Have You Ever Played Shiritori?

By Donald Ash | Articles

Shiritori (しりとり(しり取り)), or the Japanese word-chain game, is a wonderful way to get those Japanese vocabulary juices flowing. This going to be a short post just to explain the rules of the game, and then we’ll actually play together!

How to Play Shiritori

Get at least one other person, because I don’t want you to be the weird lady or man sitting on the bus playing shiritori, out loud, to themselves.

The first person starts off by saying a Japanese word: “Miso” for example.

The second person has to then say a word whose sound begins with the ending sound of the previous word (in this case…the previous word was mi-so, so the next word in the chain has to begin with “so”). I could say the word “soba” and that would be perfect. Let’s look at a longer set of exchanges to show you some additional examples:

みそ (miso)—> そば (soba (buckwheat noodles))—> バナナ (banana))—> なつ (natsu(summer))—> つき (tsuki (bowl))—> きっぷ(kippu (ticket))

Does it make sense? Once you get into it, it’s really a lot of fun. I have played this game with Japanese friends before and it’s great. You end up knowing more words than you think you do. There is one Shiritori no-no rule, though. If you say any Japanese word ending in ん, the “n” sound in Japanese, it’s GAME OVER! The reason is, there aren’t any words beginning with this sound.

So if we look back at our example. If after the word つき I had used kirin, きりん, which means giraffe in Japanese, I would have been out, or the game would have ended (depending on how you play).

The possibilities for this game are endless! You could limit it to nouns, you could put a time limit on each person, you could even play strip shiritori if you’re into that kinda thing. Because I think it’s such a great game, I figured I’d start off by putting a Japanese word into the comments section, and we’ll see how far we can go 😀

Donald Ash

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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of thejapanguy.com blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
  • Donald Ash

    I’ll go first:

    あおい (AOI, the Japanese word for blue).

    • いぬ (Inu, dog) 🙂

      • Ken

        ぬりえ(Nurie, a color book)

        • Donald Ash

          えいが Movie

          • LanceT

            がんばる!! 😀

  • Anastasia

    いなか! (countryside)

    (^ ^)

    • Donald Ash

      Thanks Anastasia This will be the start of a second chain (Longest chain wins! 🙂 )

      かぶと-helmet or headpiece

      • LanceT

        とり – (tori, bird)

        • Amber Hing

          りんご (ringo, apple)

          • ごちそうさまでした (gochisousamadeshita, said after meals) 🙂

  • Amber Hing

    ヌガー (Nuga-, nougat)

    • Donald Ash

      Great Amber! Thanks for jumping in. This will be the start of a third chain.

      • LanceT

        いえ (ie, house) This is great practice, working all three threads. XD

        • Amber Hing

          えいが (eiga, film)
          How fun =D

          • Amber Hing

            Oops, just seen it’s already been used…
            I’ll change to えき (eki, train station) then

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