I am reading a work of fiction by a Japanese novelist and I found an interesting phrase that I'm unfamiliar with, "訳あり"

In the story B launches a surprise raid on A's property. They talk a little bit and B says A is irritating him, and A says;



What is this 訳あり? I looked in a dictionary and it says:

Expression, Na-adjective 1. (having) special circumstances (e.g. problems, issues, advantages, flaws, defects, etc.)​

Is that the correct definition for this context? I only know of the "sorry" "excuse me" sort of usage.

So what is B really saying? Can someone explain this sort of usage for 訳あり? Maybe with more example sentences?

2 Answers 2


That dictionary definition is basically correct, but the important connotation of 訳あり is "there are some special circumstances that cannot be mentioned openly". People use this euphemistic word when explaining the details of "circumstances" is risky, vulgar, tasteless, too direct, etc. For example, 訳ありの物件 is an euphemistic way of saying 事故物件. 訳あり商品 (Wikipedia) refers to discounted items due to broken package, etc (shops obviously don't want to call them 欠陥商品).

If someone said 訳あり(の人), rather than actually asking for clarification, it's often best to just guess what "the circumstances" actually means. Without any context, a 訳ありの人間 by itself usually refers to someone who has some shady background, for example a connection to a crime syndicate. In this situation, B is clearly signaling he doesn't want to disclose who he is or why he is there. Whatever his background is, he is implying he is not a mere petty thief.

(I think 訳あり tends to be used as a no-adjective. 申し訳ありません has nothing to do with this.)


A: "While you're getting irritated, why don't you be so kind as to give me a nice explanation as to what this might be. That would save us both the time and effort." (he's throwing a bit of shade here)

B: "Sorry, but I have my reasons too."

They both have their own reasons for what they're doing. Can't really tell what A is doing from the context, but B is saying he too (こっちも) has reasons/circumstances (訳あり) for launching the raid, and thus (でね) he can't explain it to A (omitted, implied by the ね).

訳あり tends to imply that the person isn't going to explain the reason/circumstances.

For reference (JP):

https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/jn/237984/meaning/m0u/ https://www.weblio.jp/content/%E3%83%AF%E3%82%B1%E3%81%82%E3%82%8A http://yourei.jp/%E3%83%AF%E3%82%B1%E3%81%82%E3%82%8A

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