Meaning of あさっての方向 "Asatte no houkou"


I just heard something like:

Kono hanashi ga asatte no houkou ni mukatteimasu

It was used when one of conversation partners said something off topic or loosely tied to it. What does あさっての方向 (asatte no houkou) mean in general and in this case? I tried Tangorin for explanation but they had only あさって (asatte) and 方向 (houkou) separately.


Posted 2014-10-22T10:55:14.823

Reputation: 237



This is a variation on an idiom, あさっての方を向く, which means you're focusing on the wrong thing or failing to notice what you should. The key to the idiom is あさって. Literally, it comes from the idea that you're focusing on the day after tomorrow when you should be paying attention to tomorrow!

The idiom, though, is now more general than that, and it can be used without a verb like 向く. In fact, the only strictly necessary part of the idiom is あさって itself!

Phrases like あさっての方向 mean something like "the wrong way (without realizing)", and that "way" can be either literal or figurative. If it's literal, it could be used in phrases meaning going the wrong way, looking the wrong way, or aiming something the wrong way. If it's figurative, it could mean missing the point, talking about the wrong subject, or just failing to notice something. It can even mean feigning ignorance if you're doing it on purpose―close to the English phrase "looking the other way".

To figure out the exact meaning, you'll have to pay attention to context. In your example, it looks like the basic figurative use:


In this case, I think your explanation was pretty good―they were saying something "off-topic", right? They were focusing on the wrong thing (figuratively on あさって, not on あした, the thing they should have been focusing on). The speaker was pointing that out. Depending on context, a phrase like "That's besides the point" or "You're barking up the wrong tree" could be appropriate as a translation.

For reference, here is the definition from the 明鏡ことわざ成句使い方事典:



Posted 2014-10-22T10:55:14.823

Reputation: 42 628

Does that book say anything about the etymology? "You can only predict what happens tomorrow at most" is the underlying concept of this expression? – naruto – 2014-10-22T14:52:57.177

@naruto It just says あしたに目を向けるべきなのに、あさっての方を見ている意からいう。 – snailcar – 2014-10-22T15:03:21.390

Thank you, it helps a lot. I was not sure how to understand this idiom, because "あしたの方向" usually doesn't mean "the correct way". – naruto – 2014-10-22T15:33:43.510

Great, that was very informative and thorough answer. – Kitet – 2014-10-22T16:52:17.957