Japanese drinking games

Many cultures enjoy drinking games in one form or another that involve the participants performing some form of forefit, usually drinking something alcoholic.

An izakaya in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
photo by JanneM

Japan is no exception, and I’ve pulled together a few common Japanese drinking games that you may encounter as you wonder from bar to bar…

山手線ゲーム (Yamanote line game)

The game involves participants going around in a circle naming stations in the Yamanote Line. Over time different categories can be chosen but same name for the game remains. If participants answer incorrectly or are not able to give an answer they must drink. How many can you name?

Yamanote line

笑っちゃいけないゲーム (No laughing game)

This game is very similar to the one above although rather than naming something the participants must make each other laugh if a participant laughs then they must drink.

No laughing lolcat

ピンポンパン (Pin-pon-pan)

This is a well known game where participants must start in a clockwise fashion where the first participant says “Pin!”, the second “Pon!” and the third “Pan!” while pointing to anyone else in the group. The person who is pointed to must say “Pin” and start again. If anybody makes a mistake they drink!

ポッキーゲーム (Pocky game)

A much loved favourite of Japanese University students. This is more of a two person game although I’m sure many spectators will be involved for the laughs alone. The game uses Pocky, a Japanese biscuit which is part dipped in chocolate.


Each participant must take one end of the stick in their mouth and begin to eat. Whichever participant removes their mouth first loses. If the participants kiss then… its a tie! (think of the famous Bella Notte scene from Lady and the Tramp, but with Pocky rather than spaghetti!)

Now if your Japanese friends suddenly shout “Pin” out loud, or present you with a Pocky stick whilst you’re out drinking, you might know what you need to do!

Check out this video for further drink-related fun:

What drinking games do you play in your country? Are there any Japanese ones that you’ve enjoyed whilst drinking with your friends?