Some song lyrics in the official lyric book that accompanies the CD is sung as another word. Usually, the way it is sung is given as a furigana on the kanji:

Written: 君が希望に変わってゆく
    enter image description here
    (pardon the quality I took it using iPhone)
Sung: きみがゆめにかわってゆく
(ひとりじゃない by DEEN)

Written: 未来を今描こう
Sung: あすをいまえがこう
(Pray by Every Little Thing)

I wonder why write the word "希望" in the first place. Why not just print word "ゆめ" since you won’t hear the word "きぼう" in the song anyway? Is there a cultural/artistic reason for it?

EDIT by Scratch---Cat: A really significant example in an extremely well-known song (senbonzakura)



6 Answers 6


Writing the lyrics this way allows the artist to convey an extra bit of the ulterior meaning. To use the first example, where 希望 is sung as ゆめ, we can assume that ゆめ was chosen because it fit well with the surrounding syllables. But ゆめ by itself isn't specific: it could be an abstract dream of what one wants to do or accomplish, or it could be the sort of dream one sees while asleep. To show that the former is meant, the lyrics sheet has a synonym, 希望. Reading 未来 as あす is explained the same way: does あす mean the day after tomorrow today, or more figuratively, the time after today? Providing 未来 in the lyrics sheet lets you know the artist means the latter.

  • on the same note here, you'll often seen often unused kanji for words as well. Like for あう you can have 会う・逢う・遭う. Each has the same general meaning of to meet someone but depending on the kanji used you can also convey that it was a chance meeting and such. I would liken it to poetry in English. Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 1:33

Songs are poetry; poets work hard to get exactly the feeling they want from the reader/hearer. Since kanji have semantic values to them, with readings that fluctuate anyway, this happens pretty often. I guess here it gives the feeling of a dream which is a hope, not just a vision seen while sleeping. You'll find videogame/anime/manga stuff that has an English katakana above a kanji quite frequently, too - such as [瞬間移動]{テレポート}.


It's quite common on Japanese Songs, because they want to express the meaning more precisely at lyrics.

  • 未来 - future (which mean - will forever ...)
  • あす - tomorrow (using "future" when singing will be overact or over.. something, so they pronounce it as あす)

also same for 希望 (hope, for long ), ゆめ (a dream - a short timed)

  • 1
    I've seen 時(とき) as 永遠 in a song too.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 2:37
  • Yeah, there's a lot, every song writer can create those, IMHO.
    – YOU
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 2:38

This shows up even in regular writing (i.e. not lyrics to a song). There's no cultural reason for it, it's more just a way for the writer to express two different things at the same time.

The author might have a string of kanji written out but the furigana might end up being some foreign word in katakana or even in the Latin alphabet. For example, I've seen 駄目's furigana be "NG" ("No Good" or "Not Good") instead of "だめ" before.


You will often find this in songs as well as many Japanese manga's. If you watched ef (the anime), you will see this technique used exclusively.

It is done for artistic purposes just like you said. It is also to give reader a deeper meaning behind the word that it is used on. In your case the sentence is meant to be pronounced 君がゆめに変わってゆく but the presence of 希望 gives ゆめ another special meaning.

More often or not they two words can be synonyms but they don't have to be.

  • You may want to avoid the apostrophe in "manga's" - that's sometimes called the "greengrocer's apostrophe".
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 7:58

As you can see from the high number of answers this is part of the fun of learning Japanese. I'd like to add pride and belonging to the list of reasons. Every kanji has several sounds, every sound has many kanji. Most of the official kanji are simplifications or replacements of older forms. After a few years in Japan, even I felt the kanji used on the labels of rare, handcrafted sake. Many Japanese couldn't read some of them - I was part of a select group. The kanji system also opens up the written language to new kinds of puns unknown to English readers.

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