What is the meaning of and difference between ~を中心に and ~をめぐって?

Space ALC defines ~を中心に as "with a focus on" and ~をめぐって as "centering on", but I'm having trouble figuring out the meaning and difference in usage of the two.

I saw the following example sentence for ~を中心に in the (old) JLPT2 完全マスター, which JGram interpreted slightly differently to me:


  • My first interpretation: "In the station there are lots of stores grouped together."
  • JGram's interpretation (which I now think is more accurate): "Centered around the station there are many stores."

The way I now understand it is that ~を中心に means more "([focused/centered/revolving]) around" rather than "in the center of something". Would this explanation be accurate?

I've also encountered ~をめぐって a couple of times. The following example I read today in the April 2012 edition of 中央公論:

My attempted translation: "A political party isn't an organization which is simply about recruiting candidates focusing on elections and encouraging mobilization of voters."

If I switched をめぐって with を中心に, would it have the same or similar meaning? What would the differences in nuance be between the two?

3 Answers 3


They have pretty much different meanings. 中心に adds blur. It means centered around. めぐって means 'regarding', and implies some kind of a debate. They are in general not interchangable.

'many stores are gathered around the the station'
More literally: 'many stores are gathered with its center being the station'

'many store (owner)s are gathered {regarding, to talk about} the station'

'hire candidates mostly at around the time of an election'
More literally: 'hire candidates with its center being the time of an election'

'hire candidates {regarding, for} an election'


In additions to what @sawa said, I think it's easy to keep straight if you remember the verb めぐる has the meanings of "going around" or "surrounding". Thus, ~をめぐって/~をめぐり/~をめぐる usually has at least a slight negative meaning (as @sawa stated) usually about some debate, controversy, etc.

Here are a couple examples. (I'm going to expand on one of @sawa's because I feel it's a little too vague to be helpful to you -- no offense to @sawa).

  • 駅の改築をめぐって近くの店主がたくさん集まってデモる。 → Many of the nearby store owners will gather and protest the reconstruction of the station (protest surrounding the reconstruction of the station
  • 大統領の経済政策をめぐり色々な対立する意見があります。 → There are many opposing opinions surrounding/concerning the President's economic policies.
  • 資源の利用をめぐる争いがようやく解決に向かった。 → The dispute about/surrounding the resource usage is finally headed toward a solution.

As far as the sentence you provided, the controversy is that there are obviously some people who hold the opinion that a political parties only exist to get the upper hand in an election (by doing the things listed), instead of focusing on meeting the peoples' needs.


を中心に: focusing primarily on

Example usage:

we discussed life at school, the main point of the discussion being the well-being of students.


をめぐって: discussing something/about (often to show the motivation of the debate/argument/fight)

Example usage:

They fought with one another for this girl.


If you remember that the fight for the girl (or boy, whatever) is a typical use of めぐって, you should confidently be able to use/understand it properly.


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