Kids playing janken

Janken (じゃん拳 janken?) is the Japanese equivalent of Rock Paper Scissors, but taken to a whole new level in terms of usage and importance in daily life. If there is ever a clash of opinions between two people in Japan, more often than not this potentially embarassing situation will be decided with janken. Who gets to eat the last Rolo, you or me? What DVD should we rent, Terminator 2 or She's All That? Who should take the rap for our company's bankruptcy? etc. Japanese children will play janken tens if not hundreds of times a day, so it's important to know about janken if you're going to be teaching in schoools.

Japanese version[]

Various forms of janken exist all over Japan. The phrases and sometimes the hand gestures can vary from region to region. Ask a child to teach you their local version. The version described below is the most common.

The good news is that the rules and gestures are the same as in English. Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock. Rock is called "Guu" (ぐう?). Scissors is called "Choki" (ちょき?). Paper is called "Paa" (ぱあ?).

Guu.jpg Choki2.jpg
"Guu" beats "Choki"
Choki.jpg Paa2.jpg
"Choki" beats "Paa"
Paa.jpg Guu2.jpg
"Paa" beats "Guu"
Choki.jpg Choki2.jpg
A draw


  • Players start by chanting together "Saisho wa guu" (最初はぐう?) (Starting with stone) and pump their fists in time.
  • This is quickly followed by "Janken pon!" (じゃん拳ぽん!?), and on "pon" both players show their hands in front of them, displaying "Guu", "Choki" or "Paa".
  • If there is a draw, both players chant "Aiko desho!" (あいこでしょ!?), and on the "sho!" both players show their hands again.

English version[]

There are many different ways to play Rock Paper Scissors using English and different teachers will use different versions. The key thing is to pick which version you're going to use and then stick with it in all your classes.

Rock, Paper, Scissors - 1, 2, 3![]

  • Note, Eigo Note uses "Rock, Scissors, Paper, ... 1 2 3" - so it might be better to teach the young kids this to avoid confusion.
  • Players chant together "Rock, Paper, Scissors..." making the hand gestures at the same time.
  • Quickly followed by "1, 2, 3!", and on the "3!" displaying their Rock, Paper or Scissors.
  • If there is a draw, both players chant "1, 2, 3!" again and display on the "3!", as before.

Rock, Scissors, Paper, Go![]

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Rock, Scissors, Paper, Go! Magnify-clip.png
  • Players chant together "Rock, Scissors, Paper..." making the hand gestures at the same time.
  • Quickly followed by "Go!", on which they display Rock, Scissors or Paper.
  • If there is a draw, both players chant "and Go!" and display on the "Go!", as before.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot![]

  • Players chant together "Rock, Paper, Scissors, shoot!" motioning their fists down and up with each word.
  • On shoot both players display their Rock, Paper, or Scissors, simultaneously.
  • Optionally players may add a little "animation" showing their Paper encompassing their Rock, their Rock smashing their Scissors, or their Scissors cutting their Paper, with the use of their fingers and hands.
  • In the event of a draw, the players repeat the process as normal. When a win-lose matchup finally occurs, that round is considered complete.

English Version Trivia[]

For educator's interest only: A regional variant used in some English speaking countries, such as Australia, has the order is reversed (Scissors, Paper, Rock!). "Rock!" serves as the trigger to display your hand in this version.

Activities using janken[]