With a recent surge of 新型コロナウイルス感染症 (shingata koronauirusu kansenshō, COVID-19 infections) setting records across Japan, the government has chosen to extend the 緊急事態 (kinkyū jitai, state of emergency) in Tokyo until the end of August. It has also declared fresh 緊急事態 in other prefectures in hopes that it will help 人流を減らす (jinryū o herasu, reduce the flow of people).

But as the streets remain crowded, some are now thinking that 緊急事態宣言は意味がない (kinkyū jitai sengen wa imi ga nai, the state of emergency declaration is meaningless).

While 意味 (imi, meaning) is probably familiar to most Japanese learners, most often in the phrase その言葉の意味はなんですか (sono kotoba no imi wa nan desu ka, What is the meaning of that word?), a similar term that we may need to learn the meaning of is 意義 (igi, meaning/significance). But what’s the difference between 意味 and 意義?