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


About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.

  • Donald Ash says:

    I’ll go first:

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

  • Anastasia says:

    いなか! (countryside)

    (^ ^)

  • Amber Hing says:

    ヌガー (Nuga-, nougat)

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