Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Janken & Issei No Sei!

Normally I reserve “Game Focus” for the latest video game, however today I’m going a little old school… Very old school in fact. Today we’ll take a look at the most simplistic and one of the most popular games in Japan (and the rest of the world)… Janken! (じゃん拳)

In the West, we know “Janken” as “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and you must’ve been living under a rock if you don’t know how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Players make the shape of one of these three objects with their hand on the count of 3, with Rock beating Scissors, Scissors beating Paper, and Paper beating Rock.


However in Japan, it’s slightly different. The hand gestures remain the same, but obviously the names change. Rock is called “Guu” (ぐう). Scissors is called “Choki” (ちょき). Paper is called “Paa” (ぱあ).

Games typically begin with the chant of “Saisho guu… Janken pon!” (最初はぐう… じゃん拳ぽん) with players revealing their chosen object on “Pon!”

If it is a draw, then players instantly chant “Aiko sho!” (あいこでしょ) and try again, this time revealing their hand on “Sho!”

Sometimes you’ll have a joker who will pull out a random hand gesture such as “Fire” (Palm faced upwards with waving fingers) insistent that it trumps all other gestures.

Or sometimes players will have their own “unique” rules on this traditional format such as “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock”

Another popular game is “Issei no sei” (いっせい の せい ) however this game is a little more difficult.

“issei no sei” broken down, translates roughly to “いっせい”  issei = together and “せい” sei = voice

A group of people put their hands out with clenched fists next to each other. As a player calls “issei no sei…” they follow this up quickly with a random number between 1 and however many maximum thumbs are in play. For example, if three people are playing, the number called must be between 1 and 6.

As the number is called, players must raise however many thumbs they like (or keep them held down). If the person whom called the number guesses the correct number of thumbs up, then he/she is allowed to remove a single hand from play. The person to remove both their hands from play, wins.

Sounds complicated, but once you see it in action (or play for yourself) all becomes clear…

I hope you enjoy playing “janken” and “issei no sei” with your friends, or even playing it to help settle those age old arguments, such as “who gets the last chocolate in the box?”

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