but has also been taken in as having “holy powers” and is used to ward of evil, cure illness, as well as for beauty purposes.

This time around, I would like to introduce idioms that contain the word “salt.”
Have you ever heard of the expression teshio ni kakeru, which literally means “to place the table salt ”?

It means “to raise somebody with care from a time when they don’t know anything.” You can say “the teshio ni kaketa daughter married off” or “the daughter that I took care of and raised married off.”

Now, teshio is the small amount of table salt on the dining table, and it’s said it was placed there so that you can adjust the flavor of your own food. From here, it came about to have the meaning of “to take care of by yourself.”

The word “table salt” can be found in literature from the Muromachi period and the expression came from the custom of brushing away any dirtiness off the table and was kept mounted on a small plate. Teshionikakeru can be seen from the Edo period, but there’s also another theory.

One of those theories comes from making the pickle nukamiso, since the rice bran paste ferments fast and becomes sour, you put a small handful of salt and rice bran and you knead it together everyday, and the idea of how maintenance is important to make delicious pickles. Another theory is it comes from the idea that when purifying salt from the ocean water, the method in which you boil for a whole two days takes a lot of time and effort.

In this way, words are easily derived from everyday things around us.