Japanese Board Games


Since long before anybody ever picked up a gaming controller, Japan has enjoyed hundreds of unique tabletop games. Despite the fact that some of these board games have been around for centuries, they are still popular today because of their ingenuity and complexity. Please check out our own top picks below for some fun and engaging Japanese board gaming today.

Option #1: Japanese Traditional Game Set All Natural Bamboo Wood Go Board

Brybelly Go Set All Natural Bamboo Wood Go Board | Bowls and 361 Bakelite Stones | 2-Player - Classic Chinese Strategy Board Game | Measures 19 x 19in Top Side or 13 x 13in Under Side Beginner's Board

Go is often regarded as the world's oldest board game , with its origins dating back to the second millennium B.C. in China. Players take turns laying their stones (go-ishi) where the lines cross on the board and encircling their opponents’ stones. Go necessitates a delicate balancing of internal tensions, with players attempting to strategically extend their territory while simultaneously establishing strong, tight-knit areas that their opponents can’t penetrate. This game can be played for 20 minutes up to 90 minutes. This offer is easy to understand and is great for strategy building. It’s a simple yet captivating concept.

Option #2: Takenoko by Asmodee

Takenoko Board Game | Bamboo Farming Game | Panda Themed Strategy Game | Fun Family Game for Adults and Kids | Ages 8+ | 2-4 Players | Average Playtime 45 Minutes | Made by Matagot

This game can be played between 2 to 4 players  and is suitable for ages 13 and above. The game usually runs up to 45 minutes of game time. The main aim of this game for you is to farm the land and to irrigate parcels of land to help the bamboo grow. All the players have to care for the giant panda that is owned by the Nippon Emperor and make sure to help his bamboo plantation thrive properly. You will have to cultivate the different land plots, irrigate the same and grow any one of the three types of bamboo species that are available in this game, namely the green, yellow or the pink bamboo.

The giant panda will keep eating up your bamboo plantation, even as you have to try and grow the bamboo trees fast to keep up with the eating. With each turn, you will find out about the weather conditions and how it will affect your farming. This game comes with colorful designs and beautiful illustrations to give you a realistic feeling. The strategy and counter-strategy difficulty levels also build up gradually.

Option #3: Shogi Japanese Chess Game Set with Wooden Board and Koma Pieces by Gentosha

Shogi Japanese Chess Game Set with Wooden Board and Koma Pieces

This game is suitable for those who are aged 6 or above . This choice is a classic wooden game board piece that can be played from a beginner level to an experienced level, without any special difficulty. This is a very popular variation of the original chess version and is the oriental classic take on the game. This game is known as the Japanese Chess. One thing that makes this game more interesting is the fact that unlike the traditional chess that is played in most parts of the world, in the Shogi Japanese Chess game, you can return a captured piece to the board.

The board for this game comprises of grids that have 9 rows and 9 columns. Instead of the pieces being differentiated by colour, as happens in the more popular form of chess, in this game, the pieces of opposing teams are differentiated by orientation, except the piece that denotes the king. All the pieces are flat and have the same hue. Each of the pieces will always be pointing towards the opponent’s team. On the good side, the board, pieces and piece box are all made of solid wood. Furthermore, the board stands firm and overall the experience is extremely intense and captivating. On the bad side though, the price of this option may not suit all types of budget.

Option #4: The Game of Life Japanese (Jinsei Game) by Takara Tomy

The Game of Life (Jinsei Game)

This game can be played by anyone who is 9 years or older . If you have ever played or heard about the board game called The Game of Life, which is a very popular game in the USA, you will be able to identify with this game, as this is the Japanese version of the same game.

In this particular game, you get to go through the entire circle of life by traversing a toddler’s life cycle from young years to adulthood. In this game, you start from a time when the key player is in the toddler phase. From there, you start playing the cycle of life to reach the toddler’s different school levels, as well as enter adulthood, university, career and marriage. This option can play through different levels and is easy and simple to understand. It’s fun to help someone through the life cycle gameplay.

Option #5: John N. Hansen Japanese Go Game with Wood Board

This game is suitable for ages 8 and up and is a classic Japanese game  that involves oriental strategy. This offer is a wooden game board that comes with felted corners underneath as well as the GO stones. The premise of this game is divided into 361 intersections.

It is a complex strategy game where you have to start by placing your stones on the corner of the board and try and surround your opponent’s stones. This game can quickly turn into a very competitive and intimidating game, as players keep devising different plans as the game progresses. This choice improves observation power and helps players plan and devise strategies. It’s great for improving cognitive abilities and gradually builds from simple to highly competitive. On the other side though, the instructions are a little difficult to understand.


If you are thinking of playing a Japanese board game for the first time, you can start with the Japanese traditional game IGO which we have shared as the 1st game in this list. The reason is that even though it is a simple Japan board game, it is quite challenging and will keep you interested.

How different or similar are traditional Japanese board games to American or European ones?

  • While American and European board games may be beautiful visually, Japanese board games are a whole new ball game when it comes to the visuals. Be prepared to see some stunning artwork even in your Japanese themed board games.
  • Most Japanese game boards are about strategies, some form of martial arts or even land cultivation.
  • Japanese board games also offer a higher quality of visual delight and beauty as compared to most other board games from other countries.
  • They feature a lot of cultural elements from the East that will especially fascinate players from the West.

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