Shikata ga nai

Shikata ga nai (仕方がない) is a Japanese phrase and cultural concept. The phrase means "it cannot be helped"[1] or "nothing can be done about it".[2] Shikata ga nai implies a kind of hard work which is defined by Japanese culture.

Shikata Ga Nai carved as part of a public monument in Japantown at San Jose, California

If something happens which is beyond someone's ability to control or affect, a conventional Japanese reaction is to say "shikata ga nai".[3] With this phrase, someone recognizes that a problem exists and then gets on with doing what can be done.[4]


The phrase Shoganai (しょうがない, Shō ga nai) is another way to say that it's useless to try to do something.[5]

After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, shoganai was one of the most commonly heard expressions.[6]

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  1. Murphy, "Memories of Minidoka: Japanese-Americans revisit southern Idaho's internment camp," Boise Weekly. May 5, 2005; "Shikata ga nai," Time, October 8, 1945; retrieved 2012-10-4.
  2. Chamberlain, Basil Hall. (1889). A handbook of colloquial Japanese, p. 5.
  3. "Quake response showcases Japan's resilient spirit," MPRNews (Minnestoa Public Radio). March 15, 2011; retrieved 2012-10-4.
  4. Hooper, Rowan. "TM bolsters notion of a Japanese mind-set over mortality," Japan Times. June 9, 2005; retrieved 2012-10-4.
  5. Renshaw, Jean R. (1999). Kimono in the Boardroom: The Invisible Evolution of Japanese Women Managers, p. 198; New Mexico Quarterly, Vol. 36, p. 182; excerpt, "The people of Hiroshima experienced a disastrous event for which there was no precedent. New words and attitudes were born in them — shogonai (it's useless to try; the shrug of despair) ..."; retrieved 2012-10-4.
  6. "U.S. donations not rushing to Japan," 11Alive News (US). March 17, 2011; excerpt, "Devin Stewart, a senior director at the Japan Society in New York City, said, "Suffering and persevering is a type of virtue in Japan ... the ability to persevere and remain calm under difficult situations. Among the most commonly heard expressions there, are gaman, to persevere or tough it out; gambaru, to do your best, to be strong; and shoganai (skitkata ga nai), it cannot be helped, which expresses a sense of fatalism ...."

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