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I got a search request for "janken words". This is what they are:

saisho wa guu, janken pon!
"First comes rock, jan-ken pon!"

The rhythm goes like this, with a little swing:

SAI - sho wa | GUU - - - | JAN - ken - | PON!*

You are supposed to throw your hand, either rock, paper or scissors, as you say pon, which is just mimesis.(Note also that you are supposed to throw "rock" as you say guu in the beginning -- this helps you and your partner get the timing down.) If you throw the same hand as your opponent, then you both say:

aiko desho (maybe)
"It's a draw, right?" or possibly "It's a draw, so sho!"
AI - ko de | SHO!

You throw your new hand down on the sho. If you threw the same hand again, you repeat the aiko desho part until somebody wins.

When you get really good at this, you can play a multiple-round, multiple-participant, repeated-draw version without stopping the rhythm:

SAI - sho wa | GUU - - - | JAN - ken - | PON! - - -
AI - ko de | SHO! - - - | AI - ko de | SHO! - - -
AI - ko de | SHO! - - - (etc.)

There are all kinds of regional variations, of course, but I think that around the Tokyo area that's pretty much how it goes down.< /p>

My students also play the あっち見てほい (atchi mite, hoi!) bonus round described here:

As a game between two people, it has another level - the initial winner says 'atchi mite hoi! (look there!)' and points up, down, left or right. If the other person looks in the same direction, they lose. It's more difficult than it seems.

And it is, too.

* Note that due to the moraic nature of Japanese, this can blur into something like "SA i sho wa | GU u - - | JA n ke n | PO n - -". I haven't actually got my recording apparatus out to check, but my intuition is that even the two-mora syllables (like sai) are compressed into a single forceful beat here.

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I played those games with friends and cousins all the way home to Tokyo from Atami on the local train. The people next to us must've been angered out of their minds (but still with the typical Japanese exterior).


I played that against some kids in a Hokkaido school my Jap class visited. The Hokkaidoans chose paper every time. And I kept choosing scissors too. After about the sixth time it got really unnerving. I have a horrible feeling they might have been trying to be polite by letting me win. But how did they did know what I was going to choose? The question haunts me to this day.


Yeah, that's just crazy. Didn't they know that ROCK is the unbeatable one?!

Maybe they, too, are haunted to this day, wondering, "How'd that kid know that we were always going to choose paper? We figured at some point he'd switch to rock and then we'd get him... but he just kept throwing scissors!!"


These days amongst students (maybe this is a 行田弁 thing) PON has morphed into POI. I don't know if there's any sort of syllabic or thematic significance...


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