Here's the sentence :


meaning: "Light was shining on the Shoji window and a big shaved head was moving."
context: The protagonist is outside, the light is casted onto the Shoji window and he sees the shadow.

Here my question is about うつって which the dictionary offers me 2 propositions :

  1. 写る/映る (to be projected)
  2. 移る (to move)

And two things mix me up here :

  • In the sentence there is both 明かりがさして (the light shines) and 動いて (to move). Therefore both propositions can be valid I guess.

  • What do they mean by "big shaved head"? Do you think it is the head of a monk (but the shadow makes it look big through the window) or is it a big statue (like Buddha) being moved in? (further in the book a reference to 念仏 can be read which I believe is/was a Buddhism ritual).

So does うつって means "to move" (the head) or "to project" (the light)?

Source : ごんぎつね (book)

  • Note that うつる means "move" in the more specific sense of "to change location from one place to another". The sense of "move" as in "to not be still; to be in motion" is expressed by the word うごく. Given the context, うつる here must be interpreted in the visual sense of "to be projected or reflected; to appear visually [in a projection or reflection]". Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 17:39
  • @EiríkrÚtlendi ok thanks. Do you think it refers to a real person (monk) or a buddha statue?
    – vdegenne
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


This is 映る, not 移る. The relevant definition is


In this case the reference is to the shadow of a Buddhist priest's head, which is being cast on the shôji by the light inside the room. Because the shôji is translucent, it is lit up like a lampshade, so that the shadow is visible from outside.

There is no reason to assume that the shadow is cast by a Buddha statue rather than a human. (For one thing, in Japanese Buddhist iconography, Buddhas are not usually depicted as having shaved heads!) Presumably the head appears large simply because the priest is near the light source inside the room, and this magnifies the shadow on the shôji.


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