, or more commonly , often transliterated in other ways such as jankenpoi
, etc., sometimes called , and known as rock-paper-scissors
in the English-speaking world
, is the most popular of a subset of games played using only the hands. The origin or the derivation of the name is unknown. is a fist in Japanese
is categorized as a . It was invented in the late 19th century and acquired popularity worldwide throughout the 20th century.
is believed to have been based on two older ken
games, sū ken
(数拳, number competing game with fingers) and san sukumi ken
(三すくみ拳, san sukumi
means the freezing aspects of a snake, frog, and slug with fear). San sukumi ken
has existed in Japan since ancient times, and sū ken
was imported from China in the late 17th century; the name in China of sū ken
games began to increase in popularity in the middle of the 19th century. Janken
is believed to have been invented in the late 19th century, judging from textual sources of the time about ken
Usually, though not always, the game starts by both players chanting while pumping their fists to synchronize the moves.
They repeat the same pumping while chanting "Jan-ken-pon!". On "pon", the players show a fist for , index and middle fingers extended in a "V" for , or all fingers extended for . The exchange is won as determined by the rules:
- Scissors cut paper
- Paper covers rock
- Rock breaks scissors
Ties are broken by repeated plays, either accompanied by two more fist pumps with or the more rapid single pump with "pon!". There exist many other regional variations.
The hand signs
There are two different ways to form the scissors:
- Woman's choki (modern way)
- Man's choki also known as country person's choki (old way, used in East Asia)
In some versions of the game, a second round of play is used. After one player has won the paper/scissors/stone game, another count of three is conducted with the phrase . On "hoi!
", the player who won previously points in one of four directions (up, down, left, or right), and the player who lost previously tilts their head to look in one of those directions. If both directions are the same, the game is over, and the player pointing is declared the final winner; if the directions are not the same, the game reverts back to the original jan ken pon
and the original winner's win is canceled.
A further variant makes use of the rhythmic nature of the phrases and counts of three; every time a round is played, the tempo of the game is increased slightly. If a player loses tempo, they lose. It is quite easy for a long sequence of draws, or of fails to guess correctly in the second round, to result in the game reaching breakneck speed.
In the Philippines, a variation called jack en poy is used. This was introduced most likely during the Japanese occupation during World War II. The complete chant in Tagalog is Jack en poy, hali hali hoy, sino ang matalo, siya ang unggoy! ("Jack en poy, hali hali hoy, the one who loses is a monkey!"). Another variation is called bato bato pik! or simply pik.
Due to corruption in part through Hawaiian Pidgin, janken-pon is known in Hawaii as jan-ken-po with the n removed from Pon. The same result is seen in Peru where it is called yan-kem-po; the "n" from "ken" being interchangeable with "m" due to a grammatic rule in Spanish of using "m" rather than "n" before any "p" of the same word (yankempo and yan-ken-po spellings are also attested).
In Brazil, the name was made into joquenpo or joquempo. Children often add a vast variety of additional "weapons" which are used to beat more than one sign. The most common ones are the "flame" (thumb up, beats paper and scissors) and rain (fingers down, beats flame, paper and scissors). There are sometimes others, often made up on the spot.
Gū pā janken
It is difficult to determine a victor when more than two people want to play janken
. Gū pā janken
was designed as a way for multiple people to play with a clear victor (or victors) resulting. This form of janken
only uses the gū
(rock) and pā
(paper) hand formations. The victors in gū pā janken
are those who played the hand sign which outnumbers the other hand sign (the original meanings/values of gū
have no meaning in this variation). The game may also be played with those in the minority being the victors; whether to play majority-wins or minority-wins is decided before beginning the game. Successive games of gū pā janken
are then played among the victors, with number participating in each game decreasing each time due to the losers being eliminated. When the number of players is reduced to two, they then play janken
to determine a winner (if the number of players had been reduced to one by playing gū pā janken
, then that one person would be the overall victor). Janken
is rarely played in a standard tournament form because gū pā janken
can be used instead.
is a kind of sū ken
. It is played mainly around the Hitoyoshi City
in the Kumamoto Prefecture
. It is believed to have originated in the Edo period
, in the Shōgun
The players show their hands simultaneously, after chanting "hī, fū, san", forming a number from 0 to 5. Whoever has chosen the largest number wins. For instance, 1 beats 0, 2 beats 1, etc. However, 0 beats 5. If both players choose the same number, it is considered a draw. Winning twice in a row is required for victory.
Some people believe it was the origin of the widely known janken, as three of the six possible hands in the game are the same, and the rules are similar.
|| Make a fist.
|| Gū |
|| Extend only the thumb.
|| Extend the thumb and index.
|| Choki |
|| Extend the middle and ring fingers, as well as the pinky.
|| Extend all the fingers except the thumb.
|| Extend all the fingers.
|| Pā |
The traditional way to play kuma ken is to form two teams with five players each. Each team sits on one side of a long table, in such a way that five pairs of players opposite each other are formed. For each pair, ten sticks are laid on the table. Then, each of them plays the game ten times, whoever wins collecting a stick each time. When there are no sticks left, the pairs are shifted, and the same process is repeated until everyone in each team has played against every member of the opposing team.
The team which collects more sticks out of the total of 250 is declared the winner.
The primary strategy for kuma ken
is to realize that playing the numbers 1, 2, or 3 is pointless. The number 5 will beat numbers 1 through 4, so at first glance, it appears that 5 is the best choice since it has the most victory possibilities. However, it is not a good idea to rely on this because the other player may realize this and play the number 0, since it is the only way to beat the number 5. To beat 0, playing the number 4 is the obvious choice because it will also beat the opponent if he/she chooses 1, 2, or 3. Once both parties in a game of kuma ken
realize this, the game degenerates into janken
(play 0 to beat 5, play 5 to beat 4, play 4 to beat 0).
is often used as a means of dueling in the Sega
-created "Alex Kidd
" series of action video games for the Master System
. Furthermore, in the NES
game Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
, both of the first two rounds (rock-paper-scissors and
the "look away" game) are used whenever a fight with an enemy comes up, with victory often being declared to whomever wins the look-away portion three times. Janken
also makes a brief appearance in the Sony PlayStation
music/rhythm game PaRappa the Rapper
in a cut scene
, when three of the characters (PaRappa, Katy Kat and P.J. Berri) are trying to divide birthday party duties amongst themselves. In the music realm, the J-pop
group Mini Moni
released a single titled "Minimoni Jankenpyon!
Instead of standard "eyecatch" sequences, the anime series Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo offers to play janken with the viewers (this is referred to in the English-language dub as "Bo-bobo the Fortune Teller").
In Hunter X Hunter the main character's special move is based on Janken, in which "fist" is a short-range punch, "sisors" is a middle-range cutting tech and "paper" is a long-range energy ball.
In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the characters Misato Katsuragi and Shinji Ikari play janken to make a schedule which decides whose turn it is to make dinner and do chores.
In the Dragonball series, the character Goku is taught how to use janken as a martial arts style by Grandpa Gohan. It can also be seen in the "Dragonball" games, where Kid Goku's attacks usually involve janken.
In the "Air Gear" series, in the Behemoth Arc, Ikki and Bando fight while playing Jan-ken-pon
In Kaiji, the first arc is about a game called Restricted Rock-Paper-Scissors, a variant of Jan-ken-pon.