Japanese palindromes

絵里絵, pronounced erie: a kanji palindrome. Other kanji palindromes that spring to mind are 日曜日 ("Sunday") and 一対一 ("one on one").

Then there are "radical palindromes", like 林 ("grove") or -- if you're writing from top to bottom -- 昌 ("clear", "shining"). And here's one that's two characters long: 明日 ("tomorrow").*

Of course, word and phrase palindromes aren't very exciting. Sentences are where it's at. The Japanese word for "palindrome" is 回文, kaibun, and googling that brings up a few sites, such as this one (scroll past the English puns), which even has moraic-palindrome tanka:

叫ぶとも 遠き五月雨 汝は知らじ 離なれた岬 音も飛ぶ今朝
さけぶとも とおきさみだれ なはしらじ はなれたみさき おともとぶけさ
sakebu tomo tooki samidare na wa shiraji hanareta misaki oto mo tobu kesa
oh, it will cry
the distant May rain
unknown to you
a cape far away
even sounds fly this morning

Note that:

  • wa is considered ha (which is how it's written)
  • Voiced morae are considered identical to their unvoiced equivalents (shi/ji, ta/da)
* Technically, the 日 at the bottom of 昌 is a 曰; and the 日 at the left of 明 is a 冏; but I'm going to go with "how they are written in modern Japanese" rather than "how they were written millennia ago on tortoise shells" as the standard for identity.

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What about romaji wordplay in Japanese? For example, NISSIN: not just an English palindrome, but can be read upside down as well. I've often wondered about that.


And then there's my personal favorite, 山本山.I forget what they make, though, seaweed products?


That's awesome! it's a visual palindrome and a character palindrome, and each individual character is itself a visual palindrome.

If it's this 山本山, looks like they deal in seaweed and tea.


Yep, that's them. (Sorry I didn't take the time to look up their HP myself!)

I learned of them from their low-key commercials, usually around New Year's if I remember correctly (I rarely watch land-based Japanese TV these days, so I don't know if they still air), basically just the name of the company against a simple background; the copy ran


I've gotten a laugh or two over the years with this variation


(Well, OK, a laugh.)

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