Japan's Most Intense Rock, Paper, Scissors Competition 

[GIF via Nippon Channel]

Leave it to Japan to make a friendly game of rock-paper-scissors into an event, complete with cosplay, cheering, and crying.

Since 2010, members of idol group AKB48 and its sister groups have duked it out in paper-rock-scissors competitions or "janken taikai" in Japanese.

"Janken" means paper-rock-scissors ("taikai" means "tournament"), and while I played this growing up in the U.S., I certainly never did as much as Japanese people do. Even grown-ups play janken, using it to decide trivial things among friends that people in the U.S. might decide with a coin toss.

In Japan, janken dates from the 17th century and is an evolution of an older game that was imported from China that dates from 200BC! Japan, however, is often credited with helping rock-paper-scissors spread through the West.

But what's the point of having a paper-rock-scissors competition for idols? It's two-fold. First, it's another big event for AKB48 groups and their fans, and second, a paper-rock-scissors tournament is a rather cutesy, especially when it's taken so seriously. Competitors cosplay, there's a ref, and even if your favourite idol loses, you can cheer her on in the wake of defeat.

[Image via lifepages]

However, the reason why the winning idol freaks out is because this year the tournament champ gets a to be the center (main idol) in a special spin-off group. In the hyper competitive world of Japanese idols, that is quite a prize! It's also a way for group members, who might not yet have a large following, to have a moment in the spotlight.

[Image via 平知]

This isn't the first paper-rock-scissors tournament in Japan. In the past, Japanese variety shows have held janken competitions, but they certainly were not this intense. Such competitions are not Japan only, either. Here's footage of a RPS event in Las Vegas:

And here is a rock-paper-scissors champion on Conan's old show.

All this might seem rather peculiar in the West, but in Japan, paper-rock-scissors is actually a daily thing: Every morning on one of the country's most popular morning shows, celebrities challenge viewers to rock-paper-scissors matches, and viewers can even track their wins!

[Image: himag]

[Image via sonic63511004]

Plus, every Sunday on Sazae-san, the longest-running animated TV series in history, the titular character Sazae-san challenges viewers to a game of rock-paper-scissors. Mind you, this is on a weekly basis, and since families tend to watch Sazae-san together, everybody plays!

[Image: mechahima2013]

In Japan, this simple game is much more than just paper-rock-scissors. It's part of the culture.


    1 more thing: the girl who won this year, has been with the group from near the beginning (so like 10 years now) and hasn't had her big break yet, even though a lot of her original team mates have moved on or are now the big name stars of akb

    Gon Freecss Janken is probably the most impressive.

    I've heard the game called "rock paper scissors" and "scissors paper rock", but never "paper rock scissors". That last one sounds really awkward compared to the other two.

      Just to add one more, I always knew it as "paper scissors rock"...

        Me too!

          Rock paper scissors is correct, as that is how I say it.

    Now I have the jingle from Alex Kidd in Miracle World playing in a loop in my head

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