Skip to main content

Winding Down, or So I Thought

Down to 23 days now (yes, I am keeping a countdown). Winter break is over and it's back to school as usual. I thought my work would be over and I'd be enjoying my last weeks here with my friends. Apparently, I was severely kidding myself. I have been assigned three speeches to write and present in front of large groups of people, all within a week of each other.

One of them you already know about, my speech about rock paper scissors that I was toying around with. I did decide to go with it, and over winter break I spent an obnoxious amount of time trying to translate the version I wrote in English. Here's what I wrote in English:


                There is a saying that goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It can be applied to books, of course, meaning that you shouldn’t judge the quality of a book based on the quality of its cover—or, things are not always what they seem—but it can also be applied to other, everyday things such as rock paper scissors (RPS).

                RPS is a game that is known around the world by many different names. Here in Japan it is, of course, “jan-ken-pon”, while in English the three symbols mean “rock”, “paper” and “scissors” [show gestures w/ meanings]. There are even more meanings for these three symbols, for example, in Vietnam and Indonesia the ‘fist’ represents a hammer, rather than a rock. The frequency RPS is played was one of the things that surprised me about Japan. In America, RPS is used for the same purpose from deciding who should use the bath first to who should partner up for a project—but in Japan it’s used much more frequently than in America. Even more surprising was that it wasn’t just for kids: adults played RPS as well without batting an eye.

                All of the RPS I have played to play brought to mind one of my classes from last year, Game Theory, which essentially combines statistics with psychology in order to achieve the “optimal result”. Obviously, Game Theory can be applied to bigger issues, but RPS is also an example of Game Theory, albeit a simpler one. In RPS, the “optimal result” is achieved by being completely random in what you throw. However, the “optimal result” in a series of RPS games would be an equal amount of wins, losses, and ties, but the goal isn’t to lose or tie, it’s to win. Humans in general are also terrible at being truly random. That’s where the psychology comes into play. There are several strategies that—while not perfect of course—increase the chances of winning.

1.       Beginners and men are more likely to use rock on their first throw. Why? Rock has a powerful and strong connotation, which appeals to men. So if you are playing with a guy or a beginner, you can use paper to counter them.

2.       Strategy two is to lead with scissors. You do this when you assume that your opponent is also trying to play a step ahead. I.E. you assume that they know you would counter their rock with paper, so you play scissors. That way you are guaranteed a tie at worse and a win at best.

3.       Strategy three is to be aware of someone using the same throw twice in a row. When they do, you can be sure that on their third throw they will change. The reason is that humans in general hate to seem predictable, so in order to be more “random” they will change their throw. That way, you can eliminate one option and use what would give you either a stalemate or a win.

4.       Strategy four is, when you have no idea what to do, use paper. You do this for two reasons; one of which being it beats rock, the most common throw, and also because scissors is the least used of the three options, by a few percentage points.

When you look at the simple example that RPS provides of analyzing your opponents, making predictions about what they would do based on your analysis, and then acting on that knowledge, it’s easy to see how the mindset of RPS can be applied to larger things: such as in business, when trying to outsmart a rival, or in war, when trying to outmaneuver your opponent. The latter is an extreme example, of course, but the principles remain the same just on a larger scale and with more at stake than not getting that last slice of pizza.

                So the next time you need to use RPS to decide who gets that last cookie, or the order for using the ofuro, with a little extra thinking, a victory is within the palm of your hand.
The title is pronounced "aikodesho" and you say it when you have a tie--it means something along the lines of "one more time". I'm quite aware that I could have gone much more indepth with the strategies (there are loads more) and some of the analysis, but this is already bordering on too difficult for me to translate as it is. The ideas are so techical that I had a hell of a time figuring out how to express them. And by all the red my teacher put on the first page of the translation, I still have a ways to go. But I'm not upset, I took on a challenge, so perfection was not expected.

The second speech is one AFS asked me to do, talking about "My Experience with AFS Japan" and partially a thank you to my host family. That is also supposed to be 4-5 minutes and I have to say it at the farewell party on the 22nd in front of AFS people, exchange students, host families and probably some other people as well. Slightly easier topic, which I finished writing yesterday and had my host mom look over. Not too many edits, just a few phrases that I'd written awkwardly were corrected:


去年四つのAFSの出来事は私にお気に入りの思い出になりました。その出来事はJenesys FestivalとDisneylandとおせんべいを作りている工場と銭湯に行ったことです。そのイベントはすべて日本の文化がありますからそれらは私の日本の経験を表します。






Honestly, I'm rather proud of it.

The third speech is my school asking me to write a brief goodbye speech which I have to say in front of my school year. I kept it short...two paragraphs, mostly just saying what a wonderful time I had, thank you, I won't forget you and other general mushy stuff.

So now that they're all comes the practice, because my reading lacks flow. *Sigh* More work for me...why couldn't I just get to relax?


Popular posts from this blog

Final Touring Excursions

Tomorrow is my last day. It felt strange to write that sentence, knowing that I've been gone six weeks, which feels like both no time at all but also forever. Even though this is my fifth time coming to Japan (and the fourth for an protracted trip), the coming-and-going is something I don't get used to. Just as I start getting over my "ugh, I just want to go home" hump and settling in, well, it actually IS time to go home.

What have I done the past few days?

Well, on Sunday my host family and I took a drive to Yamanashi prefecture (re: near Mount Fuji) to visit the Oshino Hakkai, the Eight Sacred Ponds of Oshino. According to the signage, when people used to hike up Mount Fuji for pilgrimages, they would purify themselves in the ponds before starting their journey. And having stuck my hand in an (acceptable) corner of the main pond, Wakuike, it was FREEZING. Some other ponds have specific purposes, however. One was for people who wanted a good marriage, for instance.

Cat Cafe

Today I went with my host brother to a cat cafe for "research". Yes it is a cafe and yes it has (canned) coffee, but also I really really really wanted to go to a cat cafe. By doing a little research, I found one off a convenient train station that not only didn't require a reservation in advance, but had free drinks and was actually significantly less expensive for more time than other cafes. On to Nyankoto!

For cat lovers, this is paradise:

This shop had fifteen cats, each with their own names and personality described in a photo book:

This cat's name is Kinta and he's a mix--though most of the cats there were breeds I was unfamiliar with and had fur of various kinks and degrees of fluffiness. 
They were all very social, active cats as well.

Kinta greeted my host brother by literally jumping on his back. 
The other cats often ran around chasing each other (one was a very energetic kitten, so he was always pouncing on the others) or flopping down to be pet in co…

Shibuya and Ebisu

The past few days I've been in the Shibuya and Ebisu areas (think: south-west side of Tokyo) to check out some of the up-and-coming cafes, as well as wander around the neighborhood. I've decided that wherever I go, I'm going to find something to do in addition to spending 3-5 hours in coffee shops--while the research and the people I meet are incredible I do regret that I don't get to spend as much time exploring the other aspects of Tokyo. 
Yesterday in Shibuya I checked out The Local Coffee Stand, Coffeehouse Nishiya, and The Theater Coffee. The Local is a pretty unassuming space, even though it is on a main street. It's goal is to be the sort of jumping-off point for people just getting in to specialty coffee: they showcase beans from local roaster and run a website called "Good Coffee" in both Japanese and English to help people find "that local spot" in a neighborhood near to them. I'm including a link to the site, HERE. CLICK THIS.