Pretty much everyone enjoys being able to help their younger siblings or kids with their elementary school homework. It’s a little piece of joy to pass on what you’ve learned and prove how cool of a mom/dad or big brother/sister you are. You impart some simple knowledge and see the little light bulb turn on in their head as they begin to understand. Then you can sit back and watch with confidence as they interact with the world around them.

But what do you do when the homework is a question that even you can’t answer? This brainteaser had everyone in one Japanese family stumped for over an hour, so they turned to Twitter for help. And then much of the Internet was stumped too. Take a look at these riddles and see how many you can get playing: What Prefecture is This?

Some brain teasers never make you feel good, and you just need to get the answer however you can. That’s probably why one girl recently tweeted her sister’s elementary school homework. But we kind of agree with her: how is this elementary school homework?!?

Are you up for the challenge? Let’s try it ourselves!

ken quiz 5

Highlight to reveal answer: Nagasaki (長崎)

Yes, that row of hiragana characters is supposed be a hint at the name of a Japanese prefecture. Any ideas?

Just as there is an order for the alphabet, there is an order for the Japanese syllabary. All characters are placed in rows by their vowels sounds in the order: [a], [i], [u], [e], [o]. In the picture above, however, the hiragana characters begin from “i”, reading: ni (に), nu (ぬ), ne (ね), no (の), with na (な) all the way at the end. To any native Japanese person, this should seem seriously strange since, as the little arrow tells us, na should be at the front! Or, in Japanese: “Na ga saki ni.” Clever!

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Highlight to reveal answer: Akita (秋田)

OK, this one’s even harder. Those who have studied kanji would see that this character looks something like 田 (ta), which represents a rice paddy. But unlike a normal “ta” kanji character, the one above has all these holes or “open” spaces where the lines should be joined. In Japanese, the word for “open” is “aki”, so our “ta” is “aki”. Yup, this crafty picture turns into “aki ta”, denoting Akita Prefecture. Is your brain starting to melt yet?

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Highlight to reveal answer: Kanagawa (神奈川)

This is the puzzle that stumped most of the Twitter users who took up the homework gauntlet. It looks like an engineering problem rather than a word riddle, but here’s how this one plays out:

It seems that two things are forming together to make a circle/ring. After staring at the picture for a while, the two bits look like the katakana characters for “ka” (カ) on the right side and “na” (ナ) on the left, albeit kind of twisted. So, “ka” and “na” are making a circle/ring, or “wa” in Japanese. So, “kana ga [is] wa”. Finally, the truth has been revealed! Yeah, we think it’s pretty ridiculous too. Who thought these up??

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Highlight to reveal answer: Miyagi (宮城)

There is a familiar kanji behind the downward-pointing arrow here. You can see the kanji character for migi (右) which means “right” as in “turn right.” In the middle of the kanji is an arrow, or as it’s known in Japanese, a ya. So, in the middle of the “mi” and “gi” is a “ya” or “mi ya gi”.

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Highlight to reveal answer: Gunma (群馬)

There are so many mas! We have hiragana ma (ま), katakana ma (マ), and romanized ma. How in the world are we supposed to sift through the herd of ma to find the name of a prefecture!? …Wait. Herd! There are a “herd” of “ma”. The kanji for “herd” is 群, so this has to be “gunma”

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Highlight to reveal answer: Iwate (岩手)

Immediately we see the katakana for i (イ) and te (テ) separated by what looks like an equals sign. Aha! Just like the sentence “Watashi wa KK” means I am/= KK, this also must be i = te or “i wa te”. Finally, an easy one!

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Highlight to reveal answer: Kagawa (香川)

Last one, folks! In this picture there is wa (ワ), ki (キ), ku (ク), ke (ケ), ko (コ) in katakana. Wa is in bold with a question mark over it. But wait, why is wa in there when all the other characters belong to the k family? Where’s ka (カ)? Well, ka became a wa! Or, in Japanese: “ka ga wa ni natta.” We did it!

For those who couldn’t even begin to contemplate what these puzzles were trying to show, don’t worry. Many native Japanese took one look at this and said, “I have no idea what this means,” “How is this elementary level homework?!” and simply, “The fu…?!”

We hope you enjoyed this prefecture puzzle game and that you’ve learned something new about Japan and the Japanese language!

Source: Twitter (@MMOONP) via Hamusoku
Feature/Images: Twitter (@MMOONP) edited by RocketNews24