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Title: Shiritori  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Japanese word games, Word chain, List of xxxHolic episodes, N (kana), List of traditional Japanese games
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia



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 buttocks" or "taking the end".


  • Basic rules 1
  • Optional rules 2
  • Advanced rules 3
  • English shiritori 4
  • Similar games 5

Basic rules

  • 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".

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

  • 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 safe.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • Only words beginning and ending in dakuten and handakuten may be used.

English shiritori

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 vowel, like "life," one may use the preceding consonant instead.

Similar games

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) and "Igra v goroda" ("Игра в города" -- A game of cities). Players are required to say a name of a city or town that begins with the final letter of the previous word.

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 this game, the objective is to avoid words ending with "ka", because the other player is then able to say "kalodont", and South Slavic languages have no words beginning with "nt".

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