Japanese fans point out puns on Pokémon Gym Leader jerseys

So far, four gym leaders from Pokémon Sword and Shield have been revealed. We already knew about the burly Grass Gym Leader Milo and the elegant Water Gym Leader Nessa, but we now have two more leaders to add to the mix. Bea is a Fighting Gym Leader exclusive to Pokémon Sword, and Allister is a Ghost Gym Leader exclusive to Pokémon Shield. In conjunction with the game’s sports aesthetic, all gym leaders wear jerseys with seemingly random numbers on them. Most English-speaking fans didn’t think much of the numbers, but Japanese fans noticed that each number is a cute pun.

Milo’s number, 8-3-1, can be read as yasai in Japanese, which means “vegetable.” Nessa’s number is 0-4-9, which can be read as “oyogu,” or “swim.” The 1-9-3 on Bea’s jersey can be read as “ikusa,” or “war.” Finally, Allister’s jersey has a 2-9-1 on it, which reads as “nikui,” or “hateful.” All of these puns clearly relate to the types that their Gyms specialize in—even if “hateful” seems more like a Dark-Type pun than Ghost.

A quick lesson in goroawase

These kinda of puns are known in Japanese as goroawase. Goroawase can use the different ways to read numbers—whether that’s on’yomi, kun’yomi, or even English—to create words with them. It shouldn’t take too much effort to theorize what other Gym Leaders are coming our way. While there are billions of words in the universe, only a fraction of them can be made using numbers. Particularly involved Pokémon fans might enjoy playing the little word game that Game Freak created and try their hands at making some new Gym Leader jersey numbers. Below is a list of various ways to say each number in Japanese:

1. Ichi / hitotsu
2. Ni / futatsu
3. San / mitsu
4. Shi / yon
5. Go / itsutsu
6. Roku / mutsu
7. Shichi / nana
8. Hachi / yatsu
9. Ku / kyuu / kokonotsu
0. Rei / maru

Any readers here speak Japanese? Maybe you can theorize some good puns using Japanese numbers. Who knows? That pun could very well show up in Pokémon Sword and Shield.


Mark Kelly
Fledgling Young Adult author and rabid Princess Peach fanboy. My favorite Nintendo games are Pokémon, Super Smash Bros, and Fire Emblem. I claim to be good at first-person shooters, but that's a dirty lie.

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