For learners of Japanese, onomatopoeia words (words that “sort of” sound like what they’re meant to represent) can be the most difficult to remember, especially these kinds—pera pera, gara gara, butsu butsu, mero mero . . . The two syllable words, said two times, are relatively easy to pick up when you’re a kid, but frustratingly tough to lock in your mind as an adult learner of the language.

Many diligent students of the language might try flash cards, or some variety of mnemonic techniques, but still find themselves unable to get them to stick. If only there were another way . . .

Well, if you had happened to make it to the Maison et Objet design show in Paris last month, you could have picked up a very tasty, if short-lived, way to remember a few of these sounds. As Japanese design blog Spoon & Tamago reported a couple of weeks back, the design firm Nendo created a series of chocolates that represent one of nine different onomatopoeic words.

As the design firm, which has offices in both Tokyo and Milan, explains, the individual chocolates only occupy the space of a 26 mm (just over one inch) cube. But how each one fills up that bite-sized volume is where the difference lies: the curves, contours, and various angles all have their own unique charm—and their own particular flavor. Even though each chocolate is made from the same ingredients, the different textures and shapes impart a different flavor to the morsels, and just might help you remember the difference between tsubu tsubu and sube sube.

Unfortunately, as delicious as they look, they’re just for the looking—and hopefully, learning. Only a limited run of the confections (which were designed by Oki Sato, the head of Nendo, upon recognition of being named the designer of the year by the Parisian design show) were made. Maybe if enough people make noise (わいわい/waiwai) about it, there’s a chance of getting some more.


つぶつぶ (tsubu tsubu): used to describe something with a grainy or lumpy consistency


すべすべ (sube sube): used to describe something with a smooth or sleek surface


ざらざら (zara zara): rough, coarse, or gritty


とげとげ (toge toge): sharp, thorny, or harsh


ゴロゴロ (goro goro): a pretty versatile one—can mean a grumbling or rumbling sound, things scattered around, or being lazy. It might be easier to remember the shapes of the katakana here…


フワフワ (fuwa fuwa): fluffy or spongy, light or floating


ぽきぽき (poki poki): there actually isn’t a word just like this, but ポッキと is used to describe the sound of something snapping, which is probably what you’d feel on taking a bite of this one…


スカスカ (suka suka): hollow


ザクザク (zaku zaku): a bit of a stretch for this shape made up of small rod shapes—often used for the sound of the crunch of walking through snow, or mixing gravel

—Alec Jordan

Images from Nendo