15 Clever Puns and Jokes in Japanese to Make Your Friends Laugh
Whether you’re hoping Japanese can get you a job, you’d like to learn enough of the language to travel or you’re just interested in how Japanese people see the world, taking a look at jokes in Japanese can give you a leg up.
Also, if you want to tell and understand jokes, not only will you have to take a closer look at the language, you’ll have to learn what makes Japanese humor unique, thereby gaining cultural insight.
So what are Japanese puns and jokes like? Let’s take a look!
- Japanese Jokes
- Japanese Puns
- 6. “How much is salmon roe?”
- 7. “Have you ever baked bread?”
- 8. “The local district president also has hemorrhoids!”
- 9. “A boring wife.”
- 10. “What’s the flavor of a spider? Sour!”
- 11. “It isn’t Western-style but it’s strange-looking.”
- 12. “What’s a panda’s favorite food? Bread!”
- 13. “Is there a dolphin?”
- 14. “Were you in a damaged corridor?”
- 15. “The frog is coming back.”
- Resources to Practice Telling Jokes in Japanese
1. “The orange on top of the aluminum can.”
(あるみかんのうえに ある みかん。)
“Aluminum can” in Japanese is アルミ缶 (あるみかん), where the split between words is あるみ + かん, but if you move the split one syllable to the left (ある + みかん), you end up with ある (there is) and みかん (mikan/mandarin orange).
アルミ缶の上にあるみかん is a full sentence turned into a modifier, “___ that is on top of the aluminum can.” Therefore, the phrase is “The mikan that is on top of the aluminum can,” and arumikan is repeated twice.
2. “Where do the teachers eat and drink? In the staff room!”
(しょくいんは、どこで たべたり のんだりするん？しょくいんしつ で！)
職員 (staff) and 食飲 (eat and drink) are both read as shokuin ( しょくいん ).
So, you end up with:
“Where do the teachers eat and drink? In the staff (eating and drinking) room.”
3. “Japan falls into the sea and makes a splash.”
(にほんは うみに おちて、じゃっぱーん！)
日本 (にほん) means “Japan,” and ジャッパーン (じゃっぱああああん) is pronounced Jap-paaaaan, and comes from the onomatopoeia チャップン (ちゃっぷん), the sound of a large “sploosh,” or splashing. Therefore, “Japan falls into the sea, and Jap-paaaaan makes a splash.”
The Japanese onomatopoeia sounds like the English word for the country that is falling into the sea. It’s also funny because Japan is an archipelago, so there’s a lot of water.
4. “The futon fell off.”
布団 (ふとん) is a mattress, and 吹っ飛ぶ (ふっとぶ) is “to be blown off.” As with the first joke about cans and oranges, this is a pun that repeats sounds while changing the meaning.
Unlike the former, the sound changes slightly in this joke: ふとん, or futon, becomes ふっとん(だ), or futton(da), acquiring an extra letter. It still works as a pun, though, as multiplying letters within Japanese words is one way of making them more expressive:
くさい (kusai) — It stinks.
くっさい! (kusssssssai!) — It really f***ing stinks!
ほら！(hora!) — Hey, look here.
オッラア！(orrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaa!!!!) — Hey…up yours.
5. “Thank you, Paprika.”
This joke is a form of しりとり, meaning “word chain” (but literally meaning “taking butts”), a game where one person writes a word, and the next person must write a word that starts with the last character of the previous word:
ありがとう (thank you) leads to…
とうがらし (paprika) which leads to…
羅針盤 (らしんばん, compass)
Generally, only the final character is used in the game. In this case, though, the last sound is used and because it’s a joke, rather than an official game of butt-taking, this transgression is completely viable.
The first half of the word means “thank you.” The latter half means “red pepper” (in some countries, “capsicum” or “paprika”).
6. “How much is salmon roe?”
Feeling hungry? イクラ (salmon roe—a type of sweet caviar usually put on top of sushi) and いくら (how much) are both pronounced as ikura.
7. “Have you ever baked bread?”
( ぱん つくった こと ある？)
No, but we’ve certainly eaten it before. (Gotta love carbs!)
The joke here is that パン つ (bread) sounds like パンツ (pants), which changes the sentence to パンツ食ったことある？ （ぱんつ くった こと ある？）
It might be the same pronunciation, but the statement now translates as “have you ever eaten pants or underpants before?”
8. “The local district president also has hemorrhoids!”
(じもと くちょう は ぢ も とくちょう ！)
This is probably the only “offensive” Japanese pun on our list, but it’s also pretty hilarious!
地元区長 (Local district president) and 痔も特徴 (also has hemorrhoids) have similar pronunciations: jimotokuchō ( じもとくちょう ).
9. “A boring wife.”
How rude! つま (the first part of “boring”) and 妻 (wife) are both pronounced tsuma.
10. “What’s the flavor of a spider? Sour!”
(くも の あじ は どんな あじ です か？ すっぱい だ！)
This Japanese pun is a play on Japanese and English words together.
The Japanese word すっぱいだ (sour) is pronounced suppaida, which sounds similar to the English word “spider” read with a Japanese accent.
So, the spider would taste both like a spider and sour. Sour spider gummies, anyone?
11. “It isn’t Western-style but it’s strange-looking.”
(ようし きばつ です が、ようしき ばつ です 。)
This one’s a bit of a tongue-twister and is difficult to say quickly.
容姿奇抜ですが (strange appearance) is pronounced: yōshi kibatsu desuga (ようし きばつ です が).”
洋式バツです (but it is not western style) is said: yōshiki batsu desu (ようしき ばつ です).
Even to a native Japanese speaker, a lot of Japanese jokes—especially the longer dajare—are tongue-twisters. Can you say this one five times fast?
12. “What’s a panda’s favorite food? Bread!”
( ぱんだ の すきな たべもの は なん です か？ ぱん だ！)
パンダ (panda) sounds the same as パン だ (it’s bread), or pan da.
Just don’t eat the panda, please.
13. “Is there a dolphin?”
(いるか は いるか？)
The word いるか means both “dolphin” and “is there,” and is pronounced iruka in both cases.
14. “Were you in a damaged corridor?”
(いたんだ ろうか に いた ん だろう か？)
The words 傷んだ 廊下 (damaged corridor) are sounded out as itanda rōka and いたんだろうか (“were you in”) also sounds like itandarou ka.
15. “The frog is coming back.”
Both 蛙 (frog) and 帰る (coming back) are read as kaeru ( かえる ).
Resources to Practice Telling Jokes in Japanese
- If you’re looking to improve your Japanese joke-telling skills even further, a good way to do this is by learning it straight from Japanese people themselves. To start with, watching comedy shows is a great way to learn Japanese through TV.
- Another option is the language learning program, FluentU, which uses Japanese-language media with learning tools to teach the language.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Thank you, thank you. I’m here until Tuesday. And now you can tell some Japanese jokes yourself!
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