Paul Matsushima

JA Cranium

Written by Paul Matsushima. ©2020.
Published by Yo! Magazine

Source URL: Yo! Magazine, part of Issue 11: Family Game Night
Publication Date: September 6, 2020


Trivia, pictionary, origami, and charades – this game has it all! Test out your knowledge of the Japanese American community with this unique take on the beloved game Cranium.

Here’s the Game

Objective of the Game

The purpose of the game is for your team to be the first to win 20 points (points can be scaled up or down, depending on time and interest).

Materials Needed
  • Stack of paper
  • Origami paper (optional)
  • Pens/pencils
  • One 6-sided die
  • Scoresheet to keep points (make your own!)
  • Timer (stopwatch or hourglass timer)
  • List of challenges (below)
Preparation

To begin playing, divide into two teams of two or more players. If you’re in a large group, you can divide into as many as four teams, as long as each team has at least two players. The team with the player who has the next birthday goes first.

Create a scoresheet to record team points.

Game Instructions:

On Your Turn

1) Your team begins their turn by rolling the die. Here’s what each number on the die corresponds to:

Dice Roll What Happens
1 Pick a Red Card (Daruma Head)
2 Pick a Green Card (Uchiwa Performer)
3 Pick a Yellow Card (Word Wāmu)
4 Pick a Blue Card (Creative Nekko)
5 Team on your left picks which color card your team selects.
6 Your team can pick any color card.

2) After picking your card, read the challenge instructions to your group. Do not share or show the card to other team members as it typically contains the answer to your challenge.

3) When you’re ready, set a timer for 20 seconds (hard mode) or 1 minute (easy mode). Your team must successfully complete the challenge before time runs out.

4) If you were successful, award your team 1 point plus any bonus points (only if your team successfully completed the challenge’s bonus points directions).

5) Now your turn is over. It’s the next turn’s team. Repeat the steps.

How to Win / Game Conclusion

The first team to reach 20 points is the winner. To adjust for time and interest, teams can choose before starting the game how many points are needed to win.

Game Variations

Variation 1:

To make things more challenging, if a team successfully completes a challenge, they get to have another turn. This repeats until a maximum of three turns or if the team is unsuccessful in completing a challenge.

Variation 2:

If a team is unsuccessful in completing a challenge, opposing teams may attempt to complete the challenge to gain points instead of the previous team. The fastest team to complete the challenge successfully wins the round.


Challenges

Before starting the game, read the description of each of the 4 types of challenge cards (Creative Nekko, Word Wāmu, Daruma Head, and Sumo Performer). When you select each type of card and a new type of challenge is presented, read the “Challenge Instructions”. (For instance, if selecting a “Pictionary” card from Creative Nekko, read the Pictionary’s challenge instructions.)

Creative Nekko (Blue Cards)

Creative Nekko involves three creative challenges. Pictionary cards require one player to draw on a piece of paper while the other team member(s) attempt to guess the word or phrase. Origami cards are the same as Pictionary but instead of drawing, you’re folding paper into a sculpture. Telephone Pictionary cards require team members to each caption and draw the answer and the last team player guesses the word or phrase.

Pictionary

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, choose a player from your team who can get you to guess the answer on the back of this card by drawing clues on paper with no peeking, talking, letters, or symbols. I’ll read the hint aloud, pass the card to the player, and then start the timer.

For a Bonus Point: Draw with your eyes closed.

Answers:

Japan Natto Shamisen
Japanese American Sushi Totoro
Jigglypuff Hapa Wasabi
Kagami-mochi Sembei Kine
Japanese doll Sushi Dango
Zabuton Bonsai tree Bento
Momotaro Takuan Akita
Origami

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, choose a player from your team who can get you to guess the answer on the back of this card by folding the (origami) paper with no talking or gestures. Players may cut, tape, or draw (but no letters or words) on their creations. I’ll read the hint aloud, pass the card to the player, and then start the timer.

For a Bonus Point: You can earn a bonus point by only folding your paper and forgoing the ability to cut, tape, or draw on your origami.

Answers:

Kazari (tanabata decoration) Inarizushi Onigiri
Yagura (tower) Shrimp tempura Zori (slipper)
Usu (mochi pounding bowl) Hashi (chopstick) Godzilla
Kagami-mochi Sembei Kine
Japanese doll Sushi Dango
Zabuton Bonsai tree Bento
Momotaro Takuan Akita
Telephone Pictionary

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, your team must guess correctly (or most closely) the answer on the back of this card. To play, select the order of your team. The first player must draw/illustrate the answer, then pass to the next player who captions (writes) what they believe the first person has drawn, cover the caption (by folding the paper over it), then draw/illustrate said caption. Pass and repeat until all players on each team have gone. The last player in line must guess the answer. I’ll read the hint aloud, pass the card to the player, and then start the timer.

Answers:

Japan hosts 2020 Olympics Eating Oshogatsu foods George Takei on the deck of the USS Enterprise
Godzilla attacks a city Senator Maize Hirono voting on a bill Kristi Yamaguchi being awarded gold medal (slipper)
Shinzo Abe playing baseball Yuri Kochiyama holding Malcom X after he gets shot Eating lunch at Benihana’s
Usagi Yojimbo in a sword fight Jake Shimabukuro playing ukulele Mr. Miyagi doing wax-on, wax-off
Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) rapping in front of a crowd Goku (from Dragon Ball) fighting an enemy Ann Curry reporting during a storm
David Ono interviewing someone Fred Korematsu arguing before a court Making mochi
Dancing the tanko bushi Gyoza eating competition Visiting a Japantown

Word Wāmu (Yellow Cards)

Word Wāmu is themed around words, phrases, and acronyms. Guess the Phrase cards require teams to correctly guess what the Japanese phrase means in English. Guess the Acronym cards require teams to correctly guess what the acronym stands for. Guess the Gairaigo cards require teams to correctly guess what the Japanese word means in English.

Guess the Phrase

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, teams must correctly guess what the answer on this card means in English. Teams can request the stated hint for help.

For a Bonus Point: Figure out the answer without hearing the hint.

Phrase Hint Answer
Kome no togijiru Water used to wash rice
Shigatagani It can’t be helped
Urusai Annoying
No Monku Don’t complain
Mottainai Said when you don’t recycle. “Don’t waste”
Bakatare Standard Japanese: bakayarō Fool/idiot
Chanto Do it properly
China meshi Standard Japanese: chūka ryōri Chinese food or Chinese restaurant
Benjo Standard Japanese: toire or otearai Restroom or toilet
Mikan Standard Japanese: ponkan Tangerine
Sato-shoyu Satō is the Japanese word for sugar Teriyaki
Nappa Standard Japanese: hakusai Chinese cabbage
Guess the Acronym

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, teams must correctly guess what the full name of the acronym on this card is. Teams can request the stated hint for help.

For a Bonus Point: Figure out the answer without hearing the hint.

For a Bonus Point: Give a description of the purpose or mission of the acronym.

Acronym Hint Answer
JACCC All about arts and culture Japanese American Cultural and Community Center
JANM An organization that teaches about history Japanese American National Museum
SLT In Little Tokyo Sustainable Little Tokyo
JCCCNC In San Francisco Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
LTSC All about serving the community Little Tokyo Service Center
ESGVJCC In east Los Angeles East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center
JABA Related to the law Japanese American Bar Association
CJACLC Statewide organization California Japanese American Community Leadership Council
JACL Organization that’s been around since WWII Japanese American Citizens League
OCBC A church Orange County Buddhist Church
Guess the Gairaigo

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, teams must correctly guess what the gairaigo (Japanese words originating or based on foreign-language, generally Western) on this card means in English. Teams can request the stated hint for help.

For a Bonus Point: Figure out the answer without hearing the hint.

Gairaigo Term Hint Answer
amefuto American football American sport
aisu-kyandī Ice + candy popsicle
afutā sābisu after service Customer service
apāto Cramped place to live apartment
arukōru Cooky beverage alcohol
bāgen bargain a sale at a store
baiku Like a bike a motorcycle, but not a bicycle
batā creamy Butter (sometimes margarine)
bebī kā Baby car stroller
Bīru Asahi Beer
kyabin atendanto cabin attendant A flight attendant
konpyūta apple computer
dorama drama TV drama, soap opera
erebētā lift elevator
furonto garasu front glass windshield
guguru search To Google
hankachi sneeze handkerchief
jendā furī gender free gender equality
kamōn come on An invitation to join an activity or event.
kōhī koffie coffee
majikku tēpu magic tape velcro
nanbā disupurei number display caller ID
terebi gēmu televi(sion) game video game
toppu-pēji top + page home page (website)
tsuittā tweet twitter

Daruma Head (Red Cards)

Daruma Head revolves around knowledge of data and facts. Multiple-Choice Trivia! cards ask a question and present four possible multiple choice answers. Outright Trivia! cards present a question that the player’s team must answer outright, and True/False Trivia! cards require the player’s team to evaluate a statement to determine whether it is true or false.

Multiple-Choice Trivia!

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, teams must choose the correct answer from four possible multiple-choice questions.

Question Answers
How many officially recognized Japantowns are there in the USA?
  1. Three
  2. Four
  3. Five
  4. Ten
What does the term “Buddhahead” mean?
  1. A Buddhist religious person
  2. A Japanese American who is Buddhist
  3. A Japanese American who is from Hawaii
  4. A Japanese American who is from the mainland US
What is the group during WWII that is most famous for rescuing the 141st Regiment of the 36th Texas Division from German territory?
  1. 44nd Regimental Combat Team
  2. 100th Infantry Battalion
  3. 522nd Field Artillery Battalion
  4. 298th/299th Infantry
Norman Mineta is a politician most commonly associated with which California city?
  1. Los Angeles
  2. Culver City
  3. San Mateo
  4. San Jose
What is “Pacific Citizen”?
  1. A Japanese American newspaper
  2. A Japanese American community center
  3. A nickname for a famous Japanese American athlete
  4. A battleship attacked in Pearl Harbor
Actor Kenneth Choi, who played Jim Morita, a war veteran and later school principal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appeared in which Marvel movie?
  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Captain America: Civil War
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Which Asian group does NOT have a larger estimated population in the United States than those of Japanese descent?
  1. Chinese
  2. Taiwanese
  3. Filipino
  4. Vietnamese
The Japanese new year’s feast is called what?
  1. Osechi
  2. Gohan
  3. Onigiri
  4. Oshogatsu
True/False Trivia!

Challenge Instruction: To win this challenge, teams must evaluate a statement to determine whether it is true or false and select the correct answer.

Question Answer
Japanese Americans were put into incarceration camps in Hawaii during World War II. True.
The only officially recognized Japantowns are in Hawaii and California. False. California only.
The “Loyalty Questionnaire”–asked while Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WWII–asked if individuals would serve in the US military and if they would swear allegiance to the US and denounce allegiance to Japan. True.
Also known as the Johnson-Reid Act, the Immigration Act of 1894 ended further immigration from Japan into the United States. False. It was 1924.
According to the US Census, Japanese first immigrated to America in 1843. True.
Japanese American who were incarcerated during WWII were paid $50,000 each from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. False. $20,000 each.
According to the US Census as of 2017, Japanese Americans have an estimated population of 2.5 million people in the United States. False. 1.5 million.
Wat Misaka was the first person of color to play in the NBA. True.
Outright Trivia!

Challenge Instruction: To win this challenge, teams are presented with a question that they must answer outright without receiving any hints or clues.

Question Answer
Name the 4 generations (in Japanese), the first of which first immigrated to the US in the early 1900s. Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei
Name the location of the four officially recognized Japantowns in the United States. Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Sawtell
Name the Japanese American who lost an arm during WWII and later became a U.S. Senator Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Name the three core food ingredients needed to make mochi. Mochigome (rice), mochiko (flour), and water.
Name the three core pieces of equipment used during mochitsuki. Kine (mallets), usu (stone bowl), and rice steamer.
This psychic mutant–portrayed in one of the X-Men movies–had her mind placed in the body of a Japanese female ninja named Kwannon. Psylocke
Why did many issei (first generation) Japanese Americans purchase land in their children’s name? Because the US Alien Land Law barred non-citizens from owning land.

Sumo Performer (Green Cards)

Sumo Performer is themed around acting out clues with a vague hint such as in Charades, or acting and speaking like a famous person or fictional character but without using proper names (Celebrity Acting).

Charades

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, get your teammates to guess what’s on the card by acting without making any sound.

For a Bonus Point: Figure out the answer without hearing the hint.

Answers:

Obake (ghost) Ikebana shabu shabu pot
Nisei Week Oni (demon) Giant Robot
Kaki (persimmon) Oshogatsu Mottainai
Koi (fish) Tanko Bushi Katana (sword)
Mochiko Mochi gome Pocky stick
Okinawa Hello Kitty Enryo
Botan Candy Hi-Chew The Karate Kid
Celebrity Acting

Challenge Instructions: To win this challenge, get your teammates to guess what’s on the card by acting and speaking like a famous person or fictional character but without using proper names.

For a Bonus Point: Figure out the answer without hearing the hint.

Celebrity Hint
Kristi Yamaguchi Olympic medal figure skater. Go for the gold!
Ryan Kurosaki Major League Baseball’s first Japanese American.
Minoru Yamasaki Architect skyscraper designer
Patsy Mink First Asian American to run for president of the United States
PJ Hirabayashi San Jose taiko master
Wataru Misaka First non-white player in the NBA
Nancy Sekizawa Owner of Atomic Café. Also known as Atomic Nancy.
June Kuramoto Koto player of Hiroshima (band)
George Takei Portrayed Sulu on the original Star Trek series
Min Yasui Lawyer who challenged the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Maise Hirono Current United States senator of Hawaii
Kenneth Choi Played Jim Morita, a military veteran of Captain America’s Howling Commandos in Captain America: The First Avenger.

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