Get Tongue-Tied: Trickiest Japanese Tongue Twisters to Try

Japanese tongue twisters are called hayakuchi kotoba (早口言葉), which literally translates to “fast mouth (hayakuchi) words (kotoba).” Just like Japanese slangs, learning these tongue twisters is a fun and exciting way to practice speaking the language. Specifically, it helps to condition you to make that Japanese pronunciation you’ve been wanting to nail. You can make it your daily routine to repeat one tongue twister a day. That’s right — we want you to start saying “Kono kugi wa hikinukui kugi da” while brushing your teeth and doing laundry. Totally normal stuff.

There’s a bunch of popular tongue twisters in English — let’s not forget the classic “She sells seashells by the seashore” — but what about Japanese tongue twisters? We’ve categorized these Japanese tongue twisters in their order of difficulty. It’s time to try these tongue twisters to track your trek. (See what we just did there?)

Easy Japanese Tongue Twisters

These few Japanese tongue twisters are relatively easy to master. You just need to be careful of the sudden consonant changes and those few repetitive consonants as well. Otherwise, their shorter length helps beginners and aspiring tongue-twister-enthusiast to catch their breath.

Japanese Tongue Twister namamugi namagome namatamago

1. 生麦生米生卵

Pronunciation: namamugi namagome namatamago

Hiragana: なま むぎなまごめなまたまご

English Translation: Raw wheat, raw rice, raw egg. 

2. 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

English Translation: The monk skillfully drew a picture of a monk on a screen

japanese tongue twister akamakigami kimakigami aomakigami

3. 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

English Translation: Red scroll, yellow scroll, blue scroll

japanese tongue twister basu gasu bakuhatsu

4. バスガス爆発

Pronunciation: Basu gasu bakuhatsu

Hiragana: バスガスばくはつ

English translation: Bus gas explosion

japanese tongue twister Pronunciation: buta ga buta o butta node butareta buta ga butta buta o butta.

5. ブタがブタをぶったのでぶたれたブタがぶったブタをぶった。

Pronunciation: buta ga buta o butta node butareta buta ga butta buta o butta.

English Translation: The pig beat the pig, therefore the beaten pig beat the beater pig.

aka pajama, ki pajama, cha pajama japanese tongue twister

6. 赤パジャマ黄パジャマ茶パジャマ

Pronunciation: aka pajama, ki pajama, cha pajama

Hiragana: あかぱじゃま きぱじゃま ちゃぱじゃま

English Translation: Red pajamas, yellow pajamas, and brown pajamas

Intermediate Japanese Tongue Twisters

Think rolling your tongue for the phrases above is too much of a breeze? We’ll bump up the difficulty a notch. Now, these tongue twisters are only getting longer, with more repetitive and similar consonants.

kono kugi wa hikinukui kugi da japanese tongue twister

7. この釘は引き抜くい釘だ

Pronunciation: kono kugi wa hikinukui kugi da

Hiragana: このくぎはひきぬきにくいくぎだ

English Translation: This nail is one that is difficult to pull out.

8. 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。

English translation: A Japanese plum is a peach, a peach is also a peach, both Japanese plums and peaches are a kind of peach.

 Kaeru pyokopyoko mipyokopyoko awasete pyokopyoko mupyokopyoko ja

9. 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

English translation: The frogs jump, three (times) jump, together jump, six (times) jump.

Japanese Tongue Twisters

10. バナナの謎はまだ謎なのだぞ

Pronunciation: banana no nazo wa mada nazo na no da zo

Hiragana: ばななのなぞは、まだなぞなのだぞ

English Translation: The mystery of the banana is still a mystery

11. 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

English Translation: both the deer and the antelope are part of the deer family, but surely the sea lion is not a deer

12. 飲むなら乗るな、乗るなら飲むな。

Pronunciation: Nomu nara noru na, noru nara nomu na.

Hiragana: のおむならのるな、のるならのむな

English Transaction: If you drink don’t drive, if you drive don’t drink.

13. 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。

English Translation: On the parent turtle is the child turtle, on the child turtle is the grandchild turtle.

Hardest Japanese Tongue Twisters

These tongue twisters require more focus and practice. Still, even if you don’t speak any Japanese, that doesn’t mean you can’t try out some of these!

14. タコベルのタコは高くなかった

Pronunciation: takoberu no tako wa takakunakatta

Hiragana: タコベルのたこはたかくなかった。

English Translation: Taco Bell’s tacos aren’t expensive at all.

japanese tongue twister

15. にゃんこ、子にゃんこ、孫にゃんこ、ひ孫にゃんこ。

Pronunciation: nyanko, konyanko, magonyanko, himagonyanko.

Hiragana: にゃんこ、こにゃんこ、まごにゃんこ、ひまごにゃんこ。

English translation: Kitty, kitten, grand-kitten, great-grand kitten.

16. シャンソン歌手、新春シャンソンショー

Pronunciation: Shanson kashu, shinshun shansonshu.

Hiragana: しゃんそんかしゅ、しんすんシャションシュー

English Translation: Chanson singer, new year chanson show.

japanese tongue twisters

17. 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。

English transaction: Because it wasn’t warm I used warm clothes.

Notice that the word atatakai (warm) is heavily modified? This is because Japanese i-adjectives conjugate themselves. To learn more about this, visit our guide to Japanese adjectives.

Japanese Tongue Twisters

18. 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

English translation: Right eye, right ear, right ear, right eye

Japanese Tongue Twisters

19. 隣りの客はよく柿食う客だ 

Pronunciation: tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da

Hiragana: となりのきゃくはよくかきくうきゃくだ

English translation: The guest next door eats a lot of persimmons

20. この竹垣に竹立て掛けたのは竹立て掛けたかったから、竹立て掛けた

Pronunciation: kono takegaki ni take tatekaketa no wa take tatekaketakattakara , take tatekaketa

Hiragana: このたけがきにたけたてかけたのはたけたてかけたかったから、たけたてかけた

English Translation: I laid this bamboo against the bamboo fence because I wanted to lay bamboo against it

Japanese Tongue Twisters

21. 裏庭には二羽, 庭には二羽鶏がいる

Pronunciation: ura niwa ni wa niwa, niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru

Hiragana: うらにわにわにわにわにわにわにわとりがいる

English Translation: There are two chickens in the backyard and two chickens in the front yard

22. 東京特許許可局長

Pronunciation: toukyou tokkyo kyokakyokuchou

Hiragana: とうきょうとっきょきょかきょくちょう

English translation: Director of Tokyo Patent Licensing Bureau

23. トラをとるならトラをとるより鳥をとれ、鳥はおとりにトラをとれ。

Pronunciation: Torawo torunara torawo toru yori toriwo tore, toriwa otorini torawo tore.

Hiragana: とらをとるならとるとらをとるよりとりをとれ、とりはおとりにとらをとれ。

English Translation: Instead of catching the tiger, catch a bird, and use the bird as bait to catch the tiger.

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