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What can it mean when someone is talking about love and they use this phrase? Example:

 恋愛感情。

 俺があの人に対して抱いている気持ちは、それなのだろうか。

 綺麗だと思うし、ずっと見ていたい。今日のあの出来事を、忘れたくない。思い出すと胸が苦しくなった。

 もしかしてこれは。

「恋かな」

Doesn't sound like the main character is describing a negative feeling, yet using 苦 in a positive sense seems quite strange to me... Or is it normal? Perhaps it even can mean an actual physical sensation? (also seems strange to me, but I admit I'm not highly experienced in love)

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I think it refers to experiencing such strong emotion almost such that it becomes physical. I think in this case it's referring to the strong emotion of not wanting to forget (忘れたくない) and that it hurts just thinking about what happened today.

It's used quite often in song lyrics and reminds me of "it pains me to part", other people have mentioned "heart-throbbing".

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    It is such a normal phrase for Japanese-speakers that even junior high school kids use it. There is nothing Shakespeare-esque about it. – l'électeur May 31 '16 at 21:48
  • @l'électeur just reminds me of it :P – ishikun May 31 '16 at 21:50
  • "it hurts just thinking about if he forgot her/what happened today." >> 「思い出すと」の目的語は「今日のあの出来事」です。「今日のあの出来事を思い出すと、胸が苦しくなった」 My heart throbbed when I thought of what had happened today てことです。(「胸が苦しい」って、英語でも言いませんか、heart-throbbing とかなんとか。) – Chocolate May 31 '16 at 23:04
  • @chocolate ありがとうございます。変更しました。 – ishikun May 31 '16 at 23:23
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In this case 「胸が苦し」means that when ever he thinks of person he feels deep sadness. There really is not literal translation , so you need to go case by case.

It can also mean physical pain in the chest or one of deep affection, so much so that it hurts in a literal sense.

So basically he is describing what he thinks is love and the feelings involved with it, one being 「胸が苦し」.

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胸が苦しい has 3 possible meanings according to weblio:

  1. expression for positive affection where one's feeling rises a lot (it rises a lot so that it feels painful, similar to a metaphor)
  2. expression for negative feelings, such as "I'm very very sad" replaced with "I feel so sad that my chest hurts"
  3. both 1 and 2 are possible AND physical pain in the chest

From the given context, I would say it is expression for positive affection.

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