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While playing a Japanese video game, I became curious about the layout of these book pages that appear each time you finish a chapter of the game.

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The text of each page summarizes one of the chapters, and is laid out in six lines. Each line contains 13 characters, grouped together into 4-4-5 character long units, resulting in a column-like look.

For example, the first two lines read,

そだって あばれた ガソリンゴ

なんとか たおした いのちがけ

Since the form is so schematic I thought this might be modeled to be a kind of Japanese poem. Knowing next to nothing about Japanese poetry, I researched the Wikipedia article on the topic, but couldn't find anything that would correspond with this scheme.

Is the layout of this text supposed to be reminiscent of a form of poetry, or is it more likely to have been made up by the writer?

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Yes, this 4-4-5 (or 4-4-7) rhythm has a nice ring (語呂がいい) to the ears of Japanese. Nicopedia even maintains a list of words which happen to have such 4-4-5 beats.

Kitahara Hakushu's あめんぼの歌 is one of the best-known poems which uses this pattern throughout the lines. The lyrics of the theme song of 水戸黄門 (video; full lyrics) follow this 4-4-5 pattern.

オリエンタルラジオ is a comedy duo that uses this 4-4-5 (or 4-4-7) beats in their bits (video). You can hear that their punch lines basically follow this rhythm:

4-4-5

Nicopedia says this pattern can be called 七五調【しちごちょう】, but I'm not sure about that, because 七五調 usually refers to the 5-7-5 pattern of haiku/waka.

  • Hearing this, I'm pretty sure I've heard similar songs in the past and wondered about the peculiar meter. – waldrumpus Dec 30 '15 at 10:28
  • Your link to あめんぼの歌 is broken. However, you appear to be referring to what I've seen (published) as a poem titled 五十音. I have reproduced this poem in this answer. – Earthliŋ Jan 25 '17 at 13:11
  • As for the explanation for 七五調, what Nicopedia says is correct rather than this post. – user4092 Aug 5 '17 at 12:16

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