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I recently discovered that the mascot for テレビ[塔]{とう} is テレビ[父]{とう}さん.

Answering whether this was a deliberate pun is probably impossible, but I'd like to know, in general, is it common to replace one kanji with a homophonic kanji for the purposes of punning?

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I don't understand how to answer this question. What does "is it common?" mean, exactly? Do some Japanese people make "kanji puns"? Yes. Do most Japanese people make "kanji puns"? The answer is most likely "no". What do you want to know, really? – user18597 Feb 1 '13 at 2:50
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think it's pretty common, although not necessarily punning so much as just a play-on-words. I can't remember but a couple right now. I'll edit in more later if I remember them.

  • 委員会【いいんかい】の許可を得た。びっくりして「いいんかい?」と答えた。 → I got the committee's permission. Surprised, I responded "(Is it) Really (OK)?".
  • A major station I used to frequent had a nearby building called "Sun Plaza" written as さんぷら座, as seen here on Google street view: 京阪線枚方市駅
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Similar to your second one, I know a place near where I live called 漫画人館, or マガジン館 – ssb Jan 29 '13 at 0:17

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