When I first arrived in Japan it was well before the age of computers and most of all the other technological innovations we enjoy today. One of my very first impressions was the many interesting and uniquely different games enjoyed especially during gatherings. One game I was slightly familiar with before I came to Japan. We called it “rock scissors paper”. We used it often for determining who would go first or get first chance at doing something. Here I learned that it was called Jan Ken Pon and had an added component called Achi Muite Hoi! I often was invited to play this game in bars or with friends and very rarely did I ever win! Indeed, the may some people could win almost 100% of the time (I particularly remember the Mama-san of a bar!) truly amazed me.
Another game I learned and played after I had begun learning Japanese was Shiritori. This was a word game not possible in English, but perfectly suited to Japanese. It was a challenging and enjoyable way to learn and remember Japanese vocabulary.
Another game at which I had no skill whatsoever was Kendama. For the life of me I could never do it at all no matter how hard I tried. I understand that it is still popular in spite of video games and that it is also popular in some places overseas.
One game, a card game, that did fascinate me was Oicho-Kabu. It was a card game popular among yakuza and featured in yakuza movies. It used hanafuda cards. I was interested to learn that the most popular style was made by Fusajiro Yamauchi, founder of Nintendo, in 1889. Today Nintendo is world-famous for its video games. I also recently read that it has collaborated with Universal Studios Japan to create a life-size version of its Super Mario game that enable players to interact in that game world. Nintendo still produces those cards.
Games, especially those played by several people, have always been a form of amusement at gatherings or leisurely moments. As I earlier remarked, Japan impressed me as having a rich game culture. It comes as no surprise to me, then, that it has been Japan where video games took root and became the world’s foremost creator of them. In doing so it has helped unite the world, or at least the game-playing members of it, through online games incorporating large groups of people.