Do you know any Japanese palindromes?

Kaibun (回文・廻文), or palindromes, are words or phrases that read the same from the beginning to the end or from the end to the beginning. Japanese palindromes, kaibun, are based on kana, so these words are identical when their kana is reversed. For the purposes of kaibun, ga is equivalent to ka, and so on.

Here is a table of kaibun. In these examples, one possible English meaning only is given. Some of the words and phrases have several possible translations.

Single words
RōmajiJapaneseOne English meaning
Kuku 九九 Times table
Sasa Bamboo grass
Shishi 獅子 Temple lion
Susu Soot
Chichi Father
Tsutsu Tube
Nana Seven
Haha Mother
Mimi Ear
Momo Peach
Irui 衣類 Clothes
Kajika カジカ A kind of fish
Kisaki Empress
Kiteki 汽笛 Steam whistle
Koneko 子猫 Kitten
Samusa 寒さ Coldness
Shikishi 色紙 Square board
Shirushi Sign
Tomato トマト Tomato
Nazuna ナザナ A plant called shepherd's purse
Fuufu 夫婦 A married couple
Minami South
Yaoya やおや Greengrocer
Yadoya やどや Inn
Kitsutsuki キツツキ Woodpecker
Shinbunshi 新聞紙 Newspaper
Taueuta 田植え歌 Rice-planting song
Phrases
Ika ni mo nigai いかにもにがい Very bitter
Kono ko neko no ko このこねこのこ This baby is a kitten
Ika to Kai いかとかい Squid and shellfish
Takeyabu yaketa たけやぶやけた The bamboo grove burnt
Tashika ni kashita たしかにかした I definitely lent it
Iro shiroi いろしろい White
Dansu ga sunda だんすがすんだ The dance is over
Natsu made matsu na なつまでまつな Don't wait until summer
Kui ni iku くいにいく Go to eat
Nakuna nakuna なくななくな Don't cry, don't cry
Nishiga higashi ni にしがひがしに The west is east
Tai ga ita たいがいた There was a bream
Mi ga kanekagami みがかねかがみ Moneylender
Meshi ni onishime めしにおにしめ
Yasui isuya やすいいすや A cheap chair shop
Rusu ni nani suru るすになにする What will you do when I'm out?
Taifuu biu biu fuita たいふうびうびうふいた The typhoon blew
Yoru iru yo よるいるよ I'll be in this evening
Nagasaki ya no yaki sakana ながさきやのやきさかな Grilled fish from Nagasaki-ya
washi no shiwa わしのしわ My wrinkles
Hei no aru ano ie へいのあるあのいえ* That house with the fence
karui kibin na koneko nanbiki iruka かるいきびんなこねこなんびきいるか How many light clever cats are there?

Japanese people traditionally write from top to bottom (see Can Japanese be written right to left?), so they say, for example, "Ue kara yonde mo tomato. Shita kara yonde mo tomato" (Read from the top, tomato. Read from the bottom, tomato).

Notes

* This uses the old form of kana where いえ was written いへ. See What is historical kana usage?

Acknowledgements

From posts by Charles Lippert and muchan.


If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy

Book reviews Convert<br>Japanese<br>numbers Handwritten<br>kanji<br>recognition Stroke order<br>diagrams Convert<br>Japanese<br>units