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?


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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