Get Familiar with These Fun and Easy Japanese Word Games!

  • Japanese have many kinds of games, such as board games, card games and word games. Today, I want to talk about some word games that can usually be found in anime or manga. Japanese use kana to play with words or phrases, and pronunciation. There are some Japanese word games that you should get to know!


    Shiritori (しりとり) is a Japanese word game in which the players take turns to say words. The words begin with the final kana character of the previous word. Players should come up with a word that starts with the previous player’s word end character, this is why the game is called “Shiri” (しり) meaning “bottom/behind” and “tori” (とり) meaning “take”.
    Basic Rules
    Can be played by more than two players
    Words cannot used more than once
    If the word is ending with kana’s “ん” (n), the next player has lost because there is no Japanese word that begins with “ん”.
    If the final syllable is a long vowel (chouon), such as ローラー (rooraa – roller) there are three possibilities:
    – Use the chouon as a vowel, so the last kana will be “a”, アボカド (abokado- avocado) is allowed.
    – Ignore the chouon, so the last kana will be “ra”, ラジオ (rajio – radio) is allowed.
    – Use both, so the last kana “raa” may be followed by ラーメン (raamen) .
    Dakuten and handakuten (voicing mark). For example, if dakuten are ignored, the word トマト (tomato, ends with kana “ト”) may be followed by ドーナツ (doonatsu, begins with ” ド “)

    Free shiritori pdf worksheet


    Dajare is a Japanese word game that creates a simple joke using similarities in the pronunciation of words. (Puns)
    A: パンつくった事ある? (pan tsukutta koto aru?)
    A: Have you ever made bread before?
    Can also be interpreted as:
    A: Have you ever eaten underpants before? (パンツ食った事ある?, pantsu kutta koto aru?)
    *example source Wikipedia


    (he, no, he, no, mo, he, ji), seven kana characters that are arranged into a funny face. Usually, it is drawn by the Japanese schoolchildren using hiragana characters.
    The first two “he” are the eyebrows and the “no” are the eyes. The “mo” is a nose, the “he” is the mouth and the last as the outline is the “ji”. It is often used to draw the face of kakashi (a scarecrow) to frighten the sparrows and crows away.

    Kaibun (回文) are Japanese palindrome words or phrases. Kaibun is based on kana, that means words/phrases written in kanji are allowed. For the purpose of the Kaibun, Dakuten and handakuten are ignored. It means ka (カ) is the same as ga (ガ), sa (サ) is the same as za (ザ) and so on.
    There are some famous kaibun:


    Romaji Kana Kanji Meaning
    Chichi ちち Father
    Haha はは Mother
    Tomato トマト Tomato
    Irui いるい 衣類 Clothes


    Romaji Kana Kanji Meaning
    Takeyabu yaketa たけやぶやけた 竹藪焼けた The bamboo grove burnt
    Naruto wo toruna なるとをとるな Do not take my naruto (spiral-shaped fishcake)
    Iro shiroi いろしろい 色白い White
    Kui ni iku くいにいく 食いに行く To go to eat