Best Japanese Board Games To Try [Helpful Guide]

Some of the greatest things about Japan are its rich culture and entertainment contributions. Many people around the world purchase and participate in Japanese cultural activities, items, and games. What are some of the best Japanese board games to try?

On average, the best traditional Japanese board games to try are Shogi, Gomoku, Go, Sugoroku, and Japanese Mahjong. Some of the best modern Japanese board games are Birth and Tokyo Highway. Each of these games are popular in Japan and becoming more popular in the United States.

How is each of these Japanese games played? Continue reading to learn more about some of these top Japanese board games. Maybe you’ll like them so much, you’ll want to try them for yourself!

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Traditional Japanese Board Games

Traditional board games from Japan have become increasingly more popular in America and other countries around the world. Most of these games involve strategy, making them entertaining to watch and intriguing to play. Japanese board games have a unique setup for gaming that has allowed them to remain popular centuries after they were created.


1. Shogi

Demon Slayer Shogi Game

Shogi is similar to the game of chess but with a fun spin to it. This game involves two players using strategy, cunning planning, and patience. Each player has twenty different game pieces to use on their side of the board. Like chess, each game piece has different abilities and rules to follow while players interact with them. In Shogi, when a playing piece has reached the other side of the board, the piece gains more power. This new power enables the player to move the piece in more ways than were initially allowed.

Players also have the ability to take their opponent’s pieces hostage, using them as their own. This exciting game keeps players hooked until the very last move. Despite some of the game’s complex rules, it is fairly easy for beginners to learn and excel in, making it a very popular Japanese board game.

This Japanese board game can be purchased for as low as $16. Click the button below to find a Shogi set for your next board game night:

Buy Shogi Sets From Japan


2. Gomoku


Gomoku, also known as 'Five in a Row', and as its name would suggest, the goal is to get five of the pieces aligned in a row on the board. To play, two players take turns placing their pieces on the board. The strategy of this game comes not only in trying to make sure your opponent does not win but also in keeping a careful count of the pieces you have played on the board.

No more than five of one player’s pieces can be played in a row. While playing, once the pieces are played on the board, they cannot be moved. This is why it is so important to keep a strategy in mind while playing Gomoku; you can’t take back your actions.

This Japanese board game can be purchased online for as little as $10. View some of the cheaper boards. Considering how popular this board game is, while there are new versions available at cheap prices, some can be as expensive as $1500! View the very prestigious and expensive versions of Gomoku.

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3. Go

One of the great things about Go and Gomoku is that they are both played on the same board. Go is an ancient game that is entirely based on a strategy to defeat one’s component. Interestingly enough, Go is known for being one of the world’s oldest board games.

To play this ancient and iconic board game, players alternately place the white and black pieces on the board. The goal is to border the other player’s pieces in a territory of your own pieces. The straightforward rules make it very popular to play, and the infinite number of possibilities in each game played makes it addictive. Go is a game that can teach life lessons as you play. Patience and balance are necessary to succeed in the game of Go. Those who play with aggression and greed often end up losing to their opponent.

As previously mentioned, the games Go and Gomoku are played on the same board. This makes it highly convenient for those who have interests in both of those games. As mentioned under “Gomoku” there is a wide variety of boards to fit different budgets. To find the best board within your price range, it is important to do a bit of personal research.

Shop High-Quality Go Game Sets


4. Sugoroku

This classic board game has been around for centuries in Japanese culture; the history of Sugoroku can be traced as far back as the 12th century. Sugoroku board games either come as the ban-Sugoroku (board Sugoroku, similar to the game 'Backgammon') or the e-Sugoroku (picture Sugoroku, similar to 'Snakes and Ladders'). E-Sugoroku did not come about until the 17th century. These different varieties allow for many different versions of this classic board game to be created and played.

For example, there is a version of Sugoroku for young children to learn the map of Japan while they play. While Suguroku has been around for centuries in Japanese culture, it has been banned multiple times due to the gambling with which it is often associated. Despite the bans, Sugoroku continues to be one of the most popular Japanese cultural games. In Japanese culture, it is popular for children to play Sugoroku on New Year’s Day.



There are many different varieties of Sugoroku, ranging from politics, fiction, religion, and movies. The game is played by simply rolling the dice and following its instructions. It is very common and popular among all age groups because of how simple and easy the game is to learn and play.

Shop Sugoroku Sets


5. Japanese Mahjong

Japanese Mahjong

This traditional four-player game is similar to rummy or poker. This is a game that has been around for centuries and is played with simple tiles. Players work to achieve a winning hand to beat their competition. Japanese Mahjong has different rules and specific ways of playing that help it continually create a new experience for the players. It is evident by how long this game has been around that it is a favorite among many people of many different backgrounds.

The popularity of the classic Mahjong and Japanese Mahjong has only grown in the last couple of years. This game can be complicated to understand, but once you understand the tiles’ rules and actions, it is a simple game of strategy.

According to a forum discussing Japanese Mahjong, the key difference between the Japanese and Chinese versions of the classic Mahjong game is the number of tiles used to play. In the Chinese version, 144 tiles are used as game pieces, whereas Japanese Mahjong games use only 136 tiles. They also mentioned how the Chinese version of the classic board game does not have “Red Fives” tiles, while the Japanese version does.

A simple Japanese Mahjong set can be purchased online relatively cheaply ($15 - $50), but are also available up to and including fully automated, self-dealing Mahjong tables. Similar to the Go and Gomoku board games, Japanese Mahjong sets cater to a wide range of budgets. This is likely due to the traditional value of the game and its popularity. 

Shop Mahjong Sets & Tables



Modern Japanese Board Games

Along with the very popular and common traditional Japanese board games, more modern board games are also very fun to play. Many of these games use the same strategy that is used in the traditional games, but with a modern twist to create a new board game for a range of age groups to enjoy playing and mastering.


1. Love Letter

This modern Japanese board game is popular not only in Japan but in other cultures as well. Over time, Love Letter has been re-themed towards many different varieties and even popular franchises such as Adventure Time, The Hobbit, and Archer. There are multiple different themes of the Love Letter, but the most common and popular version continues to be the Samurai-themed board game.

When playing Love Letter, each round takes less than 5 minutes, making it very popular during game nights where lots of games are to be played or during any spare time when people want to play a game but do not have a lot of time There are 16 cards in the deck, and the winner is the first player who wins 4-5 rounds (depending on how many players are playing). The game is simple enough to understand after a few practice rounds. This is nice because new players can pick it up easily.

The original version of Love Letter can be purchased online for around $15. As previously mentioned, there are many different versions of the game, which has made it so popular. According to a forum discussing the game Love Letter, one person shares how it has become addictive and their new favorite game to play.

Buy Love Letter Game Now!


2. Birth

Intense name, right? Birth is a modern Japanese board game played by rolling dice and moving game pieces to find new life. The theme for this board game is even more intense than its name. It’s based on the creation of the universe. This game of strategy and creation is played with 2-3 players represented as stars at the beginning of the universe.

The board used for Birth is double-sided, and the game comes with some variants for more experienced players to increase the difficulty level. One great thing about Birth is its simple rules for beginners and a more advanced set of rules as players play and begin to master the game. This makes it an excellent game for any group of people to play and enjoy.

Japanese Chess


3. Tokyo Highway

This Japanese board game is named after its capital city. Tokyo Highway started as a board game for only two players. As the game became more popular, a four-player version was created and sold mostly in the United States of America. One of the first things a bystander will realize about the design of the board game is the simplistic color scheme.

Almost everything about the game is a light gray, and the pieces and parts that are colored are either yellow, orange, blue, or pink. This simplistic design makes it very popular, especially with the current trend of minimalism. Along with the basic color scheme, the game itself is also straightforward. Many of the components and parts of the game are built from simple materials like lollipop sticks. The point of the game is to build roads and place cars on them. The first player to have all of their cars on the roads that are built is the winner.

This is one of the most expensive board games, but it is very fun to play.  You can use ZenMarket to purchase Tokyo Highway. This game, when played, often becomes so intense that players have to ask clarifying rule questions on public forums. It isn't uncommon to see frankly bizarre questions as out-there as “Is it against the rules to lick a car before placing it on to keep it on the highway?”.

People also use the forums to share previous records of how many highways and buildings were built in one round. 

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Article| 25/01/2023 |


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