Bridges and Numbers

I knew I’d have fun with this course. The essay isn’t even due till January, and I’m already thinking about it, even though I’ve got the exam Friday.

I was thinking about doing loan word phonology, specifically words borrowed into Jamaican speech from Japanese. (Changed my mind, though; still Japanese, but a different topic.)

But the idea of loan words reminded me of a topic I’ve wanted to blog about for a while: two games whose names come from Japanese.


A friend of mine told me about this game either this year, or last year. It’s a puzzle game that is extremely addictive if you let it overtake you! I downloaded the app, and went crazy.

My friend told me it means chopsticks, but はし (hashi) is a homophone, written with the same hiragana (sound-based writing), but different kanji (meaning/idea-based writing). Written 箸, it means chopsticks, but written as 橋, it means bridge. And that’s what the name of the game comes from: the idea of bridges. It’s alternate name Hashiwokakeru (橋をかける) means “building bridges”. It’s available in the Google Play Store:


The idea behind the game is that you build bridges to connect “islands”. Each island has a numbers on it, and, in order to solve the puzzle, the number of bridges connected each “island” must be the same as the number on it.

It can be tricky depending on the difficulty of the specific archipelago you’re given; the numbers assigned to the islands, and the size of the puzzle. Sometimes, a single difference can determine if you solve the puzzle.

I haven’t played it in a while, though. I should give it a try again soon.

If you try it, let me know!


I suspect this one is more popular. I’ve seen it in book stores, and on people’s phones. In English, we say Sudoku, but in Japanese, it’s Sūdoku (数独、すうどく), which means “digit single”. The game’s history dates back to outside of Japan; when it got there, it received the name 数字は独身に限る (すうじはどくしんのかぎる、Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru, “the digits must be single”), which became shortened to the name we know today.

As you can see in these pics from Wikipedia, sudoku is a grid based puzzle game in which the player tries to ensure that the numbers 1 to 9 are all present in 3 by 3 squares. To make matters even more complicated, no number can be repeated in the the 3 by 3 squares or in vertical and horizontal lines. It’s a brilliantly simple and fun puzzle; simple in its concept, not so simple to solve!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time having fun with both these puzzle games. Hashi was more fun for me, though. These games remind me just how much of a global village we’ve become. I suspect people play these games all the time without even the slightest idea that their names are Japanese loan words!

Anyway, back to studying!

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