I expected to read this word as とうなんせいほく but the furigana indicates another reading. I did some search but I only found information about this band: The東南西北


  • Also, I think it's "suspicious" that this is the only word in this lyrics annotated with furigana. – Jason Lint Mar 27 '17 at 10:28

とん・なん・しゃー・ぺー are unique readings of 東・南・西・北, respectively, used only by Japanese Mahjong players. I personally don't play Mahjong, but these unique readings are known to Japanese populations. Compared to とう・なん・せい・ほく, they are closer (although not exactly the same) to the current Chinese readings. 国士無双 soon after this line is another reference to Mahjong terms.

I think these words are there to add an "oriental" feeling to the lyrics.

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  • Thank you! I understand now. I'll keep this in mind in case I stumble upon other compound word reading I don't know. As I commented on the other answer, it makes me wonder how common is to go for the actual (sort of) Chinese pronunciation for some words. – Jason Lint Mar 27 '17 at 10:51
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    Very rare. Ordinary Japanese people know almost nothing about modern Chinese pronunciation of kanji. Mahjong is a rare exception where Japanese players use many terms based on the Chinese pronunciation. – naruto Mar 27 '17 at 11:11
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    両面テープ {りょうめんてーぷ} double sided tape is sometimes called りゃんめんてーぷ. There should be some more words that have Chinese-basis pronunciations. – Wataru 'Watson' Subridge Mar 27 '17 at 11:38
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    Oh there is one slang verb derives from mahjong term. テンパる meaning to be freaking out is from 聴牌{テンパイ} means to be on a draw for one more tile to complete a hand. – Wataru 'Watson' Subridge Mar 27 '17 at 11:40

That is because it is based on the Chinese pronunciation rather than Japanese.

The song is called 「アジアの海賊{かいぞく}」 ("Pirates of Asia") and it is about traveling all over Asia by sea. By using the Chinese pronunciation, it gives that great "foreign" feeling that we are known for loving.

In "normal" Japanese, the four directions themselves come in a different order -- 「東西南北{とうざいなんぼく}」.

The 「トンナンシャーペー」 reading is also used in mahjong.


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  • Oh! Thank you! So it's about giving an oriental feeling. I didn't know about the Chinese pronunciation and the readings used in Mahjong. It makes me wonder how common is for Japanese people to recall the Chinese pronunciation for some words. – Jason Lint Mar 27 '17 at 10:48

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