I am a big fan of what I would call "word games" that are often found in English newspapers like crosswords, cryptograms, scrambled word games, etc.

Usually games like these somehow involve overlapping letters of perpendicular words, rearranging letters to form a word, or something similar.

I wanted to know if there are similar common games in Japanese, not necessarily found in a newspaper. I found Shiritori which is kind of similar where the last (relevant) mora of a word is used to start the next word, and so on.

Does there exist a poem that uses direction to change its meaning? The comments/answers in this post may point to these not being common.


I wanted to know if there are similar common games in Japanese

There are several of such games in Japanese.

[言葉遊び]{ことばあそ}, literally "word play", might be the word you are looking for. Notice that this is connected exactly to "word play" in English, if you read the article in another language.

In this article you can see many representative games, among which anagrams, ambigrams, etc.

Some popular Japanese word games are しりとり, which you mention as well, a Japanese version of Fictionary called たほいや, and 語呂{ごろ}合{あ}わせ。The latter also have a an English wikipedia article, from which I quote:

Goroawase (語呂合わせ) is an especially common form of Japanese wordplay whereby homophonous words are associated with a given series of letters, numbers or symbols, in order to associate a new meaning with that series. The new words can be used to express a superstition about certain letters or numbers. More commonly, however, goroawase is used as a mnemonic technique, especially in the memorization of numbers such as dates in history, scientific constants, and phone numbers.


Reading your comments, it seems you want to know if games such as crosswords exist in Japanese. They do, there is even this website as an online reference. Unless I still don' understand your question.

  • I don't think word play is exactly right, for the three puzzles I mentioned there's a sort of logical methodology to figuring out the answer, sort of similar to sudoku but not really. There might be word play in the clues but there's still the use of visual characters to help complete the puzzle. – katatahito May 17 '19 at 6:54
  • @katatahito what are the "3" word puzzles that you mention? I'm not saying that "word play" is the correct translation of what you are looking for, but that the games you are mentioning are found as representatives in the Wikipedia article of 言葉遊び which I loosely translated to "word play". You could call it "word fun" or whatever best suits you. Anyway, shiritori, tahoiya, goroawase, as well as anagrams etc, are all grouped under 言葉遊び. If that doesn't answer your question, maybe I don't understand your question. – Tommy May 17 '19 at 7:00
  • the three I listed were crosswords, cryptograms, scrambled word games here are links. Of those the only one I could find in the article were the jumble, because it`s basically an anagram. Scrabble is another example as a board game. – katatahito May 17 '19 at 7:12
  • I guess the commonality is that the focus is on spelling and letter placement to solve the puzzle versus ambiguous wording if that helps – katatahito May 17 '19 at 7:14
  • @katatahito if you want to know if there are crosswords in Japanese, there are. Look at this website for example. – Tommy May 17 '19 at 7:48

The Wikipedia page has examples of tons of similar games. Then there are なぞなぞ, that is riddles, which play with the meanings of the words. Here's one list, although you can basically find an unlimited supply on google.

I guess something like 文字パズル or possibly 単語パズル could be closer to what you're referring to. I'm not aware of any formal term for a game like this, though.

  • my comments on @Tommy 's answer would apply here too. – katatahito May 17 '19 at 7:31
  • Then I suppose it's two of us not fully understanding your question. – Tommy May 17 '19 at 7:49

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