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Shiritori (しりとり) is a Japanese word game in which the players are required to say a word which begins with the final kana of the previous word. No distinction is made between hiragana, katakana or kanji. "Shiritori" literally means "taking the end" or "taking the rear".[1]


  • Two or more people take turns to play.
  • Only nouns are permitted.
  • A player who plays a word ending in the mora N () loses the game, as no Japanese word begins with that character.
  • Words may not be repeated.
  • Phrases connected by no (の) are permitted, but only in those cases where the phrase is sufficiently fossilized to be considered a "word".[2]

Example: sakura (さく) → rajio (ラジ) → onigiri (おにぎ) → risu (り) → sumou (すも) → udon (うどん)

The player who used the word udon lost this game.

There are various optional and advanced rules, which must be agreed on before the game begins.

Optional rules[edit]

  • Dakuten and handakuten may be ignored or added. Thus suupu (スープ) may be followed by furo (ふろ), and sato (さと) may be followed by dochi (どち).
  • A long vowel may either be ignored or considered as a vowel. Mikisaa (ミキサー/みきさあ) can be followed by either sakura (さくら) or aki (あき).
  • Common pronouns and place names may be permitted. Example: Edo jou (えどじょう) lit. Edo castle is acceptable.
  • Two words spelled with the same kana but different kanji may be permitted. For example, Su (す) can either be spelled as "巣" (lit. a birdnest) or "酢" (lit. vinegar).

Advanced rules[edit]

  • Words are limited to a certain genre.
  • Instead of using only the last kana, the final two kana must be used again. In this case, only the first kana may not be the mora N ().
  • The length of a word must be three or more syllables.[2]

English shiritori[edit]

A Shiritori game using only English words was invented to help people learn English. Most rules are the same, yet there are several original and optional rules that are used.

  • For students of English, any words including nouns, verbs, and adjectives can be used.
  • Players cannot use different tenses of previously used verbs unless they have nonstandard conjugation. For example, a player may use "be", "was", and "is" but not both "kick" and "kicked".
  • When a word ends in a silent vowel, like "life", one may either use the vowel in another word or use the preceding consonant instead.

Similar games[edit]

In English, the most similar game is Word chain.

There are Russian wordgames similar to shiritori known as "Igra v slova" ("Игра в слова"—A game of words), where players are required to say a noun that begins with the final letter of the previous word, and "Igra v goroda" ("Игра в города"—A game of cities), where players are required to say a name of a city or town that begins with the final letter of the previous word.

In Sinitic languages there is a game known as jielong (接龍), where players start new words with the last hanzi.

There is also a similar South Slavic game called Kalodont, in which players continue the chain by beginning with last two letters of the previous word.

In Korean, there is a game called ggeut-mar-it-gi (끝말잇기—End Word Continue), in which players must say a word that starts with the last Hangul letter of the previous word.

In Romanian, there is a game called "Fazan" ("Pheasant"), in which players must say a word that starts with the last two letters of the previous word.

Examples from popular culture[edit]

  • In the Japanese version of Tomodachi Life, there is an event called Shiritori Tournament but obviously changed into Word Chain in the European version, and ggeut-mar-it-gi in the Korean version, the North American version lacks the game but there is a similar event called Rap Battle.
  • In episode 6 of the anime Nichijou, the characters Yūko Aioi and Mio Naganohara play a picture version of the game.
  • The Japanese ending theme of Pokémon Journeys is "Pokémon Shiritori", which features the game being played with names of Pokémon.


  1. ^ Backhaus, Peter (16 January 2017). "Shiritori: a simple game that's great for practicing your Japanese vocab". The Japan Times. Japan: Yukiko Ogasawara. Archived from the original on 2 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017. しりとり (shiritori) is the name of the game, derived from the phrase 尻を取る (shiri o toru). It literally means “take the rear” — and that is basically what you do.
  2. ^ a b Koichi (4 October 2008). "Shiritori, the Japanese Game That Will Improve Your Japanese". Tofugu. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.