Why the strange kanji usage in song lyrics?

Hi at all :slight_smile:

Maybe someone can enlighten me on a topic I stumbled upon during my lessons.

Sometimes I see very…weird Kanji usages in song lyrics with are immediately followed by Hiragana in the written version. I know that usually it would be to show the pronunciation (i.e. older obsolete rules etc.) but this apparently is not the case here.

Let me show you a example on “Gin no Bara” since it has many of these cases

(Full lyrics 【Diabolik Lovers】 lyrics: Gin no Bara -Ayatolyrics- / Gin no Bara -Laitolyrics- - ☽ Moonlit Sanctuary ☾ — LiveJournal)

For example 運命 is accompanied by (いたみ) → and いたみ is also what is sung.
What is meant here however is the 痛み (also visible by translation). So I see absolutely no point in using 運命 (meaning destiny) as it also far from the meant context.

At first I thought maybe those were REALLY obsolete translations and the old kanji was just used for…creating the right “setting”, but this is apparently not the case (at least I’ve checked on about 30 kanjis like this and could not find a fitting translation/usage anywere)

Anyone has an idea why this is done? (I’ve seen it pretty often, usually in every 2-3 songs so I’m wondering…)

Even if you don’t know why it is used, please feel free to join with your thoughts on the topic or tell me if you have noticed this as well :slight_smile:

Many thanks :slight_smile:


This is indeed done to give a double meaning to the word. In your example, it means that they believe that “pain” is actually destiny/unavoidable.

Due to the format of a song, it’s sometimes hard to fit everything the author may want to say. Also it does add impact. Looking at the link you gave, this song seems to be from an anime ending, so any Japanese viewer would also get the written version of the lyrics, and thus understand the double meaning.


Aaaah, that’s awesome :slight_smile: I didn’t even think about this.
That’s actually very clever…Thanks a lot ^^

Im not sure if its just the kind of music you listen to, but in my experience, this certainly isn’t common.

I dont know if I would call it double meaning, as it more just describes the context or what the latter word is tied to. 忘れる and 忘却 are pretty similar so it may work for those, but the other two on that line play out a bit differently. They sing about the pain (痛み) and the “extras” tell us they believe its tied to fate (運命), as you said. The experience (思い) they are not attentive of is tied to being lethal (致死).

Its sorta poetic in that they leave some things unsaid that would otherwise make heavier the idea being conveyed.

This is extremely common in everything from manga and games to novels, not just song lyrics. It’s a rhetorical device (表現技法). Nath already explained it but here’s a quote from the Wikipedia page for furigana:


and here’s a relevant part from 日本人の知らない日本語 (skip to 3m 2s if it doesn’t automatically start there):


I’ve definitely seen this on a few songs. One example I can think of is Finale by L’Arc en Ciel. The lyrics feature 運命 for さだめ.

It’s almost as if they’re not writing these songs with language learners in mind.


Now I feel left out for not coming across this more D:

Maybe utaten (the site I get all my lyrics from) does not include them? Who knows.

I haven’t seen it a ton, but enough to not be surprised by the OP.

The only example I can actually remember off the top of my, though, is:
瞬間 read as とき. It’s in the title of the SMAP song この瞬間、きっと夢じゃない
and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used that way in some other songs, too.

I don’t know if “Common” isn’t the right word, but this is fairly popular in both the Manga world and certain segments of music. As an easy way to make a “deeper” meaning. I find it rarer in more literary works.

This technique is also used to make puns. Furigana will show the correct pronunciation and “actual” meaning, but different kanji indicate a second, humorous meaning, often by changing one character in an existing word into a different kanji with the same reading.

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I’ve been wondering for a while if there’s a specific name for this practice. So far haven’t been able to find anything closer than 当て字 or 義訓.

I’ve seen the following myself in lyrics:


Also there’s an anime airing this season called 宇宙(そら)よりも遠い場所 (which is pretty good so far btw!).


Very excited for that anime. Looks like a promising slice of life. For some reason, that’s about all I get into these days.

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