There’s a trick to this riddle that’s staring you right in the eyes.

Whenever we hear of a curious puzzle doing the rounds in Japan, we’re always eager to take up the challenge in solving it for ourselves. However, sometimes there’s an annoying twist that becomes painstakingly obvious only after the problem is solved, and that’s exactly what you’ll find with this new conundrum, shared by Japanese manga artist and Twitter user @asuwara0624 online.

The riddle is based around four different images. Next to each of the images is a succession of circles, which need to be filled in with the letters of the word (in katakana) that’s associated with them. Once that’s done, the katakana from 1-4 need to be taken out to create a brand new four-letter word (written in the order 1,2,3,4), which is the answer to the riddle.

“I created a cruel puzzle. Please don’t get mad when you realise what’s so cruel about it. Seriously.”

Before we get to the answer, we’ll give you some time to take a look at the riddle for yourself to see if you can solve it, or at least figure out what the “cruel” stumbling block is that gets in the way of completing the puzzle.

While you get out your notepad and pen to jot down the katakana, we’ll take a moment to rewatch the dancing Pikachus at this year’s Pikachu Outbreak in Yokohama.

▼ Nine minutes of dancing Pikachus to reflect those dancing, problem-solving brain cells.

Did you get the answer? In case you didn’t, let’s break it down part by part to see how it should be solved. Firstly, let’s take a look at the images on the left of the puzzle. These should be familiar to anyone who’s visited or lived in Japan. In fact, even if you’re living overseas, the first image on top will likely be familiar as well, given that it looks like the logo for popular convenience store chain 7-Eleven.

If that really is 7-Eleven, then the one beneath that must be the logo for Mini Stop, another well-known convenience store chain. If these are all popular konbinis, then the next one should be Lawson, and the next one Family Mart.

▼ Let’s take a look at those symbols again.

So, given that we need to write these out in katakana, we get:

セブンイレブ (7-Eleven) 4 = (n)

ミニストッ (Ministop) 3 = (pu)

ソン (Lawson) 2 = (a dash that elongates the katakana before it)

ファミリーマト (Family Mart) 1 =  (a dash that elongates the katakana before it)

Now, let’s take the 4,3,2,1 katakana symbols out from those, which are bold and underlined above. That would give us ン, プ, ー, and . In order of 1,2,3,4, that would give us ープン. Mystery solved!

Or is it?

The problem is, this word makes no sense at all. You would never see two dashes in succession like this in Japanese, as a dash in the katakana syllabary elongates the katakana before it, which means the second dash needs to be preceded by a katakana symbol. This is where the “cruel” head-scratching part of the puzzle comes into play, as we search for what that katakana could be.

If you’re keen to give it another try, here’s a tip to solving the puzzle: Take a look at that last symbol again. Is it really Family Mart or is it the national flag of a country?

▼ The national flag of Sierra Leone.

That’s right, the symbol for Family Mart looks identical to the flag of West African country Sierra Leone. So if we change that last section from Family Mart (ファミリーマト) to Sierra Leone (シエラレネ), we get:

セブンイレブ (7-Eleven) 4 = (n)

ミニストッ (Ministop) 3 = (pu)

ソン (Lawson) 2 = (a dash that elongates the katakana before it)

シエラレネ (Sierra Leone) 1 =  (o)

So, in order of 1-4, this gives us: ープン, which is “open”.

It just goes to show how easy it is to naturally want to group images together into associated symbols, and how sometimes an answer can be staring us right in the face without us even knowing it.

So let us know in the comments section below if you were able to solve the puzzle, and let us know if you’re kicking yourself for not knowing the Family Mart logo is the same as the national flag of Sierra Leone.

Source: Twitter/@asuwara0624
Featured image: Twitter/@asuwara0624
Insert images: Flickr/Mike Mozart, Wikipedia/Zscout370

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