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]{ことばあそ}び , 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't understand your question.

  • 1
    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

Maybe these kanji puzzles fit your description better, particularly the first row of puzzles: 漢字しりとり, 穴埋め and 漢字分割推理.

漢字しりとり (Kanji shiritori)


The goal of this first puzzle is to connect all but two characters into a long kanji shiritori train consisting of words that are at least two kanji characters long. The two kanji that are not connected then form the solution to the puzzle.

Note that the reading of a kanji character can differ from link to link, the character has to be compatible, not its reading.

Kanji shiritori solution


Here, the shiritori chain is as follows:

START (top left) → 面談 → 談話 → 話題 → 題目 → 目論見 → 見聞録 → 録画 → 画面 → 面白 → 白骨 → 骨格筋 → 筋力 → 力仕事 → 事業家 → 家庭科 → 科目 → GOAL (bottom right)

The two characters that are not connected are:

体 and 車

The solution therefore is:

車体 because 体車 doesn't exist

穴埋め (Fill in the gap)


The aim in this puzzle is to find the central kanji such that CENTRE + RIGHT, CENTRE + BOTTOM, LEFT + CENTRE and TOP + CENTRE are all valid two-character compounds. Again, reading is not important here, only the fitting kanji.

Anaume example


The solution to this puzzle would be:

With the valid compounds:

愚痴, 愚行, 暗愚 and 凡愚

漢字分割推理 (Partial kanji)


For this puzzle, two or more kanji characters that form a valid compound are partially shown in a square grid. The solution to the puzzle is the compound that comprises the partially visible kanji.

Two kanji puzzle

Solution (easy puzzle)

The partially visible kanji are:

Left: 面, right: 書

The solution therefore is:

書面 because 面書 is not a valid compound

Four kanji puzzle

Solution (hard puzzle)

The partially visible kanji are:

Top left: 効, top right: 果, bottom left: 相, bottom right: 乗

The solution therefore is:


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