Try These Twelve Tricky Japanese Tongue Twisters

11 April 2023
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House
Unsplash: Aaron Doucett

There’s a trick to perfecting your Japanese pronunciation, and it’s known as repeating a series of “早口言葉” (hayakuchi kotoba) or you may know this phrase as tongue twisters. Funny thing is that the literal translation for the Japanese phrase “早口言葉” (hayakuchi kotoba) is actually “fast mouth words,” which is sort of like the point of saying tongue twisters – you read a string of words properly and as fast as you can without tripping over.

At first, trying to sound this sequence of tricksy words can be so challenging that sometimes it can make you sound like a silly squirrel juggling five apples. But, as you get the flow and hang of it, there’s no question that you’d be able to say it fifteen times or more like the pro tongue twister artist that you are. Check out this list of twelve twisty sentences to get started.

  1. 坊主が屏風に上手に坊主の絵を書いた
    Pronunciation: bouzu ga byoubu ni jouzu ni bouzu no e o kaita
    Hiragana: ぼうずがびょうぶにじょうずにぼうずえをかいた
    Meaning: the monk skillfully drew a picture of a monk on a screen

  2. 赤巻紙、黄巻紙、青巻紙
    Pronunciation: akamakigami, kimakigami, aomakigami
    Hiragana: あかまきがみきまきがみあおまきがみ
    Meaning: red scroll, yellow scroll, blue scroll

  3. 李も桃、桃も桃、李も桃も桃のうち
    Pronunciation: sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi
    Hiragana: すもももももももももも、すもももももももものうち
    Meaning: a Japanese plum is a peach, a peach is also a peach, both Japanese plums and peaches are a kind of peach

  4. 蛙ぴょこぴょこ三ぴょこぴょこ合わせてぴょこぴょこ六ぴょこぴょこ
    Pronunciation: Kaeru pyokopyoko mipyokopyoko awasete pyokopyoko mupyokopyoko
    Hiragana: かえるぴょこぴょこみぴょこぴょこあわせてぴょこぴょこむぴょこぴょこ
    Meaning: the frogs jump, three times jump, together jump, six times jump

  5. 鹿もカモシカも鹿の仲間, しかしアシカは鹿ではない
    Pronunciation: shika mo kamoshika mo shika no nakama, shikashi ashika wa shika de wa nai
    Hiragana: しかもかもしかもしかのなかま、しかしあしかはしかではない
    Meaning: both the deer and the antelope are part of the deer family, but surely the sea lion is not a deer

  6. 魔術師魔術修業中
    Pronunciation: Majutsushi majutsu shugyou chuu
    Hiragana: まじゅつし まじゅつしゅぎょうちゅう
    Meaning: a magician is currently training in magic

  7. 親亀の上に子亀、子亀の上に孫亀
    Pronunciation: Oyagame no ue ni kogame, kogame no ue ni magogame
    Hiragana: おやがめのうえにこがめ、こがめのうえにまごがめ
    Meaning: on the parent turtle is the child turtle, on the child turtle is the grandchild turtle

  8. 電車好きな車掌さん
    Pronunciation: Densha sukina shashōsan
    Hiragana: でんしゃずきなしゃしょうさん
    Meaning: a conductor who likes trains

  9. 東京特許許可局
    Pronunciation: Tōkyō tokkyo kyoka kyoku
    Hiragana: とうきょうとっきょきょかきょく
    Meaning: Tokyo license approval office

  10. 暖かくなったから、暖かい服を使った
    Pronunciation: Atatakakunakattakara, atatakai fuku o tsukatta
    Hiragana: あたたかくなかったから、あたたかいふくをつかった
    Meaning: because it wasn’t warm I used warm clothes

  11. この釘は、ひきぬきにくい釘だ
    Pronunciation: Kono kugi wa hikinuki nikui kugi da
    Hiragana: このくぎは ひきぬきにくい くぎだ
    Meaning: this nail is a nail that is difficult to pull out

  12. 右目, 右耳, 右耳, 右目
    Pronunciation: Migime migi mimi migi mimi migi me
    Hiragana: みぎめみぎみみみぎみみみぎめ
    Meaning: right eye, right ear, right ear, right eye