Tongue twisters are a fun way to get familiar with a new language. In this article, I will introduce you to 10 Japanese tongue twisters (also known as 早口言葉 (haya kuchi kotoba) in Japanese).
The first two I will introduce are relatively easy tongue twisters; try saying it as fast as possible, three times in a row! Try the ones further down this list if you want a real challenge. These tongue twisters are an excellent way to practice Japanese pronunciation, speaking rhythm, and improve your skills in differentiating between similar sounding words.
1. Nama Mugi Nama Gome Nama Tamago
(Nama mugi nama gome nama tamago)
Raw rye, raw rice, raw egg
This Japanese tongue twister isn’t so difficult for most people. Just take it slow at first and try to enunciate each word clearly. Then you can build up your speed slowly.
2. Aka Makigami Ao Makigami Ki Makigami
(Aka makigami ao makigami ki makigami)
Red rolling paper, blue rolling paper, yellow rolling paper
Similar to the first item on this list, you’ll try to say three different types of the same thing (makigami) quickly. Compared to the other tongue twisters on this list, this one is still relatively easy.
3. Sumomo Mo Momo Mo Momo No Uchi
(Sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi)
Both plums and peaches are a family of peaches
If you have trouble saying similar sounds in a row (especially も in this case), then this is a great one to practice!
4. Basu Gasu Bakuhatsu
(Basu gasu bakuhatsu)
Bus gas explosion
A short and sweet phrase to help you with 濁音 (dakuon), or voiced consonants in Japanese.
5. Bōzu Ga Jōzu Ni Byōbu Ni Bōzu No E O Kaita
(Bōzu ga jōzu ni byōbu ni bōzu no e o kaita)
A monk skillfully drew a picture of monks on a folding screen
Many students of Japanese have difficulty hearing and saying the long vowel sounds with certain words. In this case, most of the words in this sentence have an “う (u)” after an “お (o).” 坊主 (ぼうず), 上手 (じょうず), and 屏風 (びょうぶ). Practicing sentences like this can help your pronunciation and improve your listening skills, so try it out!
６. Kono Takegaki Ni Take Tatekaketa No Wa, Take Tatekaketakatta Kara Take Tatekaketa No Desu
(Kono takegaki ni take tatekaketa no wa, take tatekaketakatta kara take tatekaketa no desu)
I leaned bamboo on this bamboo wall because I wanted to lean this bamboo onto a bamboo wall.
This one will take some serious practice just to be able to say it clearly. Saying it fast is a whole other level of difficulty!
7. Kaeru Pyokopyoko Mi Pyokopyoko; Awasete Pyokopyoko Mu Pyokopyoko
(Kaeru pyokopyoko mi pyokopyoko; awasete pyokopyoko mu pyokopyoko)
Frogs go pyokopyoko* three of them go pyokopyoko; in total pyokopyoko, there are six of them going pyokopyoko
*Note: Pyokopyoko is an onomatopoeia in Japanese used for the sound of frogs jumping
This phrase is great for working on the pronunciation of combination hiragana characters (in this case ぴょ (pyo)). It can be difficult for some Japanese learners to differentiate between similar sounds like ぴ (pi) or ぽ (po). If this is you, be sure to work on this one!
8. Tonari No Kyaku Wa Yoku Kaki Kuu Kyaku Da
(Tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da)
My neighbor’s guest is a guest that eats a lot of persimmons
This mixes both standard hiragana sounds (かき,くう) with combination sounds (きゃく). This makes it quite challenge to say clearly and quickly.
9. Niwa Niwa Niwa Niwatori Ga Iru; Uraniwa Ni Mo Niwa Niwatori Ga Iru
(Niwa niwa niwa niwatori ga iru; uraniwa ni mo niwa niwatori ga iru)
There are two chickens in the yard; there are also two chickens in the backyard
This is the longer version of a very well-known tongue twister in Japan. While it’s not too difficult to say all of the words, it is quite difficult to say it smoothly, with the proper pronunciation and rhythm.
10. Tōkyō Tokkyo Kyoka Kyokuchō, Kyō Kyūkyo Kyūka Kyoka Kyohi
(Tōkyō tokkyo kyoka kyokuchō, kyō kyūkyo kyūka kyoka kyohi)
The head of the Tokyo Licensing Authority suddenly refuses vacation permit today
Two words: Good luck! This one combines many of the difficult elements from the other items on this list. Just saying each word in order is a challenge. I recommend to say this very slowly at first, and only go faster when you can say each word clearly, and transition to the next word smoothly.
Did you manage to say some of them? I’m not very good at tongue twisters, so I have difficulty saying these! I hope you’ve managed to do better than me!
As always, thank you for reading until the end.