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Acchi, Muite, Hoi: The New Japanese Children's Game

Rock-paper-scissors is, hands down, the most popular game among Japanese school children. But even the most interesting game in the world can grow stale after a thousand hands or more. When this happens, the only thing to do is to iterate the game. You might change the gestures (Mushi-ken, anyone?) You might add in extra difficulties (rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock!), or, you can make a sequel, which brings us to acchi muite hoi!

Girl pointing
Photo by Denis Defreyne on Flickr

The first time I came across acchi muite hoi was on a train in Kyushu. A pair of teenagers sat in their seats with a bag of candy between them. Although I was too far away to hear them, I watched in fascination as they pointed and laughed at each other. It seemed as though whomever won a round got a candy, simple as that. Only, I couldn’t tell what the rules might be. Was it really as simple as it appeared? It turns out that, yes, it really was as simple as it seemed and it, like rock-paper-scissors, is a game that all children in Japan know how to play.

"Acchi muite hoi" means Hey, Look That Way!* It can be played as an extension of a standard rock-scissors-paper game or as a separate game entirely.

Photo by Patrick W. on Flickr

Here is how to play as a stand alone game: Two players face each other. Player One points their index finger at Player Two’s face. In unison, both players say, “Acchi muite hoi!” Player One then points their index finger up, down, left or right, while Player Two nods their head up or down, or shakes their head left or right. If Player Two turns their head in the same direction Player One points, then Player One is the winner. If Player Two’s head and Player One’s finger point in different directions, Player Two wins. Got all that?

To use this game to extend a round of rock-paper-scissors, simply play rock-paper-scissors as usual (you remember how to play that, right?) and, at the end, whomever has won becomes Player One in acchi muite hoi. If Player One wins at acchi muite hoi, they are the champion and win the game. However, if Player Two wins acchi muite hoi, then both players start again from the very beginning (Jan Ken Pon!)

Photo by Charlie on Flickr

One of the great things about this game is that, like rock-paper-scissors, it is endlessly adaptable. Variations of the game are used in the classroom as a way to practice directions with small children, and as a variation on the classic Simon Says for older students’ listening practice. So, keep an eye out for acchi muite hoi. Who knows, you might just win some candy!

*This is my translation. Here is a quick breakdown of the Japanese involved, from which you can make your own title. Acchi means “that way” or “over there.” Muite means “please face (some direction e.g. the speaker or another person)” or “please turn towards (some direction).” And Hoi…well, my dictionaries define it as “heave-ho,” “oops,” and “yes.” You’ll notice "hey" is not in that list but, to me, given the way the word is used in the game, "hey" seems like a more natural English phrasing than heave-ho.

READ MORE: Kawaii Culture – The Origins and Meaning of Cute in Japanese

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