Fun Link Friday: Japanese drinking games

One important cultural constant anywhere and everywhere in Japan is the fine pastime of drinking. Maybe you’re finishing up a language program somewhere and it’s time to kick back with your friends, or maybe you’re just arriving as an English teacher and you’re bound to be wined and dined by new colleagues. Either way, here’s a list of Japanese drinking games that we’ve found around the web (reference articles at the bottom) that you can use to impress your friends.

Yamanote-sen 山手線Game

 An extremely popular drinking game, the goal of the Yamanote-sen Game is to name stations on the Yamanote train line in Tokyo. Any train station on the line can be named, and you go around in a circle (much like the line itself) while people clap a rhythm for you. If you name a wrong station, can’t think of a station, repeat a station already said, or miss a beat, you have to take a drink! Better study up on your Tokyo train lines if you’re going to be your Japanese companions!

Pin Pon Pan

Being terrible at rhythms of all kinds (I can’t even march in time), I would lose Pin Pon Pan in no time. In this game, the starting person says “Pin,” the person to the left says “Pan,” and the person to their left says “Pon” while pointing at a random person at the table, who has to immediately respond with “Pin!” and start the process all over again. Any hesitation or messing up the pattern results in a drink!

Dobin Chabin Hagechabin… Ichi Ni San!

A follow-up to Pin Pon Pan, describes this similar pointing pattern game that is bound to get you in a large group (especially if you’re already a number of drinks in):

This game starts with one person saying “dobin” and pointing. In dobin chabin hagechabin you always point. Not pointing is penalized. “Dobin” points to someone, that person says “chabin” and points to someone else who says “hagechabin”. However, it doesn’t end there. “Hagechabin” then points to a fourth person and says, “ichi”, that person points to someone and says “ni”, and finally that last person points at someone and says “san”. That person then becomes “dobin” and it starts all over again. You can point to anyone at anytime, but if you don’t point, don’t say the right word, or otherwise break up the flow of the game, you take a drink. People who have had to drink cannot be pointed to on “san”. If you say “san” and point to someone who has previously had to drink, you both have to take a drink. As this continues, there are fewer and fewer people you can point to on “san”. Last person standing wins.

Pocky Game


In this game, especially popular amongst university students, a single piece of the beloved snack Pocky is placed between the lips of two players, who have to start eating it from each end (think Lady and the Tramp). The first to chicken out loses and has to drink—if they both kiss, it’s a tie!

笑っちゃいけないゲーム (No-laughing game)

Going around the table, the player put on the spot is subject to his or her friends trying to make him laugh. If he/she does, they have to take a drink!

Kiku no Hana (Chrysanthemum Flower)

 This is a somewhat more hardcore drinking game, for a (hopefully) small group of friends drinking sake. To quote the rules from

Take a sake cup for each player and put them face down on a tray. One player must then conceal something under one of the cups (traditionally a chrysanthemum, hence the name, but a coin will do nicely on one of those rare occasions that you don’t happen to have a chrysanthemum on you.) Next, the tray is passed around in a circle and each player must pick up a cup. If you lift the cup under which the coin is hidden, you have to take a bottle of sake and fill all the cups that have already been turned over, then drink the lot. That means that if you’re the sixth player and you’re unlucky enough to lose, you have to knock back six cups of sake. If the tray finds its way back to the sneaky bastard who concealed the coin in the first place, then he will get his just desserts and have to fill the entire tray of overturned cups with sake, and glug it down.

 Sounds dangerous for first-timers, so probably only seasoned drinkers should attempt it!

The Ōsama (King) Game

This one is a doozy if you happen to have particularly sadistic friends among you. also described this one really well, so I’ll quote them here:

Take a chopstick for each player and, with a pen, write “Osama” on one of them, and number the others from 1 upwards. Next, someone holds the chopsticks in their fist, so that the numbers are concealed, and everybody draws a stick, being careful not to reveal their number to the others. The lucky guy or gal with the “Osama” chopstick gets to be the King.
The Osama then decides on a task, and states the chopstick numbers of the players who must perform it, (without yet knowing who those players are). For example: “number two must kiss number five!” or “number three has to do the Macarena!” or “numbers seven and eight must down their drinks!” Everyone then reveals their chopsticks, and the unlucky buggers with the chosen numbers have to stand up and do as the king commands.
After each deed is done, the chopsticks are gathered once again, and the process is repeated. Usually everybody gets a chance to be the King, and players relish the opportunity to exact revenge on those who tormented them in previous rounds of the game. As the night progresses, and the booze flows, each successive player elected as Osama becomes more sadistic and creative than the last, as they fiendishly cackle their orders.

Another game, Hashiken is described on , but it’s a bit long for reposting in full here so you can just refer to the article below and check it out. Happy (and responsible) drinking , everyone!

Original articles:

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of graduate life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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2 Responses to Fun Link Friday: Japanese drinking games

  1. odorunara says:

    I’ll be sure to try a few of these next time I have a party!

  2. toranosuke says:

    Some of these sound quite fun!

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