sci.lang.japan FAQ / 11. Word games

11.2. 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
Taueuta田植え歌 Rice-planting song
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 1.3.8. 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).


* This uses the old form of kana where いえ was written いへ. See 1.1.7. What is historical kana usage?


From posts by Charles Lippert and muchan.

sci.lang.japan FAQ / 11. Word games

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