10 Tricky Japanese Tongue Twisters (早口言葉) with audio!

Japanese tongue twisters (早口言葉, hayakuchi kotoba) are sayings that are meant to make you stumble over your words. Just like an English tongue twister, a Japanese tongue twister has no real meaning and is meant to be spoken as fast as possible. In fact, 早口言葉 literally means, “fast-mouthed words.” A famous English tongue twister is “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Another good (but long) one is “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?”

Tongue twisters are hard enough to say in your native language, so you can bet they are even harder in a foreign language! Our native Japanese teacher, Masako, has made a recording of each one to help you practice. But don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right away, even Masako had to try them a few times!

We left out the romaji for these slippery sayings, so see if you can go just from the hiragana. Once you try it, then listen to Masako

Top Ten Japanese Tongue Twisters

1. 生麦生米生卵

(なまむぎ なまごめ なまたまご)

This is one of the most popular tongue twisters in Japan that everyone will know!
“Namamugi, namagome, namatamago.”
japanese tongue twisters raw wheat raw rice raw eggs

2. スモモも 桃も 桃のうち

すももも ももも もものうち

“Sumomomo momomo momonouchi”
japanese tongue twister peaches

3. 坊主が びょうぶに 上手な 坊主の 絵を かいた

ぼうずが びょうぶに じょうずな ぼうずの えを かいた

“Bouzu gabyoubu nijouzuna bouzuno ewo kaita”
japanese tongue twister monks folding screen

4. 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

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

“Kono tategaki ni take tatekaketa noha.”
japanese tongue twister bamboo fence

5. 庭には二羽鶏がいる

にわには にわ にわとりが いる

“Niwa niha niwa niwatori ga iru”
japanese tongue twister chickens in the yard
There is also another, more complicated version of this one: “In [Mr.] Niwa’s garden, two chickens suddenly ate a crocodile.” But see if you can do the easier one first!
にわのにわにはにわのにわとりわにわかにわにをたべた
 
 

6. 隣の客はよく柿食う客だ

となりの きゃくは よく かき くう きゃくだ

“Tonari no kyaku ha yoku kaki kuu kyaku da.”
japanese tongue twister permissons

7. 東京特許許可局許可局長

とうきょう とっきょ きょかきょく きょか きょくちょう

“Tokyo tokka kyoka kyoku kyoka kyokucho.”
japanese tongue twister patent office

8. 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

“There are 3 frogs hopping. Here come another 3 hopping frogs. In total, there are 6 frogs hopping.”
japanese tongue twister hopping frogs

9. 赤巻紙青巻紙黄巻紙

あかまきがみ あおまきがみ きまきがみ

“Akamakigami aomakigami kimakigami.”
japanese tongue twister wrapping paper

10. この釘は、ひきぬきにくい釘だ

このくぎは ひきぬきにくい くぎだ

“Kono kugi ha hikinuki nikui kugi da.”
japanese tongue twister nail

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