One of the many reasons these are not funny is that although many Japanese words sound similiar, bringing them together in a sentence provides a play of sounds but not of meanings juxtaposed enough for there to be a shift of expectation or a groan of recognition. But Japanese children find some of these to be amusing enough to torment adults with them. The key to their amusement is a sing-song repetition.

Mushi wa mushi suru. = Ignore the bug(s).

Ika wa ikaga? = How about eating squid/cuttlefish?

Iruka wa iruka? = Is there a dolphin?

Futon ga futtonda. = The futon flew.

Sore wa sarada no sarada. = This is the salad plate.

Sake ga sakenda. = The salmon was shouting.

Hokkaidô wa dekkaidô. = Hokkaido is big.

Taiyô ni sawaritaiyô! = I want to touch the sun.

Share wa yamena share. = Stop telling jokes!
(This is often chanted menacingly when an adult pleads with the children to stop, just stop.)

Naiyô wa naiyô! = There is no meaning.
(This is the desperate cry of a weeping adult before the onslaught of children's jokes.)

nashi wa nashi. - There is no pear.

Kanchou ga kanchou ni kanchou shimasu - The spy is giving an enema to the captain.1

yuki ga yuki - the snow is going2

yoshi yoshi - good reason.

1.) The use of kanchou for spy is a bit out of date, but it works =]

2.) Yuki form of "iku" (to go). Similar: "yuku"

I included the kanji as well, encoded in Unicode HTML Entities. Also, if my grammar is wrong (which it probably horribly is), please let me know, I'm greatly interested in learning Japanese. Thanks to gn0sis for making sure the captain gets his enema...

These puns may be misplaced, because kanchou is actually kinda funny.
Shô ga nai--shôga nai. = There's nothing (we) can do about it--there isn't any ginger.

(My host family thought this was slightly funny, but I think it's only because I was a gaijin.)

wakusei wa kusei
mokusei mo kusei
(the planet stinks
so does jupiter)

In contrast to the previous admittedly unfunny entries, here's a Japanese pun that is hilarious -- assuming, of course, that you have a (very) good working knowledge of the language. But, the pun being a slightly more elaborate affair, you need two people here: the punster and the victim.

Hara hetta naa.
Gee, I'm hungry.

Kintama namete minai?
Well, you want to lick my balls?


O-fukuro no aji suru yo!

<sound of all Japanese speakers in the audience groaning really, really loudly>

The catch -- explaining which, alas, takes all the life out of this -- is that o-fukuro no aji suru is a set phrase, much beloved by Japanese food product marketeers, that means essentially "Just the way Mom used to make it". So why is this funny? Because the literal meaning of o-fukuro, "Mom", is actually "bag" or "sack"... so the punster is claiming that his balls taste like an honorable nutsack, just the way Mom used to make them.

And a tip of the hat to Michael Cash for telling me this one.

Popular anime is also a limitless source of groanworthy puns. The original Japanese language version that has the best (worst?) of these - and what kind of an anime fan would watch a dub, anyway?

Buton wa buton ga buttonda. (The pig hit the pig. DBZ)

Ah...Pan da. Kochi mo Panda! (Ooh! It's bread. I am also a panda!? Ranma 1/2)

Neko ga, nekonda. (The cat is sleeping. DBZ)

Futon ga futtonda. (The bed flew away. DBZ. Sensei mentions this in the first writeup, too.)

Hei! Gaaru? Rimembaa mii? Aimu 'Sutaamii')? (Hey! Girl? Remember me? I'm a star, me. Pocket Monsters)

Eternal gratitude to jarsyl for the translation of the Ranma 1/2 line.

There is a famous Japanese joke that goes something like this...

"Once upon a time there was a great Buddhist priest named Ikkyu, whose fame spread far and wide for his enlightened solutions to peoples' problems. Finally, Ikkyu became so famous that words of his deeds reached the ears of the great Lord, who summoned Ikkyu to his mighty castle.

Upon learning of the summons, Ikkyu proceeded over hill and dale until at last he arrived at the main gates of the castle. In front of the gates was a river, with a bridge across it, and in front of the bridge was a sign which said:

BEWARE: Walking on the bridge is forbidden, by order of the Lord.

Ikkyu paused, thought for a moment, and then promptly walked across the bridge and through the gates. When Ikkyu came before the Lord, the Lord was astonished. "I have forbidden walking on the bridge!" he said, "How did you cross the river?"

"It was no problem," Ikkyu replied. "I simply walked down the center of the bridge."

The key to understanding this strange story is a Japanese pun that is not at all funny, but at least is a pun. It turns out that the Japanese word for bridge, "hashi," is pronounced the same as the Japanese word for edge, which is also "hashi." Thus by walking down the center of the bridge, Ikkyu obeyed the Lord's command to "not walk on the edge." (The kanji for "edge" (端) is different from the kanji for "bridge" (橋), however, so apparently the sign in question was written in hiragana).


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