Confessions of a Junken player

12 11 2009

“You’re a strong Junken player” is what one of my students said about me (as translated by the English teacher). The funny thing is I have learned how to win or lose at Junken in Japan on purpose.

Junken, for those of you not in Japan, is Rock, Paper Scissors. Japanese people have an incredible chant that goes with it, I don’t completely have it down and I’m pretty sure I’m mis-pronouncing the words when I do say them.

Different from home though, is the fact that EVERYTHING can be decided by Junken here. Which team are you on for a sports game? Junken. Who just won the card in the game we’re playing as a class? Junken. I’ve even heard rumors that it’s used in Japanese business meetings (obviously I’m not present, so I’m not so sure).

Anyways, I figured out that I can decide whether to win or lose when I was first playing with students shortly after arriving. It was about a week after school started and all the elementary students from my four small schools came together at Shimokanayama Elementary, for a grand total of 29 students.

On this day, we had a big tournament where each time you won, people hooked onto your back and you kept going with this train of people behind you. Well the first few times I didn’t really have the chant down and I didn’t know when to show my symbol. So somehow, I ended up with paper. Then I realized I was winning each time. My elementary students were always playing rock first.

I thought, there’s no way, someone has to play something different. But can I win the whole thing only playing paper? Sure enough, who was the winner? Me. So in a battle against teachers and students, the foreigner who was playing for the first time in Japan won. Awesome!

Today, we played a game that used it as well. It was a game where we had flash cards laid out and the two teams were starting at either end of the line, when they met they had to say “Dom!” then Junken (used as a verb here). The loser went back, their team started from the beginning, and the other team continued. The goal was to get to the other end.

I based what I played on where we were in the line. If I was less than half way through, I would play paper and win, if more than that, I would play scissors and lose, giving the students who aren’t native English speakers a fair chance. Most of the time this theory worked. My team never did get to the other end, but I did find a few students who played something else and won or lost when I wasn’t expecting to.

At the end of class, students share their impressions. One girl commented that I am a “strong Junken player.” I had to laugh on the inside because she must have just met me each time when I was “winning” rather than “losing.”

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The dreaded flu mask

27 10 2009

Today, I come in to find out that about a third of my third-year students are out sick with the “new influenza” (H1N1, Swine Flu, etc.). So I’m told I have to wear a flu mask. Ok. No problem. I did this the other day and lived. I hate things covering my face, so I was definitely annoyed with it.

We walked into the classroom and found that every student had a flu mask. All but two had them covering their faces. One had it in his hand, and the other had slid his mask down around his chin. The student with it in his had seemed to wait until the bell rang for class to start, to wear his. Even when he was wearing it, it was below his nose.

This is the sort of thing I've had to wear . . . yuck.

As class went on, I noticed students uncovering their faces to talk with one another, lifting them to itch (can you blame them?) and other things. Are they blocking you from catching germs or others from yours if they lift them or don’t have their mouth or nose completely covered?

On top of that, apparently having something covering my face makes me yawn a lot. So I’m yawning and the mask is either trying to come off of my nose or come up from my chin.

Makes me wonder what mask etiquette is. We also don’t wear them in the staff room. Are there less flu germs in here? Or at lunch time, wouldn’t that be the easiest time to catch it? Yet, how would you eat if you wore it?

Basically, I haven’t seen the incredible powers of face masks and just think they are silly. Maybe as I “become” more Japanese I’ll get it. Maybe not.

Links about the flu mask:

As with all things in Japan, they had to find a way to make them “cute”

Someone’s research on them (complete with photo).