I've noticed that a lot of Touhou games, music, and print works seem to have titles that consist of a Japanese part and an English part, where the two are separated with a tilde.

For example, most of the main game titles follow this pattern, although some of the .5 games seem to use "Japanese title ~ Japanese subtitle" instead?

- TH01: 東方靈異伝 ~ The Highly Responsive to Prayers
- TH02: 東方封魔録 ~ the Story of Eastern Wonderland
- TH03: 東方夢時空 ~ Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream
- TH04: 東方幻想郷 ~ Lotus Land Story
- TH05: 東方怪綺談 ~ Mystic Square
- TH06: 東方紅魔郷 ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
- TH07: 東方妖々夢 ~ Perfect Cherry Blossom
- TH07.5: 東方萃夢想 ~ Immaterial and Missing Power
- TH08: 東方永夜抄 ~ Imperishable Night
- TH09: 東方花映塚 ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View
- TH09.5: 東方文花帖 ~ Shoot the Bullet
- TH10: 東方風神録 ~ Mountain of Faith
- TH10.5: 東方緋想天 ~ Scarlet Weather Rhapsody
- TH11: 東方地霊殿 ~ Subterranean Animism
- TH12: 東方星蓮船 ~ Undefined Fantastic Object
- TH12.3: 東方非想天則 ~ 超弩級ギニョルの謎を追え
- TH12.5: ダブルスポイラー ~ 東方文花帖
- TH12.8: 妖精大戦争 ~ 東方三月精
- TH13: 東方神霊廟 ~ Ten Desires
- TH13.5: 東方心綺楼 ~ Hopeless Masquerade
- TH14: 東方輝針城 ~ Double Dealing Character
- TH14.3: 弾幕アマノジャク ~ Impossible Spell Card
- TH14.5: 東方深秘録 ~ Urban Legend in Limbo
- TH15: 東方紺珠伝 ~ Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom
- TH15.5: 東方憑依華 ~ Antinomy of Common Flowers
- TH16: 東方天空璋 ~ Hidden Star in Four Seasons
- TH16.5: 秘封ナイトメアダイアリー 〜 Violet Detector
- TH17: 東方鬼形獣 ~ Wily Beast and Weakest Creature
- TH17.5: 東方剛欲異聞 ~ 水没した沈愁地獄

Lots of songs from the main game series have tildes in them as well. There are a number of songs that don't follow the pattern though, so the following is only a subset of all the main game themes:

- TH06 (EoSD):
    - 上海紅茶館 ~ Chinese Tea
    - ラクトガール ~ 少女密室
    - 月時計 ~ ルナ・ダイアル
    - 紅楼 ~ Eastern Dream...
- TH07 (PCB):
    - 妖々夢 ~ Snow or Cherry Petal
    - 無何有の郷 ~ Deep Mountain
    - 人形裁判 ~ 人の形弄びし少女
    - 幽霊楽団 ~ Phantom Ensemble
    - 東方妖々夢 ~ Ancient Temple
    - 広有射怪鳥事 ~ Till When?
    - 幽雅に咲かせ、墨染の桜 ~ Border of Life
    - 少女幻葬 ~ Necro-Fantasy
    - 妖々跋扈 ~ Who done it!
    - さくらさくら ~ Japanize Dream...
- TH08 (IN):
    - 永夜抄 ~ Eastern Night
    - 幻視の夜 ~ Ghostly Eyes
    - 蠢々秋月 ~ Mooned Insect
    - 夜雀の歌声 ~ Night Bird
    - 懐かしき東方の血 ~ Old World
    - 永夜の報い ~ Imperishable Night
    - 少女綺想曲 ~ Dream Battle
    - シンデレラケージ ~ Kagome-Kagome
    - 狂気の瞳 ~ Invisible Full Moon
    - 千年幻想郷 ~ History of the Moon
    - 竹取飛翔 ~ Lunatic Princess
    - エクステンドアッシュ ~ 蓬莱人
    - Eternal Dream ~ 幽玄の槭樹
- TH09 (PoFV):
    - 花映塚 ~ Higan Retour
    - 春色小径 ~ Colorful Path
    - 東方妖々夢 ~ Ancient Temple
    - 狂気の瞳 ~ Invisible Full Moon
    - 幽霊楽団 ~ Phantom Ensemble
    - もう歌しか聞こえない ~ Flower Mix
    - ポイズンボディ ~ Forsaken Doll
    - 今昔幻想郷 ~ Flower Land
    - 彼岸帰航 ~ Riverside View
    - 六十年目の東方裁判 ~ Fate of Sixty Years
    - 魂の花 ~ Another Dream...
- TH10 (MoF):
    - 人恋し神様 ~ Romantic Fall
    - 厄神様の通り道 ~ Dark Road
    - 芥川龍之介の河童 ~ Candid Friend
    - フォールオブフォール ~ 秋めく滝
    - 妖怪の山 ~ Mysterious Mountain
    - 御柱の墓場 ~ Grave of Being
    - 神さびた古戦場 ~ Suwa Foughten Field
    - 神は恵みの雨を降らす ~ Sylphid Dream
- TH11 (SA):
    - 封じられた妖怪 ~ Lost Place
    - 少女さとり ~ 3rd eye
    - 死体旅行 ~ Be of good cheer!
    - 霊知の太陽信仰 ~ Nuclear Fusion
    - エネルギー黎明 ~ Future Dream...
- TH12 (UFO):
    - 感情の摩天楼 ~ Cosmic Mind
    - 空の帰り道 ~ Sky Dream
- TH13 (TD):
    - 聖徳伝説 ~ True Administrator
- TH14 (DDC):
    - 輝く針の小人族 ~ Little Princess
    - 始原のビート ~ Pristine Beat
- TH15 (LoLK):
    - ピュアヒューリーズ ~ 心の在処
- TH16 (HSiFS):
    - 秘神マターラ ~ Hidden Star in All Seasons.

Tilde usage for songs seems to have decreased for more recent games?

The titles of most of ZUN's music albums seem to follow this pattern as well. For example:

- 蓬莱人形 ~ Dolls in Pseudo Paradise
- 蓮台野夜行 ~ Ghostly Field Club
- 夢違科学世紀 ~ Changeability of Strange Dream
- 卯酉東海道 ~ Retrospective 53 minutes
- 大空魔術 ~ Magical Astronomy
- 鳥船遺跡 ~ Trojan Green Asteroid
- 伊弉諾物質 ~ Neo-traditionalism of Japan
- 燕石博物誌 ~ Dr. Latency's Freak Report
- 旧約酒場 ~ Dateless Bar "Old Adam"

Additionally, some of the print works seem to have a binomial nomenclature thing going on:

- 東方儚月抄:
    - 東方儚月抄 ~ Silent Sinner in Blue
    - 東方儚月抄 ~ Cage in Lunatic Runagate
    - 東方儚月抄 ~ 月のイナバと地上の因幡
- 東方三月精:
    - 東方三月精 ~ Eastern and Little Nature Deity
    - 東方三月精 ~ Strange and Bright Nature Deity
    - 東方三月精 ~ Oriental Sacred Place
    - 東方三月精 ~ Visionary Fairies in Shrine
- 東方茨歌仙 ~ Wild and Horned Hermit
- 東方鈴奈庵 ~ Forbidden Scrollery

Spell card names also sometimes seem to have a binomial nomenclature thing going on, though with quotation marks instead of tildes. For example, Flandre's spell cards in EoSD:

- 禁忌:
    - 禁忌「クランベリートラップ」
    - 禁忌「レーヴァテイン」
    - 禁忌「フォーオブアカインド」
    - 禁忌「カゴメカゴメ」
    - 禁忌「恋の迷路」
- 禁弾:
    - 禁弾「スターボウブレイク」
    - 禁弾「カタディオプトリック」
    - 禁弾「過去を刻む時計」
- 秘弾「そして誰もいなくなるか?」
- QED「495年の波紋」

Is there an explanation or system or backstory behind this tilde naming convention? Or am I overthinking this and is the explanation just "ZUN did it because it looks cool"?

  • I'm guessing it's mostly because it looks cool and is an easy way to denote a translation/subtitle. It may also be used because one thing that might be used in English, the m-dash, looks a lot like either 一 (one) or ー (the line denoting a long katakana vowel).
    – kuwaly
    Jun 30, 2018 at 10:43
  • 1
    The naming scheme for the game title has been like that since the first game, 東方靈異伝 ~ The Highly Responsive to Prayers. Though, AFAIK, I've never heard the reason why it's done like that.
    – Aki Tanaka
    Jun 30, 2018 at 10:53

3 Answers 3


First, it should be noted that the japanese do incorporate English text into their media frequently. However, I am assuming why Touhou seems to make use of it especially is the matter of consideration here.

However to be more Touhou specific, something that needs to be noted about Touhou in particular is that the theming of Touhou was, at least at some point, supposed to be an east meets west kind of thing. The Wikipedia page for Team Shanghai Alice, which is licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms, notes:

The name "Team Shanghai Alice" was chosen to fit the overall theme of the Touhou games. "Shanghai", in ZUN's mind, is a multicultural city where the East and the West meet.

There are many examples of western cultural influence in the series. Marisa is very much a western style witch, Alice Margatroid is supposed to be the same Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and one of her theme songs is doll maker of bucuresti, where bucuresti is an alternative name for Burachest in Romania. He makes references to the moon landing when the Lunarians are involved: Imperishable Night has a song entitled Voyage 1969, and Clownpiece's costume very much resembles an american flag. Japan has no native folklore regarding vampires as we know them, like Remilia or Kurumi. Recently, in Forbidden Scrollery there was even a chupecabra.

Something else that needs to be noted is that Touhou means Eastern and Amusement Makers also made some Seihou project games, where Seihou means Western. The Windows era designs of Marisa and Reimu are first shown in the Seihou games, where the characters made cameo appearances as extra stage bosses.

In the music rooms for the games, Zun sometimes comments on how certain songs seem distinctly Japanese to him, and in Lotus Land Story's music rooms he comments about how he was trying to make the pieces feel western. In the Music Room description of Song of the Night Sparrow for Imperishable night, Zun comments that it was supposed to be a blend of eastern and western styles.

Unfortunately, the closest I can personally find to Zun himself explaining it at present moment comes to commenting on this is in Afterword Correspondence Vol. 1 for Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil, where he acknowledges that his music used to follow the format, but any reason why is omitted from that observation. However, in consideration of these facts, I think it is reasonable to assume it was done to give the games a somewhat western feeling to them by blending eastern and western languages, to match the original theme.


Zun haven't explicitly mention this but it is obvious that the titles should contain japanese characters since the actual development of the touhou project was based on the premise that there were few games based on japanese folklore at the time (I was looking for the interview where he said this but couldn't find it). The left kanjis are more like "titles" remember that kanji convey a more wide range of meaning than actual words and then romaji in the right due to the nature of being a videogame in a computer also even the japanese themselves sometimes can't memorize all the kanjis, so we got the first ones 東方 telling you 'eastern history' then followed by the title such as:

紅魔郷 koumakan 妖々夢 youyoumu 地霊殿 chireiden 星蓮船 seiresen and so on, having a kanji title can give you the whole picture of what the game is gonna be about let's do ten desires for example:

東方 eastern history 神 god 霊廟 mausoleum so you would get something like eastern history of the mausoleum spirit/god - ten desires.

It could be just a format without any special purpose but either way I think this looks really cool and truly feels eastern


Ah, regarding the part about Spell Cards specifically, it looks like ZUN discussed it somewhat in the Spell Cards FAQ in Strange Creators of Outer World Volume 7.

In short, the part before the quotation marks means "this attack fits into this particular genre", and the part inside means "this is the attack's name". That's the idea that ZUN started with, but apparently even while making EoSD, there ended up being so many variations and exceptions that this format is less of a concrete format and more of a loose guideline.

Q: Most cards have names like OO Sign "XXXX", but what's the difference between the OO and the XX parts?

ZUN: Well, I felt that I'd struggle quite a bit if I tried coming up with a unique name for every single special move from scratch, so I made some rules to follow. The part before the quotation marks says "this attack fits into this particular genre," and the part inside says "this is the attack's name." That's the format I used to come up with names when I was starting out. The left-hand part is the category of attack, so there's quite a lot of Spell Cards that share a single term. Like, "this is what kind of attack this is". This one's fire element, this one's water element, just thinking about it on that sort of level. The part in quotations really is just a name, nothing more.

Q: I see. So, when it comes to cards with just the "XX" part and no category... cards like "Red Magic," for example. What significance would that have?

ZUN: Spell Cards without a genre attached are special; they have nothing in common with any others. It's like saying, "look out! This attack is so special that it doesn't fit into any category!" The name given to a card serves as part of its dramatic impact as well, after all. I named a lot of cards like this too, but honestly, I don't even know what the rules are supposed to be anymore. When it comes to my initial way of thinking about it, that part was the category of amulet. Like, imagine that there was an amulet called "Spirit Sign", for example. I'd picture it as a single special move that made use of that amulet.

Q: Perhaps Immaterial and Missing Power might be the work that visualizes the concept most directly? When you use a Spell Card in that game, you have to input the "Declaration" command before you can attack with it. And during the declaration animation, you pull out a little paper amulet, with a different color for each character. I can picture you giving Tasogare instructions back then, about that concept of how they were used.

ZUN: Yeah, that! That's how I pictured them starting out. But as more and more variations came about, there wasn't really any need for that rule anymore, either. There's so many exceptions that the rules hardly even matter by now. I used to come up with them in this format that I'm describing now, but even that got really vague while I was still in the middle of making Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. I already found myself thinking "wouldn't it be fine to just give them regular special-move names?" in the middle of production. But I thought "nah, this is fine too." Having a concrete format isn't the main point to begin with, after all.

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