Janken, The Ultimate Rock, Paper, Scissors Game

By Donnie | Articles

The world would be a better place, if we just used janken to decide on things. If two warring nations were fighting over a coveted piece of land, instead of fighting it out with guns and missiles on the battlefield, a simple game of janken could determine who gets the land. Or if two men are fighting over a woman, they could just use janken; the winner gets the girl, the loser backs off. Ahh, if only things could be that simple in reality.

Oddly enough, though, here at the elementary school, it often IS that simple. Janken is like the ultimate decision-making tool. As I’ve mentioned before, during lunch time, there is always a little extra food, an extra carton of milk…something that’s left over. Instead of fighting over who should get seconds, it’s decided by rounds of janken: the winner gets second helpings. There are never any arguments after the game is done. The students who don’t win just accept it.

Rock, Scissors, Paper is a game that I see every single day. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m completely serious. Because janken is such a big deal here, I figured we could talk about some of the ways it’s played here in Japan. First let’s take a look at the words for some of the janken games that I’ve seen.

Standard Janken Game

Janken Pon
Rock, Scissors, Paper Pop (*Pon is like Japanese onomatopoeia for Pop or Plop)

It’s a draw (Aiko means draw but I’m not exactly sure what sound it represents in English, but sho is also a Japanese sound word).

It’s a draw

Janken Game Variation

Saisho wa gu
First is rock

Janken pon
Rock, Scissors, Paper Pop

Aiko de sho
It’s a draw

Sho, sho, sho (Japanese sound words)

Janken Game Variation 2

Janken pon
Rock, Scissors, Paper Pop

Aiko de sho
It’s a draw

sho, sho, sho
(sound words)

Acchi muite hoi
Face that way, or turn your head that way (“Hoi” is another sound word whose direct English translation I’m not really sure of).

Younger Children’s Janken Song

Janken Poi Poi

Dochi dasu no
Which one will I put out?

Kochi dasu no
I will put out this one

Aiko de Poi Poi
It’s a draw

Dochi dasu no
Which one will I put out

Kochi dasu no
I will put out this one.


One of the Japanese teachers at work (ほそや先生、ありがとうございました) was telling me that there are additional lyrics that aren’t often taught the the younger kids. So you can tack these on to the end of your games if you want to do some light, Japanese schoolyard trash talk, LOL.

Anta baka ne
You are foolish, huh?

Anta yorimasho
I’m not as foolish as you.

Japanese Janken Audio

Please, please excuse the silly announcer voice I was doing, I was trying to break up some of the monotony that was my Sunday afternoon 🙂 . If you press play, then scroll up to the first set of lyrics, I go through all of the janken game lyrics twice. ENJOY!!

Thanks for reading!

See you next time 🙂

Donald Ash

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  • Aki

    Cool game. My brother and i used to play this when he visit us here in the philippines 🙂

    Thank a lot! Made my day ü

  • I am really happy to glance at this web site posts which carries lots of useful information, thanks for providing these statistics.

  • jspowell99

    Ok, I used to play this as a child in Okinawa. However. There was an alternate extended version that went something like (spelling semi phonetically). Jan Jan Janke kodo mani mahne kodo mani mahnee kohtse pon.
    Does anyone remember this or have any idea of the translation?

  • Ultimate Jan Ken Pon

    Hi !
    We are working on our adaptation of the rock paper scissors game, it’s called Ultimate Jan Ken Pon and will be available soon for mobile users !

    you can check the advancement of the project on our dev-blog : http://ultimate-jkp.com/en/

    Have fun !

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