Hide and Seek
The children’s game Hide and Seek is called “kakurenbo” in Japanese. The word is derived from the word “kakureru”meaning “to hide.” When I wrote this my wife was in the other room and I wanted to check the Roman letter spelling of the Japanese word (the romajispelling).
“Junko! Junko!! How do you say ‘kakurenbo’? Is it ‘kakurenbo,’or ‘kakurembo?’
“Just a second! I need to see your mouth.”
I got up and moved into the next room to see her face while we spoke. Then, with gross exaggeration of my mouth movements and my intonation I asked again,
“Is it ‘kakuremmmmmmmbo,’or ‘kakurennnnnnbo?’
“With an ‘m?’
“No with an ‘n.’”
You see how hard it is communicating sometimes - and this is between two people who know each other well.
When Japanese children play Hide and Seek the seeker covers her eyes and shouts out, “Mouiikai!”which means approximately “One more time, one more time!”
If the hiders are not yet hid they answer with, “Madadayou!”meaning approximately, “Not yet!”
When the hiders are ready they shout back,“Mouiiyou!”
So if you happen to be in a park when children are playing Hide and Seek it sounds something like this:
My point is that I think the single biggest difference between Japanese Hide and Seek and Canadian Hide and Seek is that the seeker never starts the chase until all the other players are properly hid and ready. This compares with a Canadian seeker’s challenge, “Ready or not, here I come!” whether the other players are properly hid and ready, or not.
I take it as a kind of case study to show how uniformity and unanimity are so completely programmed into Japanese children at a young age. By comparison, the Canadian game is more individually challenging. You might think that I am being critical, but I can easily imagine the Japanese version of the game being praised for the democratic virtues of the level playing field, and equal and fair opportunity for all that it seems to protect.
Of course, in the Canadian version of the game the seeker is supposed to honestly wait to finish a count - up to 10, or 20, or maybe even 100 - to give the hiders a chance to conceal themselves before going after them. So while the Japanese seekers are calling out, “Mouikai!”the Canadian seekers are calling out their count in a loud voice “One! Two! Three! Four!” etc. As a child I never trusted a seekers to honestly and properly finish his count. I don’t think the Japanese version of the game allows an equitable window to cheat.