Ken Shimura remembered for his huge contribution to the game Rock, Paper, Scissors in Japan
soranews24.com -- Apr 01
With the recent passing of Japanese comedy legend Ken Shimura due to complications of a COVID-19 infection, everyone has been looking back on his many accomplishments in music, comedy, and entertainment in general.

Strangely, it was a tweet by the Japan Rock Paper Scissors Society (Nihon Janken Kyokai) that brought up his most overlooked and yet his biggest influence on Japanese culture. Normally, this Twitter account posts nothing but “rock (gu)”, “scissors (choki)”, or “paper (pa)” once a day, but yesterday it broke character for a very special announcement.

In Japan, where the game goes by the name of “Janken,” almost any time you play with a person from the age of two to 102, the wind-up will be accompanied by the rhythmically spoken phrase “Saisho wa gu, janken pon!” (First is rock, janken pow!). There are also variations, such as “Saisho wa gu, janken poi!” (First is rock, janken throw!), or the really time-consuming “Saisho wa gu, matamata gu, Ikariya Chosuke atama ga pa, seigi wa katsu, janken pon!” (First is rock, and again is rock, Chosuke Ikariya’s head is paper, justice wins, janken pow!).

It makes sense since before throwing their hand shape, everyone starts with a closed fist or “rock.” And when chanted by all members, it ensures a fair and synchronized match. And as the Japan Rock Paper Scissors Society pointed out, this phrase, which seems as old as the game itself, was actually coined, or at least popularized, by Ken Shimura.

Here is the phrase in action around 1970 in a sketch titled Janken Duel from the show Hachi-Ji Da Yo! Zenin Shugo which featured Shimura and his band The Drifters. The reaction of the kids in the audience shows how catchy it was, spreading around schoolyards and families across the country.

According to an interview Shimura had with the pop group SMAP, it was developed while drinking with some friends. One night they decided to play Rock, Paper, Scissors, to see who would pay for the drinks. However, everyone was too wasted to play properly and kept throwing out of time with each other.

So, Shimura basically had to hold everyone’s hand through the process, and thus invented the phrase “Saisho wa gu, janken pon!”

News source: soranews24.com
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