Having fun with Japanese Oyaji Gag

Every language has its jokes and word games, delightful and refreshing for the minds. Japanese people are particularly fond of what they call “oyaji gag”, a type of joke very popular in the 80’s, made by combining same or similar sounding words. Literally the father’s gag, “親父ギャグ”, it would be more accurate to translate it by the “old man’s gag”. Learning some of them might be a good way to learn Japanese and remember your vocabulary list!

Japanese people do love oyaji gag and it is said that 76% of Japanese are inclined to be tolerant toward such way of joking. What a good news! To tell the truth, we doubt a little that so many Japanese enjoy being trapped with word games, but without waiting any longer, let’s discover the best and most popular of the oyaji gag, starting with easy ones:

  • ニューヨークで入浴。
    Nyuu youku de nyuyoku.
    “Take a bath in New York”.
  • フリーは不利。
    Furii wa furi.
    “Free is disadvantageous”
  • 予想はよそう。
    Yosou wa yosou.
    “Let’s not make predictions.”

After this warming up, let’s check longer sentences!

  • 父さんの会社が倒産した。
    Tosan no kaisha ga tosan shita!
    “My father’s company went bankrupt!”

Oh, the irony!

  • 副部長のテーブルを拭く部長。
    Fukubucho no teburu o fuku bucho.
    “The manager is wiping the assistant manager’s desk.”
  • ふとんがふっとんだ。
    Futon ga futtonda.
    “The futon flew (away)”.
  • いいにくかった(良い肉買った/言い難かった)。
    Ii niku katta.
    “I bought nice meat”/”It was hard to say”.
  • 残暑が厳しいザンショ。
    Zansho ga kibishii zansho.
    It’s still hot because of the lingering summer.
  • アルミ缶の上にあるみかん。
    Arumi kan no ue ni aru mikan.
    The orange on the aluminium can.
    Some of the oyaji jokes are quite elaborate, and might not be easy to understand at first.
  • バッタのバッター頑張ったーが、バッタバッタとくたばったー!
    Batta no battaa ganbattaa ga, battabatta to kutabattaa !
    Batter the Grasshopper did his best, though, he died without a hitch!

Today’s few examples represent only a part of the humor behind the oyaji gag. Appreciated by young people, in particular, teenage boys, a successful gag must match some precise criteria. First of all, the oyaji gag should be simple and easy to understand but not too simplistic either. The point is to make people laugh by confusing the person you are speaking to, with some good word games. Another rule lies in the repetition: it should be repeated over and over again. Finally, a good oyaji gag plays with common saying. Let’s say you are speaking with a clerk in a shop and you want to have a little fun. You could ask him “omochi desu ka”, “is it rice paste?” or you could be asking… “o-mochi desu ka”, “do you have it?”.

Try to find some more during your study or even create ones yourself. With the oyaji gag, you understand that Japanese pronunciation matters to fully take pleasure in speaking Japanese casually. As we say at Coto Japanese Academy, having fun learning Japanese is the key to speaking Japanese well. Do not forget the oyaji gags you have learnt today! You are now ready to impress your friends and even your Japanese teacher!

Besides all the jokes and playful banters do you know what else oyajis like to say when they haven’t met in a while? Well, it has got to be “Hisashiburi“!
Want to find out more about Coto Japanese Academy? Try taking a look at the various Japanese Language Courses we offer!

Image credit: Jonathan Kos-Read.
Title: Ghost Street
source: Flickr

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo, we offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learner. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo – please visit our contact page here.


Test your Japanese level!

Do a self-test to see which course fits you.

Check your level