Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Kotoba Asobi: Goroawase

Date Published: Traditional Culture ,

Goroawase (語呂合わせ) is a 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.

Substituting Number Pronunciations

Because there are many ways to read every number in Japanese, you can make words out of them. Moreover, each digit also has a set of possible phonetic values due to the variety of valid Japanese (kunyomi and onyomi) and English-origin pronunciations of numbers.

1. On’yomi reading – the original Chinese reading. example: 0 – rei, 1 – ichi

2. Kun’yomi reading – the Japanese reading. example: 0 – maru, 1 – hito(tsu)

3. English reading – example: 0 – zero, 1 – wan (one)

Goroawase substitutions are well known as mnemonics, notably in the selection of memorable telephone numbers for commercial services, and in the memorization of numbers such as years in the study of history.

Mnemonics are formed by selecting a suitable reading for a given number; the tables below list the most common readings, though other readings are also possible. Variants of readings may be produced through consonant voicing or gemination, vowel lengthening, and the insertion of the nasal mora n (ん).

Number Pronunciations

Number Japanese kunyomi readings Japanese onyomi readings Transliterations from English readings
0 maru, ma, wa rei, re ō, zero, ze
1 hitotsu, hito, hi ichi, i wan
2 futatsu, fu, futa ni, ji tsu, tsū, tū
3 mitsu, mi san, sa, za su, surī
4 yon, yo, yotsu shi fō, ho
5 itsutsu, itsu, i go, ko faibu, faivu
6 mutsu, mu roku, ro shikkusu
7 nana, nanatsu, na shichi sebun, sevun
8 yatsu, ya hachi, ha, ba eito
9 kokonotsu, ko kyu, ku nain
10 tō, to ju, ji ten

There are other common variations on the above chart. Often readings are created by taking the standard reading and retaining only the first syllable (for example roku becomes ro). The idea is that you can basically use any of these sounds associated with any of these letters to create mnemonics to help someone to remember a phone number. The words above can be combined, changed around, and so on in order to create a sentence or phrase that makes sense.

In the next post, we will learn more about Goroawase by learning some examples.

Related Posts:

1. Kotoba Asobi – Kaibun

2. Kotoba Asobi – Dajare

3. Kotoba Asobi – Shiritori

4. Kotoba Asobi – Nazonazo


1. Japanese Wordplay. Wikipedia.

2. Goroawase: Japanese Numbers Wordplay (i.e. How To Remember Japanese Telephone Numbers). Tofugu.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Osafune Sword 2

Osafune in Okayama: Sword learning centre – Part 2 –

Bizen Osafune Nihon-tou Denshuu-jyo (Bizen Osafune Japanese sword learning centre) 2 Information I got from the swordsmiths [Swordsmithing] There are two sizes of hammers to beat iron. The lighter one weighs 5 kg (approx. 11 lb / 176 oz). The other one 10 kg. Sometimes visitors want to have a try, and of course they […]

Read Article


Let’s Play “Go”! – History of the Board Game Go

The game of ‘Go’ has its origin in China 4,000 years ago. It is more than 1,300 years since ‘Go’ was introduced to Japan. During these centuries, the ancient Chinese form of ‘Go’ has been modified and improved by the Japanese. ‘Go’ as it is played today is an indoor game which has no further […]

Read Article


Let’s Play “Go”! – How to Play the Board Game Go

The game Go is a quest to conquer territories. One of the two players uses black stones and the other white stones to mark out their respective territories. The player who has captured more territory at the end of the game is the winner. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts […]

Read Article


What Does the Japanese Fox Say – A Look at Foxes in Japanese Folklore and Popular Culture 2

The Japanese fox (Vulpes vulpes), as mentioned in the first part of this feature, is a common topic in Japanese myths and legends. Continuing our discussion about the kitsune, we will feature one of its known ability: human possession. Kitsune’s Human Possession Kitsune is able to possess humans. The word, 狐憑き (kitsunetsuki), literally means the […]

Read Article


Shogi, The General’s Board Game – Board and Gameplay

In our previous posts about shogi, we learned its history and the pieces that make the game. In this post, we will learn more about the moves of each piece. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 […]

Read Article


Japanese Summer – A Season of Fireworks and Dance Festivals 2

In our previous post, we featured fireworks as one of the things you usually associate to a Japanese summer. But summer is not only about fireworks, it also means commemorating one’s dead ancestors and summer dance festivals. Obon In Buddhism, they believe that the spirits of their ancestors visit their living relatives yearly and it […]

Read Article

kodomo no hi

Golden Week – Children’s Day

Today in Japan is Greenery Day (みどりの日, Midori no Hi) which is a part of the series of holidays called the Golden Week. If you want to read more about Greenery Day, read our previous post. Continuing our series of posts regarding Golden Week, we will feature Children’s Day (子供の日) or Kodomo no Hi. Children’s […]

Read Article


We are ninjas: What ninja is and the origin

What is “ninja”? From “Mansenshuukai” a.k.a. “Bansenshuukai” (a famous ninjutsu-sho, a book about ninja’s tricks), an excellent ninja is described as one who makes a great success but; Makes no sound Has no odor Remains nameless Never win a name for himself / herself Makes outstanding achievements just like creating this world About the expression […]

Read Article

Cascading water

Kyoto: Strolling around Kamogawa River and iconic Gion

After enjoying our morning hunt for momiji leaves (we enjoyed it so much that we did not realize that we have walked for more than two hours), we decided to take a short break before we continue our hunting trip. I know Kyoto is one of the best places to enjoy Japanese cuisine but we […]

Read Article


Mystery tour : Muramasa , a cursed blade – Part 1 –

Muramasa (1) Masamune and Muramasa “Masamune” and “Muramasa” are probably the two well-known Japanese sword brands to common Japanese people. You may have seen those names in Japanese manga, video games, novels, etc. For example, “Masamune” is used by Sephiroth in a Playstation game, Final Fantasy 7. Also, there is a game entitled as “Oboro-muramasa” […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+