Missing Person Translation

Hi there,

I recently picked up a horror game on steam called 行方不明. The steam name is “Missing Children” and I was pretty sure that wasn’t the actual translation as I knew all of the kanji and none of them had any reference to children. So I went to good ol Wanikani and double checked the kanji and didn’t see anything relating to this. After a couple translations and checking “missing” and “missing person” I found that these kanji mean missing, as in abducted, but no reference to the readings being ”ゆくえふめい。” So for the question, I was wondering where the readings for 行 and 方 came from leading to “missing/abducted” as they are not under either kanji.
Is this just a one off very specific reading? Or just a very unused reading Wanikani decided not to include in the readings for these kanji? Or something else?

PS. From Jisho, i see 行方 is a common word meaning “whereabouts” so the word makes sense as whole with 不明 being unknown, so just wondering specifically why the reading is the way it is.

ゆく is an alternative pronunciation of いく which uses the 行く kanji. The え reading might be related to the へ particle, but that’s just speculation.

Remember that kanji exist to represent words - words do not conform to kanji. There are many examples of words that don’t derive their pronunciation from kanji readings, like 今日, 今朝, 明日, or use the readings but not the meaning like in 寿司, and so on. It’s just part of the language.

Edit: Also I wanted to mention that just because 行方不明 doesn’t contain any kanji that mean “children” doesn’t mean that “missing children” isn’t an acceptable or appropriate translation in the right context. If the people missing are children in the story, it makes sense to translate it that way.


Yeah, I’m pretty sure the creators of this game, and a few other similar games, are native Japanese speakers, so I wasn’t really questioning the translation, it was just what lead me down the path to looking for the pronunciation of the title, and makes sense after learning what the title means. Also, these games (a set of a few games by publisher, Chilla’s Art, are pretty good and have Japanese voice acting and Japanese written on posters in the world, so good for learning) are quite good, as long as you can handle a bit of horror.

You already know many words that were created like this. There was a Japanese word that existed before kanji, and it was then assigned to those kanji as a pair.

Basically the two kanji are taken for their meaning of 行った方向 (the direction gone).

The word ゆくえ was a word that meant that before kanji were used. They paired ゆくえ with 行方 and that’s how the reading came to be.

The same kind of process was used in words like 今日 (きょう) and 大人 (おとな).

Hopefully that makes it feel a little less mysterious, to see that you already know others in the same category.

This is called jukujikun, by the way.


I thought I’d just mention that ゆく is a valid reading if 行く, much like よい is a valid reading of 良い.

In both these cases it does sound, I dunno, a bit more formal and perhaps old-timey, but you’ll come across it a lot in song lyrics to give but one example.

Just off the top of my head there’s the movie いま、会いにゆきます and the opening to Knights of Sidonia begins with the phrase 誰が為に我は行く (たがためにわれはゆく)

EDIT: another example: the opening to Hunter x Hunter contains the line 君は目覚めて行く which is sung きみはめざめてゆく, despite the fact that the lyrics at the bottom read いく!

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