Rock Paper Scissors around the world

Translated by Eri. Gotoi-san and M. B-san

(Paper, Scissors, Rock/Janken/Roshambo/Roe, Sham, Boe)

A Dictionary for Learning Different Cultures the Fun Way

Your thoughts and comments to us are always welcome and appreciated. We will introduce your information on our Multiculturalpedia site. Thank you.


"Rock Paper Scissors(Roshambo,Janken)," or "Deciding who goes first."

In Japan, Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors/Roe, Sham, Boe) is a game for children, but is often used by adults as a way to decide who goes first. We often use it instead of "tossing a coin" - It works easily with more people, and you can't lose a coin!!

Basic pattern seen in Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors/Roe, Sham, Boe)

Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors/Roe, Sham, Boe) as we use it in Japan, is in English called "scissors, paper,stone. " Each player or participant shapes one hand either into a fist<guu-a stone>, open flat<paa-paper>, or with second and third fingers apart<choki-to look like scissors>. On the shout of "Janken-pon," all of the players show their hands.

Guu<stone> wins over choki<scissors> because a stone is stronger than scisssors.
Choki<scissors> wins over paa<paper> because scissors cut paper.
Paa<paper> wins over guu<stone> because paper wraps a stone.
Note: >> shows whatever on the pointed side loses against whatever on the side.

Ok, Ready? Let's play Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors/Roe, Sham, Boe) actually.


A>>B(A wins over B)
B>>C(B wins over C)
C>>A(C wins over A)

Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors/Roe, Sham, Boe) in the World

Please let us know YOUR JANKEN.

Various things symbolized by hands around the world

JankenA B C
Japan 1 stone scissors paper
Japan 2 stone scissors wrapping
Japan 3 snake frog slug
Japan 4 warrior tiger warrior's mother
Japan 5 the chief of a village tiger mother of the chief of a villag
Japan 6 fire snake water
Indonesia 1 elephant human being ant
Canada 1 stone scissors paper
Canada 2 stone scissors paper dynamite
China 1 stone scissors wrapping
China 2 stone scissors wrapping
China 3
Germany 1 stone scissors wrapping
Germany 2 stone scissors wrapping well
Korea 1 stone scissors wrapping
Myanmar 1 general gun raising hands
Tonga 1 stone scissors paper
USA 1 stone scissors paper
USA 2 eeny-meeny -miney -mo
USA 3 odds and evens
USA 4 odds and evens
Australia 1 stone scissors paper
New Zealand 1 stone scissors paper
Russia 1 stone scissors paper
France 1 stone scissors leaf well
Malasia 1 stone scissors paper
Vietnam 1 hammer scissors wrapping
Vietnam 2 hammer nail wrapping
Vietnam 3 well scissors leaf
Fiji 1 stone scissors paper
Austria 1 well scissors paper
Laos 1 stone scissors paper
Laos 2
Cambodia 1 stone scissors paper
Mongolia 1 stonel scissors paper
Mongolia 2
Mongolia 3
Indonesia 1


Indonesia 1

There is something like Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) also in Indonesia. This is an example that I heard from an Indonesian. I assume there must be a lot of variations of Janken there too, just as we have many different ways of describing Janken as well as ways of actually doing it. Therefore, please read the following as examples of many forms.

One Thumb up out of a clapped hand is Elephant.
Showing one index finger is Person.
Showing one little finger is Ant.

Since the Elephant is big and strong, it beats Person.
Person beats the much smaller Ant.
However, Ant beats Elephant.


"Because if an ant gets into an elephant's ear, the elephant can't stand the itchness and can't do anything!"

I suggest that the readers try the other country's form of Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) with their friends.

Translated by M. B-san.


Austria 1
Austria 1
Students from Universitaet Wien were kind enough to contribute to this column. They have the same type of Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) as in Japan, except that Goo[gu:] is not Rock but Well. Instead of making a fist, you make a shape like a cylinder, and this is the hole of the well. Paper floats in a well, so Paper beats Well. Scissors sink in the Well, so Well beats Scissors. And of course Scissors cut Paper.

Dr. Sepp Linhart of Universitaet Wien has been conducting resarch on "fists," including a serious study of various forms of "fists" in Japan. I was wondering how Austrians knew about Japanese "fists," and now I know the answer. Austria has Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) just like ours.

The Multiculturalpedia has pages of contributions from students in the Japanese language department of Universitate Wien(Autumn 1998). Our sincere gratitude to a teacher and students of the department. The teacher introduced this site to Dr. Sepp Linhart. She told us that Dr. Linhart had commented positively on this site, saying "It's interesting to collect informationa from people all over the world."

Translated by M. B-san.


France 1

I didn't know there were so many variations of "Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors)" in Europe. This is typical of "preconception" that makes us "believe" something in a certain way. France also has Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) somewhat similar to Austria's.

I asked a Frenchman what they do when they decide who goes first or when they choose pieces of cake which vary in size, etc.

There are many ways, he told us. "You don't have anything like Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors), do you?" I asked casually, expecting nothing. "Oh, sure we do!" was the answer.

The French style is as follows.
Four shapese of hands instead of three.
Rock, same as Japanese Goo.
Well, not quite, but the same as the Austrian style, like a cylinder.
Leaf, same as Japanese Pa[pa:], opening all the fingers, which is different from the Austrian style.
Scissors, same as Japanese Choki, showing index finger and middle finger.

Who beats who?
Well beats Rock and Scissors, because both of them sink in the well.
Scissors beats Leaf, because it can cut leaves.
Leaf beats Well by covering it, and beats Rock by wrapping it up.
Rock beats Scissors by dulling the metal.

After explainig this, he suddenly started to talk about scuba diving. Divers have to wait until the tide is right. During that time, especially on cold winter days, they play "Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors)" to kill time. He did his best to explain all this to me, a person who doesn't understand French, with his fresh acquired Japanese vocabulary. He wanted to emphasize that they use it only to kill time.

He had heard that we are making a kind of cultural encyclopedea, in order to encourage cross-cultural understanding and mutual respect by sharing it all over the world. We are trying to introduce aspects of various cultures as much as possible; however, this is not just cold information, but we hope filled with people's goodwill and warmheartedness. We pass on our sincere gratitude to him for sparing multiculturalpedia his time. We consider this a living cultural encyclopedea.

Having four shapes for hand instead of three is interesting enough. Please do try it once, when you have a chance. I tried with my children at home, and the younger one didn't change from Rock; but the older one picked up Well in place of Rock.

I may have been wrong in thinking that Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) was invented somewhere in Asia, such as China, Korea, Japan or Indonesia. There definitely has been cultural contact between East and West, because there is such similarity everywhere. It's pleasant to imagine that somewhere, sometime a long, long time ago, somebody introduced Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) to the other side. I wish I had been there. Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) has its echoes in time.

Translated by M. B-san.

Canada 1,2

Dear Erin Dunn-san,
Thank you for participating in making Multiculturalpedia. This is exactly what we really like to know.

Thank you for a great website! I will be using a lot of the information in my classroom. One point of interest is that in Canada, we don't play stone, paper, scissors, but ROCK, paper, scissors. We also play a more complicated version with rock, paper, scissors, dynamite (index finger up in the air, fist closed) Dynamite is beaten by scissors and paper, but blows up rock.
Thought you might like to know!

Yugoslavia 1

It is not easy to solve a conflict between nations. Also it is not easy to respect each other when two parties are fighting. However, we have to overcome that for the sake of mankind.

My Yugoslavian student, who was busy with all kinds of preparations for her return home, helped me by sparing some time from her busy schedule. She and I will share the following with you, in hopes you will feel closer to the people there, and someday if you meet them, you will something to share.

Do you have Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) in Yugoslavia?
Yes, we do. But it's different from the Japanese one. We play it when we have more than three people.

She started to demonstrate: turning the Goo shape fist around with the words "Zimi, zami, zum!" you show either Goo or Pa (clasped fist or open hand).
It is the opposite of the idea of the majority rule, because single Goo or Pa wins.

For example, if five people are there and four show Pa and one person shows Goo, Goo wins.

Then, when there are a lot of people, it will take a long time!" was my first reaction. The answer was "We divide into smaller groups."

"When do you use it?"
"We often use it to devide into teams."

"What would you do when there is only one piece of cake and there are five people who want it?"
"I think we'll divide the cake."

I remember one episode by Ryotaro Shiba, a famous Japanese author who wrote many historical novels. In Mongolia, he found five children gathered around one piece of chewing gum. A girl divided it.

"When we choose one person [bringing her hand to her chest], I have, for example, five toothpick-type sticks between my index finger and the middle finger, since there are five people here. One of the sticks has a red mark on it."
The participants each pick a stick, and the person who picks the one with the red marak is the winner. It's a kind of lottery.

Listening to my Yugoslavian friend's voice saying "Zimi, zami, zum!" I had a strange sensation of feeling close to Yugoslavia, visualizing children shouting
"Zimi, zami, zum!"

"What does it mean?"
". . . I don't know. I don't think there's any meaning."

Whatever it meant, it had a fascinating sound.

Here, we have to add our usual reminder that this does not necessary mean this type of Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors) is common all over Yugoslavia. Maybe it's limited to area she's from.

After that I talked with her about our vision of this Multicultural-Pedia. We are hoping that children all over the world see this site and feel closer to other countries, by providing descriptions of these customs and games, such as Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors), and getting feedback through the Internet.

Translated by M.B-san.



I have the feeling that I will be entering here quite a bit. ^_^;;It surprised me how many countries play Janken, or "Rock Paper Scissors." Actually, I've always known it as "Roe, Sham, Boe!" Though I don't know what that means. A lot of times, though, I see like little kids just throwing in things out of the blue, some of the more popular are ones like "Meteor" which destroy everything, I think most people consider it cheating. ^_^I"m probably writing too much, but I love this site!!!
Beth Adams-san(Santa Rosa, California USA) April 04, 2000

What is Janken(Rock, Paper, Scissors/Roe, Sham, Boe) in your country?

Other ways that we know of making decision.
  • Flipping coins
  • Singing a song-The one who sings the last phrase is it.


In the United States, another activity to decide who goes first is "eeny-meeny-miney-mo." A designated person points one at a time to children in a group, in the same order, and recites the following, pointing to a person with each word: "eeny, meeny, miney, mo, catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go, eeny, meeny, miney, mo." Confusing, isn't it? Imagine a line of 3 children. The person pointing and reciting points at the person on the left, saying "eeny." Then to the person in the middle, saying "meeny." Then to the person on the right, saying "miney." Then back to the leftmost person, saying "mo." The middle person gets "Catch," the one on the right gets "a," the leftmost gets "tiger," and so on until the last word of the rhyme. The person pointed to when that second "mo" is reached is the one who goes first. (Actually, it can work either way. A variation has the one who is last pointed to as one who is "out" of the game, or whatever. This is decided upon prior to the activity.) Hope you find this helpful and informative. I'll be glad to explain further if requested.

"odds and evens"

In the US, to decide things, sometimes we use "odds and evens".

One person is "odds", the other is "evens". On the count of three, each person extends some number of fingers. The total number of fingers shown (odd or even) decides the winner.

With 3 people, you can have Zeroes, Ones, and Twos, and take the remainder when the total number of fingers is divided by 3.

11-Digit Boy aka Juuichiketajin -san, South Windsor, CT USA - Wednesday, December 06, 2000 (JST)



Add to Jan-Ken Growing up in NYC some time ago we also chose by "odds and evens" whereby one person would choose odds or evens, and the other would have the other at the count of three signified by a shaking of a fist both parties would put out one finger or two (providing an odd or an even number). With 3 or more it may require more than one round to get a single winner. I always supposed this was standard in North America. T)

A.M. Cohen-san, New Paltz, NY USA - Wednesday, July 11, 2001 (JST)
  Dear A.M.Cohen-san, Thank you for joining in making Multiculturalpedia.Thank you for your information on "odds and evens". We don't know this at all. This is what we want to know.We will add this to this pedia. Very interesting. We appreciate it.

Very insightful site. In Germany we called this game "ching chang chong". It's the German interpretation of the sound of any Asian language, and in fact it somewhat sounds like Janken Pon, don't you think? So apparently to Germans this game originated in Asia. We have both versions, the rock-paper-scissors and the one including the well. (Paper wraps around well, rock & scissors sink.)

San Francisco, CA USA - Sunday, June 24, 2001(JST)
  Dear Christian-san, Thank you for participating in making Multiculturalpedia. Thank you indeed.

Your thoughts and comments to us are always welcome and appreciated. We will introduce your information on our Multiculturalpedia site. Thank you.