Takashi Hashiyama was serving as the CEO of Maspro Denkoh, which manufactures electronics and television equipment in Japan. Pieces of art by Van Gogh, Picasso and Cézanne had come into the company's hands over time. Eventually, Takashi Hashiyama decided to auction off this impressive collection of impressionist paintings.
Hashiyama contacted both Sotheyby's and Christie's, and he asked them about the best way to bring the paintings to market. Naturally, he was concerned about how each individual auction house would try and maximize the amount of money from the sales. Each of the firms presented him with an elaborate proposal in the hopes that they would gain his business.
However, neither of them was actually convincing and Hashiyama had no interest in splitting up the large collection into separate auctions. The painting Large Trees Under the Jas de Bouffan by Paul Cézanne was worth upwards of $16 million alone, so neither of the auction houses wanted to loose his business. On the other hand, they weren't able to reach a decision. In a shocking decision, the CEO told the two firms to play a game of rock-paper-scissors to decide who would get the rights to auction the material in 2005.
In a strange twist of fate, rock-paper-scissors has a fairly big following in Japan as a whole. Most Japanese people call the game janken, which is a contraction of the phrase jan-ken-pon. The actual origin of the name seems relatively sketchy. Ken is the Japanese word for fist, and janken falls into a series of ken games. Older ken games include san sukumi ken. Interestingly enough, the name refers to the manner in which snakes, frogs and slugs can instill fear in one another with their glances. Such an observation of nature seems to fit Japanese philosophy as a whole. Some Japanese card-based video games even use a combat system based around the same concept as rock-paper-scissors.
Ultimately, Christie's won the match. They had suggested that the 11-year-old twin daughters of the department that handles such artwork at their organization should pick their strategy. Naturally, rock-paper-scissors has little real strategy, and Sotheby's simply choose to play paper. Unfortunately for them, Christie's choose scissors because of the idea that most people expect one to choose rock. In the end, that game of rock-paper-scissors cost Sotheby's a large $20 million auction. Maspro Denkoh must surely have been proud of Takashi Hashiyama for making that sort of money for the company.