Searching for Japanese poetry or simply reading song lyrics, I can find very often some sentences that contain two kanji characters of specific properties: They are usually close to each other, one is a compound of the another one (or they can just look similar) but usually their meaning is different.

Some examples:

儚く夢 [hakanaku yume, fleeting dream]

救いを求めて [sukui o motomete, craving for help]

言ったこと信じられない [itta koto shinjirarenai, unbelievable what was said]

(the last one did not come from the real life but it is only an example so it can be grammatically wrong)

My question is: Is it some kind of identified figure of speech like alliteration or assonance in English? If yes, what is the name of it?

  • On the basis that the two characters in all of the examples are not both read using on'yomi, I would hesitate to identify this with some kind of sound-pattern-employing technique, and in any case they sound nothing alike. Some archaic expressions may employ a sound technique with visually similar characters, but those are usually kanji-heavy expressions which probably came directly from Classical Chinese.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 6:35

1 Answer 1


I think these are basically coincidences, although they may not be total coincidences because related words tend to share the same radical anyway (愛 and 恋 both have 心, for example). Normally, Japanese lyricists do not care about kanji radicals as English speakers try to rhyme lines. Of course there should be some poets who intentionally tried to do this as a wordplay in the past, but this is not common at all.

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