What exactly is '義訓' used for?

I was listening to the song “Eden” by Monkey Majik and I noticed at the very end of the song (4:09 in that video) the lyrics go “ありがとう 永遠にふたりで”; however, instead of saying “永遠” as “えいえん” they say “とわ”. At first I just figured it was a second way of reading it, but I couldn’t find anything on it being read that way, which eventually lead me to come across 義訓. Is this just a poetic/stylistic feature that is used in songs or poems, etc. that artists use Anyways, I just thought this was a really interesting concept so if anyone knows anything about 義訓 and how/when it’s used I’d love to hear what you know.



義訓 (gikun) means “false reading”, it’s just a stylistic choice for when a writer wants a word to be pronounced differently than usual. You can pretty much just make up any random gikun, or you can convert an foreign word into a gikun [ex. taking 勇者 (hero) and making it so it’s ひいろ instead of ゆうしゃ as it normally would be], or you could take the reading of another word and give it to another kanji instead.

In this case, I assume it’s the third option and that they wanted the pronunciation of 永久 (とわ) but the kanji of 永遠 (えいえん) so they made a gikun for it.


Thanks for the answer! I guess to further the question is, but for what reason? Why is it used? Why would an author want to use a different reading than what’s normally used? Is it to help portray a certain message to the reader/listener? What’s the effect that the author gets out of using this feature? Like, metaphors are used to help compare something and help a reader or listener relate or to better understand something that they’re talking about.

It’s just that I’ve taken several English/writing courses in school that really focused on writing styles and what an author is trying to portray by using them, so my brain just thinks this way now.

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You’d have to look at any given example and analyze why an author chose to do it that way. Sometimes it’s just a practical way to introduce in-universe jargon, sometimes it’s poetic… There isn’t a one-size-fits-all explanation for all gikun.


It’s a case-by-case thing, some examples are more straight-forward (like the example I gave with 勇者 turning into ひいろ to resemble the word “hero”) and some are more abstract. This appears to be one of the abstract cases so any answer I can give would only be a guess/speculation and not absolute truth.

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Here are some examples that @Belthazar wrote about in another thread. I think as you read more you’ll just get to see more examples of how it’s used in text.


I’ve seen the exact same thing in 愛にできることはまだあるかい by RADWIMPS.

The lyrics are:

But it’s sung:

(2nd line of the first verse)

So it’s probably a musical trope for that particular 義訓.

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とわ seems to be a valid nanori, and is also a reading for 永久, which has a similar meaning.

my guess is that if this is a song, they wanted to say えいえん, but they needed a 2 mora word so they went for the two mora reading and used the kanji to make sure people know what they mean


I’d like a source for this translation. As far as I know as a Chinese speaker (and as far as I can see from 大辞林 kanji definitions for 義 in Japanese), almost every other meaning of the kanji 義 has something to do with that which is ‘meaningful’ or ‘just’, which can then be extended to its other meanings like ‘adopted’ (because you adopt someone as a family member on the basis of a certain ‘significance’ each of you holds for the other) and ‘prosthetic/artificial’ (because one’s limbs are as close as family, so it’s like they’re ‘adopted’). There is no meaning of 義 that comes close to ‘false’ aside from ‘prosthetic’, which I have just demonstrated cannot possibly be taken in the sense of ‘fake’ since the idea of replacing something intimately connected to someone is involved. I’d like to propose instead that 義訓 means ‘meaning reading’, which is much closer to how the readings used as 義訓 actually function, and also matches this definition from 大辞泉:

‘One of the ways in which kanji were used in ancient literature, especially in the Manyōshū. Things assigned readings based on the meanings of kanji and Sino-Japanese words. 暖(はる)」「寒(ふゆ)」「未通女(おとめ)」and the like.’

jisho says “reading of a kanji by meaning”, although that seems too vague to actually define anything :sweat_smile:

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Because it’s COOL.


Is this similar to how the writer of Imabi decided to read 今日 as Imabi?

I’m not exactly sure what you’d call reading 今日 as Imabi, but maybe gikun is broad enough to encompass it. Those readings do both just exist for those kanji already, so that kind of goes against typical way of creating gikun readings. It’s just that no word pronounced いまび exists.

Well, it still kinda lines up with what I said about 義 referring to ‘meaning’ rather than ‘false’. The other reason I doubt ‘false’ is involved is that there are other kanji that are more common when referring to the idea of something being ‘false’ or ‘makeshift’, like 仮 (false/provisional), 借 (borrow) or 偽 (fake), all of which have a clearer connection to the idea of something not being the ‘official’ or ‘proper’ form than 義. Finally, well… when used in connection with words and definitions, 義 turns up in phrases like 字義 and 意義, which clearly refer to ‘meaning’.

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yeah they’re clearly related (the jisho one might even be a poorly phrased translation). just saying that if you read the jisho definition without already knowing what 義訓 means, it’s not gonna help you. at all.

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I guess not. Or at least, it sounds more like a description than a translation.

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