Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors), Japan’s Most Popular Game

  • Rock-scissors-paper is a popular game among Japanese children and even adults. They use the game to decide who has to be eliminated out of the group, in much the same way other countries are playing it. However, Japanese people have their own style of playing the rock-scissors-paper game. The game is popular with the name “janken”, where “ken” stands for “fist”. History tells that the janken game was first introduced by China during the 17th century.

    The rules of janken

    In the janken game, fist means “rock”, parted index and middle finger mean “scissors”; and an open hand means “paper”. The basic rule is that rocks breaks scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper wraps rock. For example, if one player shows an open hand (paper) and the other shows parted fingers (scissor), the one showing scissors wins. Whenever they start to play, players says out loud “jan-ken-pon!” in short, or “jan-ken-pon, aiko de sho!” in a longer phrase.

    Usually when playing janken, there needs to be one person to be the leader, with any number of additional players (not limited to two people as in the usual rock-scissors-paper game). Another way to play janken is the players who do not show the same hand as the leader, no matter what it is, loses.

    Playing janken using legs

    Janken can also be played using players’ legs: legs spread means “paper”, legs together means “rock”, and one leg forward and one leg back is “scissors”. This style is often combined with a word game in which players must say words such as “guu” for rock, “choki” for scissors, and “paa” for paper.

    Do more with Janken: the Guriko game

    Guriko, is another game which uses our hands to play janken, and stairs as the “start-finish” path. The rules of janken are similar, but all players should start from the bottom or the beginning of the stairway. Next, if one wins with rock (gu-ri-ko), he can advance three steps because guriko is written with three characters. If he wins with scissors (cho-ko-re-to) or with paper (pai-na-pu-ru), he can climb six steps because both are written using six characters. The one to reach the top of the stairs first is the winner.

    Janken popularity has never faded because it can be played anywhere, at any time, by anyone-not only children but also adults. It also requires no preparation or equipment, and there is no time limitation. Due to the exciting way of the game, you can even see stars like the most popular idols in Japan, AKB48, playing janken in a reality show competition on tv!

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