なぞなぞ

27 Mar

Do you study Japanese?

Japanese なぞなぞ (riddles) are a helpful study tool. The play on words in children’s riddles help expand your vocabulary.

If you don’t understand Japanese, these riddles will probably be difficult to understand because riddles in any language aren’t easy to translate to another language (since riddles usually incorporate a play on words, and different languages don’t often have similar wordplay).

Anyways, probably the most common Japanese riddle:

「パンはパンでも食べられないパンは、なぁに?」
答え:「フライパン」

Do you understand it? Have you heard it before? It’s an old joke that everyone in Japan has heard countless times.

Literally, in English it would be:
“Bread is bread but what bread is inedible?”
Answer: “A frying pan.”

See? It doesn’t make sense in English.
But in Japanese, the word for “bread” is “pan”.

Now does it make more sense?

If you write it in English, but use the Japanese word “pan” instead of “bread”:
Pan is pan but what pan is inedible?”
Answer: “A frying pan.”

Here’s another one:

「トラを食べちゃう車ってなぁに?」
答え: 「トラック」 (とら食う)

“What kind of vehicle eats tigers?”
Answer: “A truck”

Meaningless in English.
But “tiger” is “tora” in Japanese. And “eat” is “taberu“…or sometimes “kuu“.
“Truck” in Japanese is “torakku”, which sounds similar to “Tora Kuu” (Tiger Eat).

If you want to see more Japanese riddles (and you can read Japanese), go to http://なぞなぞ.jp/.

Do you know any Japanese なぞなぞ (riddles)? Write them in this post’s comments section.
Feel free to write English riddles there too.

39 Responses to “なぞなぞ”

  1. LouaiB October 2, 2016 at 12:47 am #

    “What kind of vehicle eats tigers” should be the translation.

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 2, 2016 at 12:57 am #

      Oh yeah, you’re right…I wrote it wrong.
      Thanks for the correction.

      Like

  2. Anonymous June 6, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    Here’s one I got from an episode of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger:
    Q:何が唯一の中央に黒のですか?
    (Nani ga yuiitsu no chuuoo ni kuro nodesu ka?)

    A:フクロウ
    (Fukuroo)

    Get it?
    Fu “kuro” o

    Like

  3. Soni Singh May 5, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    What a fun Ha Ha Ha ha. . . . . . . .

    Like

    • tokyo5 May 5, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

      Which of the riddles in particular do you like?

      Like

  4. JIRO March 29, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    Tokyo5 san, perfect pongrocks san, very close !

    What do you call that, 頭の体操 ?

    Nazonazo is good to stimulate our brains.

    You know numbers have meanings in Japanese.

    4649 reads, “ よろしく ” and it means, “ Nice to meet you ”

    So what do the following numbers read and mean ?

    ① 39

    ② 373

    ③ 6480

    ④ 37564

    ⑤ 324929

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

      >What do you call 頭の体操 ?

      I’d translate 「頭の体操」 as “Brain exercises”.

      >4649 reads, “ よろしく ” and it means, “ Nice to meet you ”

      Yes, it’s an interesting aspect of the Japanese language.
      I want to write a post about it…one day I will.

      >So what do the following numbers read and mean ?

      39 → サンキュー (“Thank you”)

      373  → 南 (“South”)

      6480 → 虫歯ゼロ (“No cavities”)

      37564 → 皆殺し (“Murder everyone”) (It’s not a nice one!😉 )

      324929 → 身によくつく (“You’ll learn a lot”)

      Like

    • tokyo5 March 30, 2010 at 12:55 am #

      >You know numbers have meanings in Japanese.

      Actually, I wrote a post yesterday about the Tokyo Sky Tree
      ( https://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/the-highest-in-japan/ )
      in which I mentioned that this the reason the tower will be built to 634 meters high.

      Like

  5. JIRO March 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    Your answer is correct, Tokyo 5 san.
    You are very smart because it took 2 days for me to have solved this one.

    The next one is this :

    ここに 5分計の砂時計と 3分計の砂時計 があります。

    この 2つを使って 7分を 計ってください。

    さて どうすれば いいでしょうか ?

    Would you please translate it ?

    See you

    JIRO

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

      This riddle is:

      “You have a 5-minute hourglass and a 3-minute hourglass.
      Using only these two hourglasses, please measure seven minutes.
      How can you do it?”

      It’s complicated…but I think I’ve figured it out.
      But I won’t answer it this time…I’ll let someone else try.

      So, can anyone tell the answer?

      Like

      • pongrocks March 29, 2010 at 1:25 am #

        hmmm….
        maybe like this:
        you turn both hourglasses around at the same time. when the 3-minutes hourglass is finished you have 2 minutes left in the 5-minutes hourglass… so these 2 minutes are the first 2 minutes (of 7) and when they have passed you simply turn the 5 minutes hourglass and let the 5 minutes pass… there are your 7 minutes.
        Know I am confused by my own text, I hope you get what I mean😀

        This riddle was similar to the water jug riddle from Die Hard III ^^

        You have two water jugs, one for 3 gallons and one for 5 gallons. Now put exactly 4 gallons in the 5 gallon bottle😛

        Solution by Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson ^^

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 29, 2010 at 2:02 am #

        Oh, that works…and it’s easier than what I came up with.

        My answer:
        Start both hourglasses simultaneously.
        When the three minute one is out of sand, immediately flip it over to restart it (at that point the five minute one will have two minutes left).
        When the last two minutes of the bigger one is over (and a total of five minutes has now passed), flip the three minute one over again (it will have two minutes of sand in one side and one minute in the other)…that will be the last two minutes of the full seven minutes.

        Like

  6. JIRO March 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    You are right, Tokyo Five san.
    The answer is bathtub cover.
    We don’t need it when we use the tub, but after finishing using the bath we put the cover back.

    And there is another なぞなぞ.
    It goes like this.

    先生が、1つの かごの中に リンゴを 5個 持っていました。
    そして 子供たちが 5人いました。
    先生は、子供たち ひとりひとりに リンゴを 一個ずつ 与えました。
    そして 子供たち全員に リンゴを与えたのに、
    かごを見ると まだ リンゴが 一つ残っていました。なぜでしょうか?

    Would you please help me translate this into English, Tokyo Five san.
    I will try first.

    A teacher had 5 apples in a basket.
    And there were 5 children around her.
    She gave each child an apple.
    But after having given an apple to every child, when she looked at the basket she could still find an apple in the basket.
    Why ?

    Is this correct or if there’re any mistakes please correct them.
    And does the question make sense ?
    And what is the answer ?

    See you.

    JIRO

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

      Yes, your English translation of the riddle is correct.

      And the answer is “She gave four of the kids an apple each and then she gave the basket with the last apple still in it to the other kid.
      So, each of the five kids had one of the five apples…but there was still an apple in the basket.”

      Like

      • pongrocks March 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

        that was tricky…😉

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

        Yes, I agree.

        Like

  7. Blue Shoe March 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Nice post, Tokyo. I’m a big fan of なぞなぞ, myself, and periodically post them on my blog. Hadn’t heard the tiger one before – I like it.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 2:07 am #

      >I’m a big fan of なぞなぞ, myself, and periodically post them on my blog.

      Please feel free to write one (or more) here in this post’s comments!

      >Hadn’t heard the tiger one before – I like it.

      Thanks.

      Like

  8. JIRO March 27, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Tokyo Five san

    Would you please help me ?

    I don’t understand these letters.

    I’d like to decode them.

    Please help me.

    Please click here.
    http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~nkojoron/5937.html

    Thank you, Tokyo Five san.

    JIRO

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 27, 2010 at 9:32 am #

      I can’t figure out what the first one (① I L W) is…but the rest, I believe, are:

      ② U R Y S → “You are wise.”

      ③ I 8 B 4 U → “I ate before you.”

      ④ U R A Q T → “You are a cutie!”

      ⑤ U R D 1 2 C → “You are the one to see.”

      ⑥ R U N X T C → “Are you in ecstasy?”

      ⑦ U R E Z 2 T S → “You are easy to tease.”

      Like

      • David March 27, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

        I thought “ILW” could be “I love you” but it doesn’t really fit.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 2:14 am #

        >I thought “ILW” could be “I love you” but it doesn’t really fit.

        Yeah, I don’t think that’s the answer. “W” is “double you” not “you”.

        If you figure it out though, let me know.

        Like

      • David March 28, 2010 at 11:06 am #

        I did some searching on the internet and found a definition at Urban Dictionary.

        ILW can mean “I Love Weed”. But again, that probably doesn’t fit in here.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

        I’ll assume that’s not what it’s supposed to be.😉

        Like

      • tokyo5 April 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

        This reminds me of the album of the American rock band Van Halen that they titled “OU812“…which is pronounced “Oh, You Ate One Too“.

        Like

    • pongrocks March 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

      the first one is really difficult… The best solution I can come up with is “I’ll double you”, like being someones double/doppelgänger (ha, another German word that’s used in English ^^). But that sounds kind of weird… The other solutions are right I think…🙂

      Like

      • JIRO March 28, 2010 at 12:51 am #

        Thank you very much, Tokyo Five san.

        Without you I couldn’t have done it.

        http://lang-8.com/110097/journals/421984/DECODE-%E2%86%92-Just-for-fun%21-%E3%83%BE%28-%EF%BE%9F%E2%88%80%EF%BE%9F%29%EF%BE%89%EF%BE%9E

        URIE believes that I have done it all by myself.

        Is it OK for me to take the credit for it ?

        Thank you very, very much, Tokyo Five san.

        And thank you, pongrocks san and David san.

        There is a なぞなぞ for you.

        いるときに いらなくて いらないときに いるものは ?

        ヒント : 昔の日本の 風呂場に あるものです。
        ( 今の風呂には ないでしょうね )

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 2:11 am #

        @pongrocks

        >the first one is really difficult… The best solution I can come up with is “I’ll double you”

        Yeah, I also thought “I L W” might be “I’ll double you“…but I don’t know what that could mean (except maybe gambling).

        >doppelgänger (ha, another German word that’s used in English ^^).

        Is that word used in English? What does it mean?

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 2:28 am #

        @JIROさん、

        >Thank you very much, Tokyo Five san.

        OK. No problem.😉

        >Is it OK for me to take the credit for it ?

        Sure.🙂

        >There is a なぞなぞ for you.
        >いるときに いらなくて いらないときに いるものは ?

        Thanks.

        Is the answer: 「お風呂の蓋」?

        (For other people, JIRO’s riddle means something like:

        “What’s the thing that when you need it, it’s not there and when you don’t need it, it’s there?”

        His hint is: “Japanese bathtub’s used to have this long ago (but not anymore)”.

        My answer is: “Bathtub cover” (the riddle is hard to translate clearly, but it means “when you need a bath, the cover’s off…and when you don’t need the bath, the cover’s there.”))

        Actually, JIRO, you said that today’s bathtub’s in Japan don’t have a cover. My tub has one, and so does all of my wife’s relatives.
        I think they’re still used commonly. Doesn’t your bathtub have a ふた?

        Like

      • pongrocks March 28, 2010 at 4:31 am #

        >>Is that word used in English? What does it mean?

        I think I’ve heard it in a movie before… And my online dictionary says so as well… The meaning is basically look-alike. Since “double” can also mean “look-alike” and it’s a verb here, I thought “to double” could mean something like “to become someone’s look-alike”, but that’s wrong I guess. English isn’t my native language after all🙂 Gambling could be another explaination (just like you said) and I can’t think of another meaning for ILW. Is there some kind of solution for this on the page?

        Like

      • David March 28, 2010 at 11:13 am #

        Doppelgänger is used in English, although it’s often spelled “doppelganger” (without the Umlaut).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppelg%C3%A4nger

        As for the bathtub cover, the bath in my apartment has one, as did the one in our previous apartment, and every apartment we looked at when moving. I think they’re still very commonly used.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

        I don’t think there’s an answer page.

        But I guess the answer is supposed to be “I’ll double you”.

        But I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

        Yes, I believe most homes in Japan have a bathtub with a cover to keep the water warm.

        Japanese baths are best, by the way.
        I wrote a guest post on another blog about Japanese baths…click here.

        Like

  9. tokyo5 March 27, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    Here’s another:

    「上から読んでも 下から読んでも 同じ名前のお店 なあに?」
    答え: 「やおや」

    “What type of store has a name that’s the same word spelled backwards?”
    Answer: “Vegetable shop”

    “Vegetable shop” in Japanese is “Ya-o-ya”…backwards (using Japanese characters) it’s still “Ya-o-ya”.

    Like

    • pongrocks March 27, 2010 at 5:54 am #

      this kind of words are called palindromes (words you can read forwards and backwards), just in case anybody wonders and doesn’t know…😛

      Like

      • tokyo5 March 27, 2010 at 9:12 am #

        Thanks.

        And I forgot to write that last riddle in romaji for you:

        “Ue-kara-yondemo, shita-kara-yondemo, onaji-namae-no-omise-nani?”
        “kotae: ya-o-ya”

        Like

  10. pongrocks March 27, 2010 at 2:33 am #

    I am sure those riddles would be helpful if I could read them🙂 I can only read the (for me) ‘normal’ romaji… I know a little bit of vocabulary but learning hiragana, katakana and especially kanji is an almost impossible task for a person like me who easily forgets things😛
    How much time did you need to learn Hiragana and Katakana and do you know an easy way to memorize them?

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 27, 2010 at 2:34 am #

      >I can only read the (for me) ‘normal’ romaji

      Would you like them in romaji?

      1. 「Pan-wa-pan-demo-taberarenai-pan-wa-nani?」
      kotae:「furaipan」

      2. 「Tora-o-tabechau-kurumatte-nani?」
      kotae: 「torakku」 (tora-kuu)

      >How much time did you need to learn Hiragana and Katakana

      It doesn’t take long to learn kana. Kanji, on the other hand…

      >do you know an easy way to memorize them?

      Practice writing them…with a pen and paper (not keyboard).
      And, don’t use romaji at all!😉

      Like

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