Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Kotoba Asobi: Kaibun – Learning the Japanese Style of Wordplay 1

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/19 Traditional Culture , , , , , ,

The Japanese language is a very beautiful and fun language. On the contrary though, it’s also a very difficult language for non-native speakers. A word in English can have many translations in Japanese depending on the context. Wrong pronunciation of a certain Japanese word can also mean another non-related word. A fun way to learn more about Japanese language is through Kotoba Asobi or Japanese wordplay.

kana cards

The Japanese language is a very fun language to learn. In this picture is the Moekana made by Culture Japan. It is a set of flash cards that helps in learning hiragana and basic vocabulary. (Photo by Danny Choo on Flickr)

Kotoba Asobi

Just as the versatile Japanese word for the word “play”, which is asobi (遊び), can have different meanings: from hanging out with friends to visiting a friend’s house (even if you go there for a meal or chit-chat), the Japanese language, too, can be very versatile. In this post, well introduce some of Japanese wordplays: Palindromes, tongue twisters, puns, riddles, and other games.

Palindromes/Kaibun

“Was It a Rat I Saw?” is the same sentence when spelled backwards. This type of words, phrases or sentences, as we know, is called a palindrome. In Japanese, it is called kaibun (回文, literally means spinning sentence”). Because the Japanese language is written syllabically, kaibun, unlike an English palindrome, differs when read as well as when spoken. When forming a kaibun, you may take note of the following:

  1. The topic marker wa which is spelled as the same as ha (は) can be treated as
  2. Small kana ya, yu, yo (ゃ,ゅ,ょ) are usually allowed to be interpreted as big kana や,ゆ, andよ.
  3. In classics, dakuten and handakuten (diacritic marks) are often ignored. These marks are the one you see above the syllable to change its pronunciation. (e.g. は・ば・ぱ, which is ha, ba, and pa respectively)

Here are some examples of kaibun:

  • Watashi makemashita wa. (私負けましたわ) – I have lost.
  • Takeyabu yaketa. (竹藪焼けた) – A bamboo grove has been burned.
  • Naruto wo toruna. (なるとを取るるな) – Do not take my naruto (that spiral-shaped fishcake and not that city of whirlpool)
  • Natsu made matsuna. (夏まで待つな) – Don’t wait until summer.
  • Nagaki yo no too no neburi mina mezame naminoribune no oto no yoki ka na. (長き世の 遠の眠りの 皆目覚め 波乗り船の 音の良きかな) – Everybody gets awakened from a long sleep and enjoys the sound of waves on which the boat is gliding along.
  • Yo no naka, hokahokana no yo. (世の中、ホカホカなのよ) – The world is a warm place.
  • Shinamonpan mo remon pan mo nashi. (シナモンパンもレモンパンも無し) – There is neither cinnamon bread nor lemon bread.
  • Yasui isuya. (安い椅子屋) – a cheap chair shop
  • Washi no shiwa (わしにしわ) – my wrinkles
  • Kui ni iku. (食いに行く) – go to eat

We’ll continue the other types of Japanese wordplay in our next posts.

What Japanese palindromes or kaibun do you know? Share it with us in the comments section below!

References:

1. Playing With Words Japanese Style: Kotoba Asobi. Tofugu.

2. Kaibun. Wikipedia.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

DSCN3996

Kotoba Asobi – Goroawase 2

In our last kotoba asobi post, we learned about goroawase or substituting number pronunciations to make a new word or phrase. Goroawase is used as a mnemonic technique, especially in the memorization of numbers such as dates in history, scientific constants, and phone numbers. Goroawase as mnemonics Mnemonics are used to aid memorization of certain […]

Read Article

yomifuda

Karuta: Traditional Japanese Playing Cards – More Karuta Variations and Karuta in Popular Culture

In our previous post about the Japanese traditional card game karuta, we listed some of popular karuta variations. In this post, we will post more of these karuta variations and karuta in popular culture. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – […]

Read Article

A couple enjoying the view at Ginshoji

Momijigari: Hunting for Autumn Colors

I have never been to any form of hunting trip till my friends and I head out to Kyoto this year to experience Momijigari which literally translates to maple leaf (momiji) hunting (gari). Just like Hanami (sakura viewing) in spring, Momijigari in autumn is well rooted in the Japanese culture and recently has also gained […]

Read Article

shogi pieces

Shogi, The General’s Board Game – History and Origin

In my last series of posts, we learned about the board game Go. Another popular Japanese board is the Shogi. It is also known as the Japanese chess or the General’s Game. In this series, we will learn its history, how to play it, and its influence to popular culture. Origin of “Shogi” The word […]

Read Article

20141011_123524

Omihachiman and the man named William Merrell Vories – Part 2

Where is Omihachiman? Omihachiman is located on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa – the largest lake in Japan. According to wikipedia Omihachiman means “Hachiman in Omi”. Since the Edo Period Omihachiman has been known to be a merchants town and is now widely known to be the birthplace of ‘Omi-shonin’ – the merchants from […]

Read Article

hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri – A Festival of Dolls

Today, March 3, is Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) in Japan. Though hina (雛) literally means a young bird or a chick, the day is also called Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day. On this day, families with girls wish their daughters a successful and happy life. Families with young daughters mark this day by setting up a display […]

Read Article

don!

Pyoon! Nyan! Pachi! – Learning the Japanese Onomatopoeia 1

Onomatopoeias are always present in any language in the world. The hiss of the snake, the clanking of the bells, the drizzling of the rain – the words in italics are just some of the onomatopoeias that can be found in an English dictionary. The Japanese language too is full of onomatopoeias. Some of them […]

Read Article

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Naoshima Art House Project – Part 2

In my first post I shared with you my experience when I visited Go’o Shrine and Kadoya. Now I will tell you about the other 4 houses – Gokaisho, Haisha, Ishibashi and Minamidera. Gokaisho designed by Yoshihiro Suda. Gokaisho litterally means a place to meet and play go – a traditional Japanese board game. But don’t expect […]

Read Article

hatsumoude

New Year Holidays in Japan: Hatsumoude

Happy New Year! Everything you do in the first days of the New Year can mean something or will affect the whole year. Hatsu or “first” of something are important according to Japanese culture: the first shrine visit, first dreams, and the first sunrise have impacts on how your year will turn out. The following […]

Read Article

hatsuyume

New Year Holidays in Japan: Hatsuyume

As we mentioned in our hatsumoude post, everything you do in the first days of the New Year can mean something or will affect the whole year. Hatsu (初) or “first” of something are important according to Japanese culture: the first shrine visit, first dreams, and the first sunrise have impacts on how your year […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑