Don’t strain your neck! We’ll show you what they look like the other way.

Japanese kanji, the characters that the language is written with, are undeniably cool. They’ve inspired students all over the world to learn Japanese, and writing kanji in beautiful calligraphy is a tradition thousands of years old that still thrives today.

But kanji are also very complex, and because of that you don’t usually see things like Japanese palindromes (words/phrases that are spelled the same backward and forward, like “racecar”) or other wordplay more common to alphabets.

Recently though, it seems as though the designers of some kanji posters took that as a challenge. Japanese Twitter user @MurakamiYutaro posted these photos of two posters whose yellow kanji can be read differently whether you look at them rightside-up or upside-down.

“I was moved by this awesome design on these two posters. I flipped
my phone upside-down several times. Amazing.”
(Explanation below)

▼ In the original two posters, the stylized kanji look like this (with their standard
forms next to them in peach… please excuse the terrible MS Paint calligraphy).

▼ But then, if you flip the posters upside down, they turn into these!
A little stylized, yes, but still quite legible and cool.

▼ Just in case there was any doubt,
another Twitter user posted the flipped images.

Apparently this type of stylization with letters and words is called an “ambigram.” It’s when a word or phrase is written such that it retains its meaning (or gives an alternate meaning) when read from another perspective.

▼ Here’s an example of an ambigram in English.
One way it’s “art & science,” the other way it’s “philosophy.”

Oh, and for those curious, the original Japanese poster was advertising a jet ski race. Odd choice for such a cool design, but we’re not complaining!

Here’s how Japanese netizens reacted:

“That’s amazing.”
“I would’ve never thought something like that is even possible. Very cool!”
“I rotated my head way too much before I realized I could just flip the image.”
“My neck hurts from trying to see it the other way….”
“Wow! Someone worked real hard to make that.”

Yes they did, and that someone was actually Issei Nomura, a master of making beautiful Japanese ambigrams. He popped into the Twitter thread to say hi:

“I’m glad you noticed my trick. I made the kanji for this poster.  These kinds
of characters are called ‘ambigrams.’ I’m glad it’s become a popular topic again!”

If you want to see more cool Japanese ambigrams, then be sure to give Issei Nomura a follow on Twitter. And if those kanji aren’t crazy enough for you, then how about the top five strangest kanji ever?

Source: Twitter/@MurakamiYutaro via Itai News, Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@MurakamiYutaro