Goroawase - Puns on numbers in Japanese

WRITTEN BY

Matrículas Abertas para o curso de Japonês do Ricardo Cruz Nihongo Premium! Clique faça sua matrícula!

Japanese count differently than other languages. Thanks to Japanese ideograms, some numbers have variations in pronunciation. This can end up confusing some and give rise to puns that we will cover in this article.

They often use words to represent numbers or numbers to represent words. These puns are often used in advertisements as a way to help people remember phone numbers. These numerical puns are called Goroawase (語呂合わせ).

First, we recommend that you at least understand how Japanese counting and numbers work. For that we will leave some articles for you to read below:

The Japanese language has few phonemes, in addition to the ideograms some words are just one or two phonemes. A simple phoneme can mean several things, so some Japanese use the pronunciation of numbers to give some meaning. See an example of the pronunciation possibilities with Japanese numbers:

Number Kanji readings English
0 ma (ru), o, re (i) the, zero, z
1 hi (to), i (chi), wan wan
2 fu, bu, pu, ni, tsu (u) tsu you
3 mi, sa (n), za, su (laughs) su, suri
4 shi, yo (n) foo faa ho
5 go, ko, itsu faibu, faivu
6 mu, ro (ku) shikkusu
7 na (na), shichi sebun, sevun
8 ha (chi), ba, pa, ya, and (ito) I am
9 ku, kyu (u) nain
10 to (o), juu ten

This is one of the reasons why Japanese people are afraid of numbers 4 (shi - 四) that resemble death (shi - 死) and number 9 (ku - 九) that resemble black (kuro - 黒). Another example is number 43 (shisan) where the pronunciation is similar to the birth of the dead shizan (死産).

In the case of puns they usually read the separate numbers which was in the case four and three (shi san) and not forty-three (yon juu san). The Japanese can also use the reading of numbers from a foreign language such as English to make these puns. Not to mention that kanji usually have similar readings that are alternated by dakuten.

With these puns the Japanese use numbers to write secret words and expressions. Using the pronunciation of Japanese numbers that are simple syllables we can easily assemble words and phrases using numbers. If someone sends you written messages in number you may be able to decipher them!

Realize that even the name Goro can have a pun number (56).

Goroawase - Japan's numerical puns

1492 - That was the year that they discovered America, thinking about it the expression was created Iyo! Kuni Ga Mieta (いよ国が見えた). This expression literally means: Wow! I can see the land! (or a country) or Land in sight! This is because each phoneme can represent a number from 1492: i (1) yo (4) ku (9) ni (2).

23564 - The sidereal or stellar day is exactly 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds which indicates the period of rotation of the earth in relation to the stars. In Japanese this number can be read ni-san-go-ro-shi which sounds very similar to nii-san-koroshi (兄さん殺し) which translates to killing brother.

3.14159265  - This is the number of the famous PI that can be pronounced san-i-shi-i-ko-ku-ni-mu-ko which sounds similar to (産医師異国に向こう) which translating means “An obstetrician goes to a country foreign". for those who don't know, an obstetrician is a doctor who takes care of the woman's reproduction.

4649 - This number can be read as yo-ro-shi-ku which literally means “Nice to meet you or I count on your help”.

573 - That number sounds a lot like konami. 573 appears on many Konami phone numbers or on arcade cards.

23 - Can be read as “ni san” referencing Nissan who usually number their cars with “23” at motoring events.

59 - This number can indicate ten go ku”(天国) which means Paradise. This is because ten is 10 in English and 50 is in the ten so with go (5) and ku (9). 

  • 801 “Ya oi” - yaoi meaning Gay;
  • 39 - “san-kyu” - (thanks);
  • 893 - “Ya-ku-za” (やくざ) Japanese mafia;
  • 39 - "mi-ku" - Hatsune Miku;
  • 15 - "ichi-go" - strawberry;
  • 90 - "ku-ma" - bear;
  • 96 - "kuro" - black;
  • 18782 - “i-ya-na-ya-tsu” (いやなやつ) unpleasant;
  • 37564 - “mi-na-go-ro-shi” (みなごろし) massacre;
  • 889 - ha-ya-ku - fast;

Goroawase - trocadilhos nos números em japonês

Numerical puns in anime

To understand that making puns with numbers is quite common in Japan. We separated some examples of anime and other media that used puns involving numbers to remember something.

The first example is in the recent anime Darling in the franxx where the characters have numbers instead of names. If you pay attention to the names that the characters gave to each other, they are related to each other's numbers. 015 for example is called Ichigo. The other characters are: Naomi (703) | Zorome (666) | Hiro (016) | Mitsuri (326);

In the film of the girl who skips time (toki wo kakeru shoujo) it is mentioned that the weather will be good on July 13 (7-1-3) which is the same as na-i-su (Nice) in English.

  • The Protagonist of Ah! My Goddess signs her name as K1 (keiichi);
  • Detective Conan's Kogoro likes to use his name written in numbers 556 (kogoro) as a password;
  • In Inazuma Eleven the Tsunami surfboard has 273 written on it;

Goroawase - trocadilhos nos números em japonês

Puns on Japan dates

The Japanese also usually put puns on special dates. Of course, these dates are not real but it is a very funny idea. We will list them below:

1月3日  ひとみの日 Hitomi no hi (hitomi day)
1月5日  いちごの日 Ichigo no Hi (strawberry day)
2月9日  ふくの日 Fuku no hi (clothing day)
2 月 10 日  ニットの日 NEET on hi (Neet's day)
2月22日  ニャンニャンニャンの日 Nyan nyan nyan no hi (cat day)
3月9日  サンキュウの日 Sankyu no hi (day of thanks)
3月13日  サンドイッチの日 Sandoiicchi no hi (sandwich day)
4月15日  良い子の日 Yoi ko no hi (good son's day)
8月7日  花の日 Hana no hi (day of force)
8月7日  バナナの日 Banana no hi (banana day)
8月29日  焼き肉の日 Yakiniku no hi (Japanese barbecue day)

There is even a website where you can create your own Goroawase. I hope you enjoyed the article! Don't forget to share with friends and leave your comments. Did you understand all the puns?