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I speak no Japanese, but need to represent the concept of pair or team in a poetic context. Specifically, I would like to describe two people (a couple) as a "pair of shinobi". From a poetic standpoint, my goals are:

  • Good: "Matched pair" as in "two items that go together and are better together"
  • Good: "Team" as in "people working together toward a common goal"
  • Good: "Couple" as in "married couple"
  • Good: "Fraternity" as in "friendship and mutual support within a group"
  • Preferred: Old-fashioned sounding. If the phrase sounded like it was out of an 8th century text, that would be great.
  • Preferred: "Two" (e.g. "pair") rather than "multiple" (e.g. "group").
  • Preferred: Kanji rather than hirigana or katakana.
  • Bad: "Opposition" as in "one item versus another"
  • Bad: Sounding illiterate, silly, or foreign. It is extremely important that this not sound like a foreigner playing with a language. If this forces hiragana, so be it.
  • Bad: Evil or malicious. I'm slightly concerned that "shinobi" is inherently negative.

I've been digging through dictionaries and thesauruses and come up with a few possibilities:` If at all possible (without sounding illiterate or silly), I'd like to use only Kanji:

  • 対: Could also mean "against/versus"?
  • 双: Implies identical pair rather than matched pair?
  • 組: Too official? More like "group" than "pair"?
  • 団: Too impersonal? Also more like "group" than "pair"?
  • 忍者: Inherently evil? Is there a better word for stealthy and highly skilled in martial arts?

What words would you use?

I'm also not sure of the positioning. Would 対, 双, 組, 団, or whatever word you suggest go before or after 忍者?

Thank you very much for your help.

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    忍びの二人 or 二人の忍び (sinobi no hutari, hutari no sinobi) are what I'd use if 'pair' is the number one priority. 忍び同士 (sinobi-dousi) would work as well. – oals Mar 8 '15 at 21:39
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    Your question is very mysterious: you speak no Japanese, but you are writing a poem in Japanese? Language simply does not work like this: you cannot hope to get a meaningful answer unless we know what you are really doing? Attempting to write bits of a language you do not understand, (particularly in places like a tattoo where correction is difficult) is a recipe for disaster. – Brian Chandler Mar 9 '15 at 7:46
  • I full admit that this is roughly equivalent to asking for characters for a tattoo (it's actually for an engagement ring). Even so, I was initially annoyed by your question. But then I looked around and discovered that this concept is actually a trope that the Internet has described much better than I could. I'm going to open another question; Naruto's answer is the right answer to this one, but now I have a better one. Thank you! – LoftyGoals Mar 12 '15 at 18:45
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二人の忍 will simply mean "two ninja" or "a couple of ninja" as in "there are a couple of ninja out there."

If you emphasize the two ninja as a team, who always act together, then try 忍【しのび】の二人【ふたり】組【ぐみ】. This one is neutral, which doesn't sound foreign nor old.

Alternatively, 双忍【そうにん】 is not a word listed in dictionaries, but it's actually used to refer to a certain pair of ninja in one manga. It would sound a bit more old-fashioned and cool to my ears, which may match your intent.

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A pair or couple of Shinobi would most often be translated as "忍びの二人", pronounced "shinobi no futari" and literally "two people of ninja" or "couple of ninja". Sounds ridiculous in english because Japanese doesn't often make distinctions between plural and singular forms.

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    二人の忍び would work the same, I guess. Also does 忍び二人 depending on the context. – dinogeist Mar 9 '15 at 0:17
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    Well, you often hear 二人の○○, so it maybe not correct, but its often used in daily life. Also the latter. – dinogeist Mar 9 '15 at 0:24
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    @dinogeist There's nothing wrong with it. I think Unique Depiction's understanding of の is incomplete. – snailboat Mar 9 '15 at 1:18
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    (Though I'm not him) の functions as "equivalent", i.e. you can use it like AのB when A is equivalent to B. As for the original question, all 忍びの二人、二人の忍び、忍び二人(, which is a noun and an adverb or a noun compound) are possible. – user4092 Mar 9 '15 at 3:44
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    I stand corrected. Good stuff to know. I was unaware. Thank you. : ) – Unique Depiction Mar 9 '15 at 3:45

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