The Three Kubari’s: Expressing Consideration for Others

I recently started studying for N2. Today, my Japanese coworker explained the three くばり’s to me. They’re all related to taking care of something or someone, and they sound similar, so let’s look at their differences. We can understand and remember them by recognizing the meaning of the first kanji in the word. And, because I just got a WACOM tablet, as a bonus you receive crude, crappy drawings! Please enjoy~.


配り (めくばり)

This one is pretty straight forward. (め) means “eye”. This means to keep watch of something or someone. For example, this is used to talk about how a parent watches over a child.

The next two are really similar in meaning. They roughly translate to “to be considerate” or “to be thoughtful” of others. What’s the difference?

配り (きくばり)

The first kanji, (き) has several meanings, but here the most appropriate meaning is “atmosphere” or “mood”. The connotation of this word is that you see a situation now and you are considerate in the moment. For example, if you see your coworker is struggling with a situation, you might step in and help them. In essence, you are reading the atmosphere of a situation and being considerate of it.

配り (こころくばり)

The first kanji in this one, (こころ) means “heart” or “mind”. [CULTURE NOTE: In Japan, the heart and mind are the same. Whereas in Western culture we often feel with our heart and think with our head, in Japanese culture thoughts and feelings both come from the heart.] The connotation of 心配りis that you are always considerate of a certain person. For example, you might have a very close friend, lover, or family member who you are always thinking about and being considerate of no matter what. That person is always in your heart.